Gender Mainstreaming and the EU’s development policy in Uganda

In my last post I introduced the concept of Gender Mainstreaming and provided an EU definition of this concept.

In this post, my aim is to consider how gender mainstreaming works in practice. I will do this by looking at practical examples of programmes funded by the EU in Uganda.

EU- Uganda Cooperation

The EU’s Development Fund  (EDF) is the EU’s funding mechanism for development programs for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The EU sets out it’s cooperation priorities  for each country in a country strategy paper and these are reviewed every six years.

In Uganda, the EU is currently on it’s  11th EDF and its cooperation priorities as set out in the Uganda Country Strategy paper 2014-2020 are; Transport infrastructure, Food security and Agriculture, Good governance, Civil society.

Gender Mainstreaming and development programs

Through interaction with a variety of rural communities in Uganda, I have become aware of aid programmes such as, mass immunization, that fail at the last mile due to poor implementation on the ground.

In this instance, the programme aimed to reduce child mortality in the village of kikuube, NW Uganda as part of the Millennium Development Goals. However, as Milly Businge the village Councillor told me,

the nearest health centre to Kikuube is three miles away. If the medicines run out, the choice is four or eight miles away and the task of ensuring that children were presented for immunisation was left to the women. As the women do not have access to personal transport and there is no village bus, the women were expected to walk there and back with babies and children on their backs

With that in mind, it is worth considering the EU’s Gender Mainstreaming definition;

the systematic integration of the respective situations, priorities and needs of women and men in all policies and with a view to promoting equality between women and men and mobilising all general policies and measures specifically for the purpose of achieving equality by actively and openly taking into account at the planning stage, their effect on the respective situation on of women and men (Commission, 2005: p7)

Given this definition, how can the EU be said to be incorporating women such as those in Kikube Uganda in the planning stage of programmes or taking their situations into account.

If that definition had been followed to the letter, the contextual issues would have become apparent ahead of the programme being implemented.

Cultural norms, agriculture and gender mainstreaming

I have additionally, observed the unequal treatment of women and girls under the guise of cultural norms.

Yet, these norms discriminate and subordinate women and girls who are unable to challenge them.

This treatment of women is in some instances a barrier to women’s ability to access food.

For example, in the village of Kisoro in SW Uganda, where due to cultural practices some women do not own land to grow food and must negotiate with men, (usually husbands), as to how the land should be used.

In many instances, men prioritise cash crops but once such crops are sold the money is not made available to the family by the men.

Land is a productive asset and central to the Food Security and Agriculture sector, one of the sectors for EU- Uganda development cooperation.

It is my contention, that the practice of excluding women from the right to own land has implications for EU’s intention to mainstream gender in the Food Security and Agriculture programmes.

Can the EU claim to have gender mainstreamed its development in Uganda?

Whilst the examples above are mostly to do with conditions that exist in Uganda and out of the EU’s control, the structuring of EU aid  to Uganda means that aid goes directly to the government of Uganda in the form budget aid.

In practice this means that Uganda can choose which issues to prioritise and such issues do not include gender equality, there is very little the EU can do without attracting accusations of Neo-colonialism

The solution my mind resides in planning, measuring, monitoring and implementation that includes those at the last mile and not only those in government either in Brussels or in African countries.


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