The project started 2003 to help rural women access timely and relevant information about government programs and policies in their areas, so as to enhance their knowledge / understanding, participation and benefit from them.
How did the project come about?
The project builds on UMWA’s Rural Outreach Program (ROP), whose objective was to bring issues of the least heard on the national agenda through media coverage, with the hope that policy makers can pick up these issues for positive legislation to redress the inequalities.
The project started with needs assessment and baseline survey carried out in the three-targeted sub-counties in Masaka, Luweero and Mukono with the purpose of: establishing the most appropriate methods of making rural women have more information about government programs and policies.
The assessment was specifically to:
Establish the available government programs and policies, women’s levels of awareness of their existence.
Assess the problems women face in accessing them.
Root causes and effect.
Establish the available channels of communication and how they are utilized.
Develop monitoring indicators and design the most appropriate interventions (action planning).
The needs assessment and baseline survey established that the government is implementing a number of programs / policies in the targeted communities and some women had benefited from them, however, it was not taking serious efforts to explain and popularize these programs to the beneficiaries. This meant that communities could not fully participate in these programs and could not also monitor and evaluate their performance.
How does the project work?
50-60 women are identified from either formal or informal women groups. These form a core group who are equipped with skills to enable them become change agents among group members with whom they interact.
Some of the skills include:
Group formation and strengthening / gender awareness.
Participatory planning, monitoring, awareness.
Sensitised on government programmes and policies.
Action planning (how they can start implementing the project).
The project has also established structures by electing committees at sub-county parishes, parish and at the village level.
These structures now provide a network through which women are mobilized to understand, participate and benefit from government programs.
The women are linked to the leaders and extension staff in their districts / subcounty who are the implementers of government programs and policies.
Impact and achievements
- The project has established Get Smart Rural Women’s core groups in all the seven sub-counties – Nabbale (Mukono), Kingo (Masaka) and Ziroobwe (Luweero), Ivukula (Iganga), Mulagi (Kiboga), Atiira (Soroti), Kawempe (Kampala), where it is being implemented.
- Members of the core groups have been equipped with some skills that will enable them to be change agents among group members with whom they interact.
- The project has also established structures by electing committees at sub-county, parishes and in some villages. These structures will provide a network through which women are mobilized to understand, participate and benefit from government programs.
- The project has initiated a discussion about pertinent issues that influence women’s participation and benefiting from government programs and policies.
- Some of the local leaders have started involving women in the implementation of government programs, for example in Kingo (Masaka); women were invited to take part in the 2004 / 2005 sub-county budget conference and were given some Moringa seedlings as part of Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA).
- Women are beginning to demand for services from the extension staff and accountability form their political leaders. This is evidenced by the testimonies of women from Nabbale who were sharing in the recent workshop about their experience in monitoring funds provided through the CHAI program. Women in Kingo openly asked the District Agriculture Officer to explain why Kingo sub-county is always skipped when implementing projects under the PMA program.
- There is evidence that some of the technical and political leaders who have been taking advantage of women’s ignorance are getting uncomfortable with the project. Some of them are beginning to dodge women’s meetings, as they fear to be put to task to give accountability whenever the opportunity arises.
- The project has succeeded in linking the rural women and the extension staff and rural women were made aware they can make their needs be known to the district in case there is failure at the sub-county.
Through this project, rural women have been enhanced with knowledge to access information regarding government policies and programs as well as promoting their involvement in the planning and monitoring process at the local government level.
- The Get Smart Rural Women’s Project is the first one of its kind, there is no known project that had similar goals and objectives, and therefore the team does not have past experiences to learn from. The team has been setting very ambitious objectives, some of which has not been very easy to achieve.
- Rural women have very low levels of education, can not read and speak English therefore have missed a lot of useful information communicated in English and it has also been difficult to explain some of the concept in the local language.
- Women have very heavy workloads and some of their husbands are not comfortable when they move far away from their homes, therefore when they move far away from their homes, therefore would prefer that workshops are conducted at village level yet this would require a lot of funds and personnel.
- Most of the technical staff lack gender analytical skills and are still being influenced by stereotypical societal expectations. They still extend services without due consideration to the different needs, interests and priorities of men and women. Whatever is applicable to men is taken as the standard.
- It was not easy to follow the Gender and Development (GAD) approach as it was necessary to first build the capacity of women before allowing men to play an active role in the project, as there is fear that men can high jack it.
- There is still a strong dependence syndrome among the women as they are still finding it difficult to contribute for the good of the project; this threatens the sustainability of the gains from the project.
- Some women have not yet grasped the issues advocated for in the project, which raises fear that women may loose the little that they have gained.
- The people who have been benefiting from women’s ignorance are trying to sabotage the project for example some technical and political leaders are withholding some vital information and resources and threatening the women who are trying to monitor government programs.
- Many of the district and sub-county technical staff have not yet realized that the project is complementing their development work.