UgandaSignificant improvements have been made in the accessibility and quality of girls’ education in Uganda. The female literacy rate has increased from 45 percent in 1991 to 68 percent in 2014.

Continuing this trend for girls’ education in Uganda is necessary to transform the country. However, there are still numerous barriers preventing girls from completing their education.

School Attendance

Despite being compulsory, 13 percent of girls between the ages of 6 and 12 didn’t go to primary school in 2011. Of the girls that did go, only 53 percent actually completed the required seven years. In secondary school, which typically encompasses students from 13 to 18 years old, female attendance significantly drops; 30 percent of girls between these ages weren’t enrolled in secondary school in 2011.

Poverty is one of the key reasons girls drop out of school. Impoverished families often need their daughters to stay at home and help with the housework or other income-generating activities. Some families have to marry off their young daughters to receive a dowry, which prevents them from continuing their education. Of the girls that stopped attending school, 40 percent dropped out because of child marriage.

Gender Roles

Another key barrier to girls’ education in Uganda are the traditional gender roles and male-dominated society. Women and girls are expected to do the majority of the domestic labor, often leaving little time to attend school and do the assigned homework.

In some areas, girls are actively discouraged from attending school. Instead, they are told education is for boys. Female students are often stigmatized as being promiscuous. These beliefs can be perpetuated in the classrooms if they are held by teachers, peers and eventually the girls themselves. The desire to participate and even attend classes suffers as a result.

The facilities and teaching style of schools were not designed to accommodate girls. The lack of proper sanitation and privacy makes it difficult for girls to attend school while menstruating. Girls can also face risks associated with a lack of security at schools, such as sexual abuse.

Alleviating Poverty

Improving girls’ education in Uganda can help pull families, and perhaps even the country, out of the poverty cycle. Every additional year of education yields a 10-25 percent increase in the income of a woman. An educated woman will then reinvest 90 percent of this income into her family. Helping a girl complete her schooling will double the likelihood that she will send her own children to school.

Educating girls can also help control the rapid population growth. Uganda currently has a 3.2 percent population growth rate, which is the fifth-highest in the world. On average, a mother has her first child at about 19 years old. Because women start having children at such a young age, Uganda also has a high fertility rate of about 5.7 children per woman.

By keeping girls in school, the rates of child marriage and teen pregnancy significantly decrease. If all girls were able to complete their education, the rate of teenage pregnancy would decrease by 59 percent.

Improvements for Girls’ Education in Uganda

Girls’ education in Uganda has been steadily improving, but still has a long way to go. Much of this progress was a result of the 1997 implementation of free, universal primary education. This policy significantly helped decrease the gaps in primary enrollment between girls and boys.

However, a report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, using 2014 Census data, found that although there were similar levels of primary school education between boys and girls, there were significant disparities in performance, levels of classroom engagement and access to facilities. In addition, there are still significant gender disparities in enrollment for secondary schools.

Because of the profound implications of girls’ education in Uganda, many organizations are determined to continue improving its accessibility and quality. Some of the most effective are local programs, which were developed to address specific problems in Uganda.

Nonprofit Uganda For Her began after one Ugandan noticed the poor access to sexual and reproductive health information for girls in rural areas of the country. It has since broadened into a more comprehensive strategy for empowering girls and women. The Girl Up Initiative Uganda has similarly local roots. The organization was founded when three individuals recognized the lack of educational opportunities for girls living in urban slums.

These organizations address the unique challenges girls in Uganda face when trying to attend school. Educating girls creates a ripple effect, helping families and communities break free from poverty.

– Liesl Hostetter
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in UgandaUganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, has a population of 41.49 million as of 2017. The country’s capital is Kampala and its current president is Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled uninterrupted since he was first elected in 1986. Uganda is a member of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and it strives to emphasize women’s empowerment in Uganda with its Sustainable Inclusive Economic Development (SIED) program. With the UNDP, Uganda partners with UN Women and supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which works towards achieving gender equality and empowerment among women.

Although Uganda has worked extensively to empower women in the country, it still has progress to make, says Syda Bbumba, a very prominent female politician in Uganda. Bbumba is the first woman to serve as the Minister of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development in the country. Bbumba recognizes the important improvements that have been made for women’s empowerment in Uganda, but she also calls attention to the support that is still needed to aid women in entrepreneurship. Due to the fact that most property in Africa is owned by men, women lack sufficient access to capital, markets, and collateral, all of which are necessary in helping them grow their businesses. Bbumba recognizes this issue and highlights the need to fix it.

Another area in which the country can improve is through its education. Although the enrolment of girls that attend schools in Uganda is 60 percent (compared to 40 percent among boys), many girls still drop out to work at home due to issues regarding poverty. In other cases, girls drop out to enter into early marriages. The Universal Primary Education (UPE) is working to combat this issue, and has since seen a rise in enrolment rates in Uganda.

In regards to women in government in Uganda, the amount of women that made up the cabinet rose from 23 percent in 2006 to 28 percent in 2011. Similar progress was made among senior ministers, a group that experienced a four percent increase in the number of women who served in these positions. However, there is still progress to be made in the Executive branch, which as of 2011, had yet to reach its 30 percent quota of women serving in this department. An additional area that Bbumba calls attention to is the need for funding in order to help women grow their businesses.

Though there are still issues with women’s empowerment in Uganda, many people and organizations are striving to remedy these problems and have made considerable progress. Influential politicians and organizations alike, such at the Hunger Project, recognize that empowering women creates more resilient communities because when women are supported, health among families increases, as does incomes and the amount of children that attend school.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr