NGO News

Aids fight: New approaches needed to reduce scourge

By Kaviri Ali

Uganda is often cited as a rare example of success in a continent facing a severe HIV/Aids crisis. The country is seen as having implemented a well-timed and successful HIV/Aids prevention campaign, which has been credited with helping to bring the prevalence rate from around 15 per cent in the early 1990s down to around 5 per cent in 2001.

Sadly, Uganda is at an important crossroad in her nearly 30-year long struggle with the HIV/Aids epidemic and prevalence has increased, especially amongst the young people who constitute over 70 per cent of the population. After a dramatic reduction in HIV occurrence, following an early comprehensive HIV/Aids prevention campaign, there is evidence that the number of people living with HIV in the country is on the increase and majorities are youth.

The reasons for this increase have been attributed to the government’s shift towards abstinence – only prevention programmes – a general complacency or ‘Aids fatigue’ and a suggestion that Anti-retroviral drugs have changed the perception of HIV/Aids from a death sentence to a treatable, manageable disease.

The epidemic is also a gender issue because it affects men and women differently. The prevalence rates are higher among women with young women being at a greater risk of contagion. Young girls are more vulnerable to HIV/Aids because of intergenerational sex, discrimination, sexual violence, cultural beliefs and limited access to information.

In Africa, women’s vulnerability to HIV/Aids is rooted in the existing strong gender inequalities in the distribution of resources, which leaves women economically dependent on their male sexual partners and hence lack of control over their sexuality and fertility which renders them vulnerable to poverty, violence and sexual coercion.

HIV/Aids has claimed many lives as a result of limited sensitisation, limited knowledge about prevention, limited access to health services and stigma; which have all obstructed many from accessing treatment. Many people have been involved in careless sexual relationships; extra-marital relations and premarital sex.

NGO News

Involve rural youth in agriculture

By Ali Kaviri

More than 80 per cent of Uganda’s labour force is in agriculture. However, youth engagement in the sector remains low even with high unemployment, a factor often backed up with a common perception that youth dislike agriculture, and do not see it as a viable venture. Whereas that may be partly true, the sector faces an uphill battle in its quest to modernise.

Though agriculture is said to be the backbone of Uganda’s economy, there is little investment in the sector. Farmers still practice rudimentary farming methods, use outdated tools and equipment. The youth, especially those who may want to engage in farming, have limited access to land, lack financial services to counter agricultural risks in addition to having limited access to post-harvest information.
While the government has extensively applied a range of policies to promote agriculture, many of the policies and strategies have failed to reflect the needs of youth. Consultations are often held in urban centres, which often exclude uneducated, rural and poor youth. There is also lack of comprehensive data on rural youth as a distinct group, resulting in policies that do not respond to the real challenges faced by the rural youth.

Therefore, in order to promote youth participation in agriculture, value addition and agriculture extension services should be prioritised and invested countrywide to attract more young people into the sector.
For better understanding of challenges in the agricultural sector, data should be aggregated according to age, sex and geographical location. The aspirations, needs and concerns of young people should also be taken into account. Additionally, the budget allocation to agriculture sector should be increased and more resources channelled to local government levels where rural youth reside.

Furthermore, advocacy campaigns targeting local authorities on land use is crucial. Similarly, loans are also necessary to enable youth access to land and providing low cost insurance products to cushion them against shocks from fluctuating prices and weather conditions, including natural calamities such as floods.
Rural youth should be supported to actively participate in policy dialogues on agriculture as the country looks for the best alternatives to curb high youth unemployment.
Ali Kaviri,
Uganda Youth Network

NGO News

Empower young women to be advocates of change

By Ali Kaviri

Looking at Uganda’s population, the section of women in leadership is far lower than that of men. In terms of political representation, men occupy most of the mainstream seats in Parliament and at local council levels while most women are elected on the basis of affirmative action policy. This takes women as marginalised group of society. For instance, in 2011 general elections out of the 1,269 candidates nominated for the directly elected seats in Parliament, only 46 were women accounting for 3.62 per cent whereas the men were 1,223 accounting for 96.38per cent.
The situation at work places is not different because most top jobs are still being occupied by men due to a fixed false belief that women are incapable. In some homes, women are still seen as kitchen wives who are incapable of even managing financial resources of the home. Many cultures take women as irresponsible and a promiscuous part of society without questioning the adulterous and uncivilised behaviour of some men.

In such an environment which is highly patriarchal, many have internalised male norms and values. Influencing public policies from a gender perspective has become a daunting task for women legislators. Those who may be willing to take up leadership positions have been impoverished by the cultural wing of society that believes that women are only meant to do the production, whereas the management of the finances is left to the men.

In the above light, empowerment of young women is crucial for the achievement of social justice. They need to be empowered socially, economically and politically. There is need to increase access to information for women and young leaders to become advocates of change. An informed woman will lead to an informed society. Access to information is a powerful tool for influencing change.

Additionally, young women and men need to be mentored for social change. In addition to strengthening the capacities of women and youth in decision making and advancing issues of gender equality in the political arena, we also need to nurture feminist visions and values among young people who will come into public institutions with “a critical eye” especially on societal pressing issues such as social injustices and gender inequalities.
And more importantly, we need to begin empowering women from childhood by instilling in them concepts of leadership, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, effective interpersonal communication and public speaking among others.
It is only by infusing transformative leadership skills and knowledge as aforementioned into youth’s overall leadership through mentorship that the realisation of social change will be attained.

Ali Kaviri,