From 27th -28th April 2017 a total of 17 Members of Parliament (10 female & 7 males) from different constituencies across Uganda, including 2 female Committee Coordinators, 4 AMwA female staff and 3 female resource persons undertook a gender mainstreaming training at Country Lake Resort Garuga.
Themed “Strengthening Capacities of Members of Parliament in Gender Mainstreaming for Freedom, Diverse Voices and Equal Opportunities”, the training targeted MPs from the Working Committee on Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights. The MPs. were uniquely identified with hope of clarifying the delusions around SRHR and champion these rights amidst the hotly contested debates on the East African Community (EAC) SRHR Bill and Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
Based on the African Women Leadership Institute Curriculum, the training focused on; a) understanding of Gender Concepts, b) Power & Patriarchy, c) Strategies to mainstream gender and d) Transformational Leadership. Throughout the training issues kept emerging from the discussions that triggered more debate on questions of SRHR such as criminalization of abortion, provision of contraceptives to school girls, access to SRHR information and services among others. Important to note too from the deliberations were recommendations on the need to address the underlying causes of gender inequalities, engagement of men and boys, and information dissemination among MPs.
Equipped with the skills to mainstream gender into policy formulation and programming the MPs committed to respond to the needs of women and girls particularly looking into their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). This was demonstrated by the group action plans they committed to work on post the training. The action plans were focused on addressing two key critical issues of SRHR in Uganda that included; access to information and health services regarding Sexual Reproduction Health by special interest groups including youth and tackling teenage pregnancies.
Perturbed by the statistics of teenage pregnancy a male Member of Parliament who was completely against Comprehensive Sexuality education in schools was able to reconsider his position following the training as he stated " with 24% of girls under 19 getting pregnant, it could be too early to introduce sex education but I would like to give it another thought"
While sharing key learnings from the training; one MP stated that “In any programming we have to consider the different gender’s special interest in how it affects them differently – I have to ensure that I critically analyze the gender aspects.
The training is part of a 2 year project supported by HIVOs that is geared towards mainstreaming gender through the Connecting Voices of Citizens that seeks to strengthen the capacities of citizens, change agents and civil society organizations to promote and protect civic spaces and accountable governance.