Last Saturday 2 March 2013, I convened a meeting in Kampala the capital of Uganda, to explore the business case for women as part of global supply chains . The panelists were some of the most successful business women and executives the country has to offer including the Minister for Trade and Industry.
By the end of the day I came away feeling that the meeting had in fact raised more questions than it answered. And these are that ones that stood out for me
- Are women disadvantaged by their gender?
- Are women capable of empowering themselves or this is the job of men?
- Do women hold onto cultural practices that hold them back?
- What are women like as employers of other women? Are they for instance more understanding when it comes to issues of child care etc?
- Are women deserving of special treatment when it comes to global supply chains?
- Are women their own worst enemies?
- Do Multinational companies prefer to work with women?
- Are there gender barriers in business?
- Is the rural woman deserving of special treatment over an urban women in business?
- Should employers take extra steps to ensure that a woman’s income doesn’t end up in the man’s pocket/drinking den?
- What is happening in the Home? Are girls being raised with enough confidence in themselves and or their abilities?
- How about collaboration? Can women leverage their networks in order to supply into global chains or are they working in isolation?
What about the rural Woman? The Minister for Trade and Industry spoke passionately about the plight of the rural African woman and cited several challenges faced by the rural woman including cultural practices such as polygamous marriages, access to knowledge/information, financial training etc. The Minister challenged the audience to take action to address the plight of the rural woman.
But is the minister right to be concerned about the rural woman? I certainly think so. Whilst the urban woman has choices and is aware of her rights this isn’t necessarily the case for the rural women, who typically passes her days doing working the land for very little reward. When this becomes too much to bear, the young women in particular give up and head to the cities. The city often has very little to offer this rural to urban migrant and according to one taxi driver this type of woman often turns to prostitution.
There seemed to be unified agreement that in order to adress some of these challenges, it is necessary to ensure that agriculture as seen and treated as a serious business and make it pay, this would in turn stem the rural to urban migration trends.
Young girls in rural areas should be supported to remain within the education system for as long as the boys are. It was further agreed that the education system should be examined to ensure that as well as academic grades, girls should acquire skills that would ensure their financial independence .
And then there is the media!
- Does the media give women a raw deal by promoting poor images of women?
Like I said I came away with more questions than answers, this is not such a bad things actually as it will force me to continue to explore the issues raised.
And the thing about women? Are we really our own worst enemy?
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