Jenet Elwii, Farmer, Beekeeper,Chegere SACCO chair
Not Quite Queen of the Jungle
Peter Aceny can list many positive things his co-operatively-owned credit union has done for his northern Ugandan community. But the one he is most proud of is a reduction in domestic violence. “It’s not a malady here now,” said the Chegere SACCO chair.
Under the Canadian Co-operative Association-sponsored IFAPI (Integrated Finance and Agriculture Production Initiative) gender equality in the region’s co-operative system is actively promoted. Both sexes receive gender equality training. Projects are assessed to ensure they employ a balance of a balance of men and women. And organizations like the Chegere savings and loans centre are required to have at least one-third female representation on their boards.
As a result of these affirmative actions, men have come to appreciate, in Aceny’s words, that “women are not supposed to be treated as slaves.”
Indeed, women have come a long way in Uganda. By sharing roles of responsibility with men and, in many cases, holding leadership positions, women are building confidence and gaining the respect of their male peers. They have gone from being treated as subservient to men to being regarded as equal partners in the economic and social development of their communities.
“You see me talking with her with maximum respect,” Aceny referring to the chair of his SACCO Jenet Elwii. The maize farmer and beekeeper is making sure the voice of women is heard loud and clear in several organizations. In addition to her executive position on the SACCO board, she also heads her community’s anti-corruption committee and is treasurer of her Area Co-operative Enterprise.
As a result of her involvement in her SACCO and ACE, Elwii said she has increased the production of her crops, received training in leadership and has created friendships.
She is regarded as a role model to her community and is often sought out for her advice, according to Aceny.
Elwii’s prominent stature in Chegere is a testament to the success of IFAP’s gender promotion efforts. However, there is still much to be done before women are truly equal to men in Uganda. Consider the following:
· Women produce 70-90 per cent of Uganda’s food but only own seven per cent of the land.
· Rural women work considerably longer hours than men – between 12-18 hours a day.
· Women make up the majority of the rural poor. Most are small land holders engaged in subsistence farming.
The biggest obstacles to women’s advancement in Ugandan society are lack of education and confidence.
Though women are in numbers too big to ignore, when it comes to their roar, men are still the king of the jungle.