Market women in Uganda celebrate International Women’s Day

On March 18, 2022, UN Women supported a remembrance event for market women, at Kalerwe Market in Kampala, to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022. This dynamic engagement enabled Ugandan market women to celebrate their important role in feeding Uganda.

The commemoration of International Women’s Day this year was placed under the global theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable future” organized by the Institute of Social Transformation (IST) Uganda, implementing partner of UN Women. This activity was facilitated by IST, who engaged the market women in English and Luganda, the local language. This IWD event was unique in that it was a celebratory event with speeches and awareness raising, it also gave market women the opportunity to access essential health services, including HIV testing and counselling, cervical cancer screening and family planning services.

IST Uganda is a UN Women Implementing Partner whose work spans Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG). In this commemorative commitment, sensitization dialogues were held for market women at Kalerwe Market, Kampala. Sessions were held to engage market women on their sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) rights, business opportunities and tax rights. Throughout the day, sessions were conducted to engage them on their rights. The Kamwokya Christian Caring Community conducted a sensitization session on non-communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS testing and counselling. An awareness session on SRHR was led by the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD). Raising awareness on tax regimes, advocating to reduce the unfair tax burden on women, was carried out by the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI). The market community interacted on HIV/AIDS prevention while testing and counseling took place simultaneously on the spot. The event was attended by market leaders as well as market vendors, representatives of UN Women, civil society and health service providers.

This event was important because it brought services directly to women. This is essential as they often cannot leave the workspace due to their workload, combined with unpaid care work. One hundred and four of the market women present signed up for SRHR and other health services, including cervical cancer screenings and contraceptive consultations. Bringing health services directly to these busy women has enabled them to enroll in essential health services such as cervical cancer screening, prenatal care, and HIV testing, among others. The remarks were shared by the Market Chairman who encouraged IST to continue bringing such health services to the market community, followed by IST Uganda Executive Director Moureen Wagubi:

Moureen shared: “We heard from market women who had worked in the market for over eight years that this was the first time they had access to health services. Our role is to ensure that we extend these services to other markets in Kampala and the country in general. We recognize that health contributes to women’s business performance. We are working on an issue paper to present to Parliament to advocate for the extension of these services to other market communities that cannot access health services due to busy work and domestic schedules.

With the support of UN Women, IST Uganda engages market women through economic empowerment, promoting them in leadership and ending all forms of violence. This project is supported by Sweden and started in 2016. UN Women Representative in Uganda, Evelyn Letiyo (EVAWG Program Specialist) engaged market women in a question and answer session focusing on their rights and spoke of the issue of power, especially over their bodies. Evelyn asked the women to share some of the challenges they face. Market women highlighted climate change and changing weather conditions, as well as the cost of living and sexual harassment.

“As we work together, Moureen [IST Uganda], we have a lot to do. I hope the next time we gather for International Women’s Day, we will have many women speaking with one voice. This is when we will see changes, there is power in the collective!” – Evelyne Letiyo

To close the day, an interactive engagement between IST Uganda, UN Women and market women took place where market women shared the challenges they face in operating in this sector as women.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Women – Africa.

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