Gender-equal lives for all citizens in Jinja

One of ICLD’s training programmes has a special focus on Sustainable Development Goal #5 gender equality aimed at government officials who want to develop gender equality in their municipalities and contribute to equality for all citizens. Christine Kayango in Jinja, Uganda, is one of them.

The International Training Programme focusing on Gender Mainstreaming was introduced to civil servants in local administrations in four African countries in 2018. The first of three cohorts ended in November 2019, and on 19 February 2020, another group of enthusiastic civil servants representing eight local authorities in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia will start their 18-month journey within the Programme.

Christine Kayongo, Senior Economic Planner at Jinja Municipal Council, Uganda, was one of the participants in the first cohort. We asked her some questions:

What was the most useful learning from the training?

– It was the experience sharing with other participants, says Christine Kayongo. For example, the team learned how to encourage people to attend meetings through drama and how to do project appraisal using the Equality Journey method.

The Equality Journey is a five-step method in the training programme that all the participating teams are introducing into their organizations. Two other teams from Uganda also participated in the first cohort; Arua Municipal Council focusing on participatory budgeting and Nansana Municipal Council on strengthening leadership to address domestic violence.

Christine Kayongo’s municipality, Jinja, has an estimated 420 registered persons with disabilities of which 140 are women. Of the 85 councillors in the municipality only 20 are females and only four are persons with disabilities. Before the training, the municipality had a weak policy for “all-inclusive” infrastructure development. This policy was not friendly to the disabled and hindered their access to facilities such as health centres, schools, banks, roads, and the town hall, among others. These facilities lacked amenities like ramps, handrails, adjustable beds, wheelchairs, braille signs, sign language services, etc. Often, persons with disabilities were denied equal enjoyment of their human rights and basic services because of the lesser status ascribed to them by tradition, custom, and lack of consideration by the local government.

By participating in the training, the Jinja Municipal Council’s departments have introduced work-plans and budgets that strive to be “all-inclusive” and gender responsive. Communities are now more aware of the abilities and structural needs of persons with disabilities, who themselves are now better informed about their rights and empowered to advocate for effective inclusive services. Also, the municipal staff are informed and enforcing the rights of persons with disabilities at a higher degree than before.

Three woman
Christine Kayongo, Councillor Kawuma Harriet representing persons with different abilities at the Municipality of Jinja, and Angella Baligeya, Senior Community Development Officer in Jinja, who also participated in the ICLD training. The third team member in Jinja was Peter Mawerere, Senior assistant Town Clerk. Photo: Jinja

What was the most important result that your municipality achieved through your team’s participation in the training?

– We were able to come up with an all-inclusive customized gender policy, says Christine.

What has happened since you finalized the training and what is the future for the Jinja Municipal Council in this regard?

– After the training we started a partnership with the Municipality of Skellefteå in Sweden, and the mutual challenge the municipalities shared was how to have inclusive social services in line with health and education regulations, says Christine. We visited Skellefteå where we shared ideas and visited some functional variation groups. On returning to Uganda, we have had a feedback dialogue with persons with functional variations and visited non-governmental organizations that are working with the same and they shared their life experiences.

– We are now into all-inclusive planning and budgeting where we are ensuring that all departments include issues of persons with functional variations. We have continued with community sensitization and reporting to the politicians and technical staff in our meetings, as well as begun disseminating our gender policy for people to clearly understand it.

One concrete plan for the municipality is to have a secondary school that can admit students with special needs since we already have such primary schools, and to engage local and national leaders to advocate for better services regarding persons with disabilities.