Government has expressed worry over the spike in cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the country despite efforts to eliminate the vice.
The State Minister for Gender and Culture, Peace Mutuuzo told reporters on Wednesday that her Ministry, in partnership with Development Partners, have strived to combat the vice, but it has persisted.
“The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Socal Development in collaboration with Development Partners has been working on the issue of reducing cases of GBV by establishing shelters and sensitizing communities in different parts of the country. Despite this, there has been an alarming spike in cases of GBV witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 22% of women experienced sexual violence during lockdown; GBV cases increased to 3,280 with only 1,148 reported to Police,” she said.
Mutuuzo also decried rising cases of defilement which she said constitute 50% of all serious crimes reported to Police.
According to the 2020 Police Crime Report, 14,230 girls were defiled which is a 3.8% increase from the 13,613 reported in 2019.
“This has exacerbated teenage pregnancy and child motherhood posing a major health and social concern in Uganda,” she said.
The Minister also pointed out that women and other vulnerable groups are being disproportionately affected by the devastating impacts of COVID-19, noting that women earn less, and over 70% are employed in the informal sector which is less secure in terms of access to legal and social protection.
“The lockdown significantly reduced women’s economic and livelihood activities there by worsening food security and increasing poverty rates.”
Mutuuzo was addressing reporters on the forthcoming International Day for Rural Women slated for Friday October 15, 2021.
In Uganda, women play a vital role in the rural economy, and the informal sector which is key in sustaining the national economy.
The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs has continuously ranked Uganda top at the global scale among economies having the most women business owners. At 39.6%, Uganda is followed by Botswana with 38.5% and Ghana with 36.5%.
Although, women are making strides, Mutuuzo said, there are serious bottlenecks that still stand in the way in pursuit of business opportunities.
The challenges, she added, are more adverse for women who live in rural areas.
On its part, the Minister said Government has put in place a number of policies and programmes for the benefit of rural women.
She cited the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) launched in the 2015/16 to extend direct credit to women to enable them increase their income levels.
“The programme has benefited hundreds of thousands of women and tens of thousands of their projects. By June this year (2021), the Programme had financed 16,041 women businesses/ projects benefiting 185,396 individual women,” she said.
The programme, which is currently in its sixth year of implementation, has received 125 billion shillings from Government and to date, 20 billion has been repaid, out of 24 billion that is due.
This represents 81.4% repayment rate.
“A total of 2,200 women groups have repaid 100% of the funds advanced to them, and these are being prepared to graduate their enterprises into small and medium enterprises,” Mutuuzo said.
Government also rolled out other interventions in the social sector aimed at uplifting the welfare of rural women, and these include; the Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE), the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP), Disability Grants, and other interventions in health, Education, infrastructure development, energy, ICT, water and environment among others.