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Ministry officials, Parliament members, women’s groups, and civil society organisations meet to discuss labour rights for women in the informal sector

Research and policy initiatives focus on COVID-19 recovery and women’s economic empowerment

On March 30th, 2022, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) held a policy dialogue with government officials from the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, Equal Opportunities Commission, Parliament of Uganda, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, women’s groups in the informal sector, and civil society organisations.

Those present discussed recent research and policy initiatives aimed at ensuring the wellbeing and labour rights for women in the informal sector.

The dialogue is a part of a series of engagements following a multi-country scoping study by ICRW in 2021, which assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on informal women workers in urban areas in Uganda and Kenya.

Peggy Clark, CEO and President of ICRW – International Centre for Research on Women

The policy dialogue and study are part of ICRW’s work to advance women’s economic empowerment, efforts supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This work is generating evidence to strengthen programmes for women working in the informal sector.

“This is an important moment to address the multi-layered impact of COVID-19 on women in both formal and informal work in Uganda and Kenya – and around the world,” said Peggy Clark, CEO and President of ICRW.

“This is also a pivotal moment when government, the private sector, civil society organizations, and women’s groups can come together to create solutions that address not only the current challenges but also the systemic and institutionalized inequities that perpetually serve as barriers for women in the world of work.”

ICRW’s COVID-19 impact study revealed that women in Uganda make up 75 percent of the labour force in the informal sector – due to ease of entry and exit, as well as the flexibility of informal work in accommodating women’s childbearing roles and care responsibilities.

The research has further revealed that women’s vulnerability, unstable income flows, and pre-existing challenges – such as gender-based violence – increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today’s dialogue set out to bring these challenges to the fore and urge policy actors present to address them and ensure social protections for women in the informal sector are formalized and meaningfully address the challenges women face. These initiatives were discussed, while other actions to address underlying inequities and longer-term solutions started to take shape.

“The conversation today was one of many going forward,” said Naome Wandera, ICRW Africa’s Senior Research and Evaluation Specialist.

    Group Photo of participants of the dialogue by International Centre of Research on Women to discuss labour rights for women in the informal sector

“In order to create change for women, their families and communities, and the local and global economies, we need all stakeholders in the room to determine solutions that work. Today’s conversation was a promising one, as everyone at the table has a vested interest in women’s economic empowerment and are committed to working together towards that goal.” Mr. Apollo Onzoma – Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (Industrial Relations and Productivity) noted that the Ministry has launched a single registry for social protection in relation to data management in all sectors, and also encouraged everyone in the informal sector to get involved in the National Social Security Fund Act.

Irene Nafungo of the Equal Opportunities Commission, a Government Agency responsible for protecting equal opportunities for all noted that they recognize that informal women workers are among the vulnerable and marginalized categories of the population because they are not socially protected and have limited access to funds.

Speaker, Hon Flavia Rwabuhoro Kabahenda, Kyegegwa District Woman Member of Parliament said that the idea of social policy is a new paradigm that is taking the right course.

‘Social protection has three major issues including poverty, the vulnerabilities that come with poverty and the resilience that comes with it.’

She emphasized that currently, Government should work around resilience.Hon Kabahenda noted that the Uganda Women’s Parliamentarians Association ensures that all women in all sectors and their needs/issues are catered for. They articulate issues concerning women to ensure they are gendered.

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