It is a great pleasure to be here with you all for the 5th Uganda – UK Investment Convention. I bear the warm greetings of Ssabassajja Kabaka and the people of Buganda, on whose behalf I stand here today.
I would like to start off by thanking the organizers for this splendid arrangement bringing together people from all walks of life to discuss investment in Uganda and for choosing a theme that resonates closely with our hearts.
We have all heard and read growth statistics, which mean a lot to macro-economists and scholars but do not always help us understand whether ordinary people are actually becoming happier and more prosperous.
I do not intend to get into a detailed analysis of the gap between the statistics and the perception of ordinary people. I am sure that there are several experts who will be doing that. Rather, I want to applaud the organizers for their insight into the fact that growth statistics only give a two dimensional view of the effect of investment on our society.
If growth is to be truly meaningful and sustainable, all of the people must buy into that growth. For growth to be meaningful and sustainable all people must feel that the growth brings them a direct benefit in the form of prosperity.
When I say “all of the people” I mean women as well as the men across all the strata of society. This is why I am especially pleased about having been asked to speak to you about the role of Ugandan women in achieving sustainable development.
I would like to approach this topic from the perspective of the Buganda Kingdom; to make the argument that the marriage of ancient and modern can both engender and entrench the role of Ugandan women in achieving sustainable development.
For the benefit of the few who are not familiar with our history, Buganda is an ancient Bantu Kingdom, under a King called the Kabaka, located on the Northern and North Eastern shores of Lake Victoria. Buganda, as we know it today, was established by Ssekabaka Kintu upon a foundation of smaller chieftaincies in or about the 12th Century AD.
Buganda’s location at the Source of the Nile caused it to become a destination for European explorers a focal point of the Scramble for Africa in the 19th Century. The explorers were followed by Christian missionaries, who, in turn, were followed by British imperial agents.
The British established the Uganda Protectorate around the kernel of the Kingdom of Buganda. Indeed the name “Uganda” was derived from the Swahili pronunciation of the name of the Kingdom. Upon independence in 1962, Uganda had a federal constitution, under which Buganda and other Kingdoms formally retained control of some of their affairs. This constitution was violently abrogated in 1966 and the reigning Kabaka, Edward Mutesa II, was exiled and the Kingdom was abolished.
Buganda was ruled under a state of emergency by the military, which eventually turned on its civilian masters in 1971 with the coup that brought Idi Amin to power. Uganda slowly descended into civil war and state failure and thousands of lives were lost.
Peace and stability were restored to Buganda and the Southern part of the country in 1986 when the National Resistance Army, led by General Yoweri Museveni, the incumbent President of Uganda, took over power with the backing of the overwhelming majority of the people of Buganda, whose central demand was the formal restoration of their Kingdom.
In 1993 we were blessed with the restoration of the Kingdom, and my husband Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, was formally installed as the 36th Kabaka of Buganda. The Kingdom was restored as a cultural institution, with no administrative or legislative powers. The people of Buganda identify with the cultural leadership (Obwakabaka) not only as a source of basic identity but also as a rallying point and personification of their political, social, economic and cultural aspirations.
Therefore, despite the fact that the Kingdom has no administrative or legislative powers and that cultural leaders are barred from engaging in partisan politics, the institution of the Kabaka wields significant political, social and economic influence over the 6 million or so Baganda and, by virtue of its geographical position, on all of the people of Uganda as well.
It goes without saying that since, as in the rest of the world, roughly half of our population is made up of women, the Kingdom has a great impact on the lives and position of women. I am proud to say that women leadership was and still is recognized in traditional Kiganda culture. Traditionally a Kabaka reigns with two significant women leaders – the Namasole or Queen Mother; and with a female co-heir, the Nnalinya Lubuga, who is a princess – one of the Kabaka’s sisters.
In antiquity and to, some extent, to date, the Namasoles and the Nnalinyas were powerful women leaders with their own estates and royal courts. The Kabaka was and still is expected to consult with them on crucial decisions.
With the advent of Christianity, the first Kabaka to be wed in church, Daudi Chwa II, bestowed on his wife, Lady Druscilla Irene Namaganda, the title of Nnabagereka. This title, which I hold today, has taken on the role of mobilizing women to development in the Kingdom, a role which is reflected in the root of its name – “okugereka”, meaning to plan or prepare for providence.
It is in this context, or against that background that I addressed myself to the issue of the role of women in achieving sustainable development. The Kingdom has been and continues to provide for women in leadership roles. Those roles have been modified over the years and have provided for cultural acceptance of woman participation in several areas of social and economic life.
If the growth statistics fail to reflect the reality of ordinary people – by not demonstrating how this growth translates into prosperity in their daily lives, then this is especially the case for women.
Growth statistics mask the fact that women, living in a predominantly patriarchal society, are disproportionately represented amongst the ranks of the poor. The statistics do not show that according to a recent survey, as many as 40% of all the women in Uganda are unpaid family workers, mainly in agriculture.
It is also worth noting that conventional growth statistics do not adequately reflect the inequality of income between men and women, for those women who find employment. They do not reflect the glass ceiling that women hit in their careers, especially because they have to take time out to have and raise children.
These statistics also do not take into account the lost economic output of the thousands of women who die in childbirth every year or the millions of women who are rendered less economically productive because they are looking after children who suffer from preventable diseases. Lastly, growth statistics conceal the fact that the land tenure system unjustly favors men over women.
Looking at the plight of women in present day Uganda, it is easy to throw one’s hands in the air and say that the situation is hopeless. But that is not how the women of Buganda or Uganda see it. Despite the challenges, women are the beating heart of agricultural and other economic production. We are strong and resilient, beating the odds to contribute significantly to Uganda’s sustainable development.
Going forward, it is incumbent on the Government and private investors to reward the resilience of Uganda’s women by putting women at the centre of policy and investment decision making. By this, I mean more than quantitative window dressing. What we need is a real qualitative assessment of gender sensitivity and gender impacts of all investments in our country.
We must commit genuine efforts to make growth translate into equitable and sustainable prosperity for women. The results will be swift if the first thing that is addressed is inequality in pay. Women are already working so hard for little or no pay, just imagine how much harder they can work when they are getting equitably paid.
Legitimate and ancient cultural institutions, such as the Kingdom of Buganda, have a role to play in promoting women to achieve sustainable development in Uganda. As I already said, Kingdoms such as ours have vast untapped social and economic influence.
By enhancing the visibility of women, not just in leadership roles, but also in the tasks of economic production, cultural institutions can bring about the change that unleashes the presently constrained half of the population to production, wealth and prosperity.
Constructive partnerships between cultural institutions, on the one hand, and Government and/or private investors can help lower and eventually overcome the barriers that hold women back in the work place and elsewhere.
Together, we can work on the barriers to more meaningful economic participation by women – by:
- Improving access to maternal healthcare;
- Reducing infant and child illness and mortality through better access to vaccines and primary healthcare;
- Encouraging parents to send their girl children to school and to leave them there; and
- Positively addressing and redressing the historical disadvantages faced by women in all aspects of economic production by inculcating a new culture of inclusiveness and equality.
Government can also partner with legitimate cultural institutions to work towards achieving land tenure reform so as to ensure that women have:
- security of tenure in the land that they occupy in their own rights and not simply as the daughters, wives or mothers of a man;
- the right to buy, inherit and bequeath registered titled land; and
- the right to equitably share in matrimonial property on the death of a spouse or upon divorce.
In conclusion ladies and gentlemen and at the risk of repeating myself, women play a big but largely under-recognized and unrewarded role in Uganda’s development. It is time that our efforts were recognized and duly rewarded. It is incumbent on Government and private investors to ensure that investment into Uganda equitably benefits men as well as women. Cultural institutions have played and will continue to play a role in bringing about gender equity in development and prosperity.
I do not simply make these suggestions or proposals for the sake of making a great sounding speech. As the Nnabagereka, I have walked the talk by dedicating myself to making a difference in the lives of the people of Uganda especially Children, women, youth and vulnerable groups.
In 2000 I established the Nnabagereka Development Foundation, which works strategically with other philanthropic institutions, with investors and with Government to provide support in key areas of need such as: maternal health; community development; education; public health; poverty eradication; cultural preservation and the empowerment of vulnerable and marginalized groups.
The Foundation, which has positioned itself as a pacesetter in leveraging the cultural voice for national and regional development, aspires to be a leading cultural foundation that uses culture as a development tool in contemporary society.
We believe that the most successful development programs will be those that not only understand the nuances that exist among different cultures, but those that integrate the positive elements within cultural institutions and work with cultural leaders as equal partners; recognize positive cultural contexts and culture as a key framework that defines our choices, opportunities and abilities.
Some of our initiatives that we’ve implemented include the bursary scheme for primary school girls, and scholarship for secondary and university female students; SRHR advocacy campaigns for both women and men; support to youth and women income generating projects; and our flagship program the Ekisaakaate kya Nnabagereka a children’s cultural camp which is founded on the cultural values of social responsibility, industriousness, integrity, respect for diversity, and discipline. As a result, children who go through the Ekisaakaate not only learn their native language, etiquette, personal and spiritual development, they also acquire leadership, business and entrepreneurship skills.
I commit to continue tirelessly with these efforts because while a lot has been achieved, there is still much more to be done.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I hope that what you all see and hear during this Convention translates into measurable and sustainable prosperity for the children, women and men of Uganda. I wish you all fruitful deliberations.
Thank you, and God Bless you.
HRH SYLVIA NAGGINDA LUSWATA