Oil and Development: Women Participation will redeem the falling Uganda Shilling

Advocate James Muhindo

Advocate James Muhindo

        By James Muhindo….

The prevailing unprecedented depreciation of the Uganda shillings against the dollar has sent shock waves to every one of the four corners of the country. The situation is worsened by the fear that  forth coming general elections are going to cause more damage, given the experience of a weakening shilling every after a general election since 2006. Although we have some reservations, both the government and the citizens have their eyes glued on oil and gas production for redemption, notwithstanding the fallen oil prices at the world market.

Sustainable management of natural resources in Developing countries is an increasingly important driver to transformative economic growth. This is due to the enormous financial resources and related development opportunities that accrue from this industry. Countries like Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are very good examples of Natural Resource driven development.

Women Gold miners in Agua Clara in Columbia.

Women Gold miners in Agua Clara in Columbia.

However, while exploitation of natural resources has transformed nations across the world, one struggles to find such a success story on the African continent. Ironically, citizens in natural resource rich African countries have remained poor, with limited access to basic infrastructure and inadequate social and public services.

Amidst all the chaos in resource rich countries, especially in the case of oil and gas, it has been noted that women and girls are always the most negatively impacted by the developments. The Centre for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL – Stanford), in its publication “Oil-Led Development” stated that, “Oil exploration destroys livelihoods, institutions, and values and forces impoverished and illiterate girls and women to migrate or to be trafficked to urban centers as child laborers and sex workers.”

It is with utmost regret that I reveal that some women in the Albertine Graben are already facing this music. Reports on developments in Uganda’s Oil sector indicate that men are benefiting way faster than women. Even with the promise to employ tens of thousands, by the Joint Venture oil companies, and hundreds of thousands in the mining sector, if no strategic efforts are taken to address the gender imbalance in participation in the sectors, women will continue to lag behind.

There has been a utopian presumption that with human rights and affirmative action in the law books, men and women are equally and similarly impacted by the Extractives industry. This is utterly wrong! In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, there is still need for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls if we are to achieve inclusive and equitable development in Uganda and Africa at large.

women miners in columbiaSome people argued that most jobs, especially in mining, are physical and require masculine energies hence the exclusion of women. On the contrary women are more excluded from the formal large scale mining employment and relegated to Artisanal and Small scale mining. Through my work with Global Rights Alert, that has in the past done studies among Gold mining Artisanals in Karamoja and Mubende, it is evident that women, girls and children are actively involved in Artisanal mining. Unfortunately, such mining is less paying than the formal large scale mining, and the oil and gas industry.

The path towards achieving women participation in the extractives industry starts with building women’s capacities both technically and with relevant information on opportunities, challenges as well as lessons from other countries. This enlightenment can be through specially tailored academic programs, or through capacity building workshops, conferences and conventions.

Such platforms provide women, from different walks of life, with the chance to share experiences, network and find entrée points that can enhance women participation in the sector. In light of this gap, there are currently ongoing efforts by Global Rights Alert, a local NGO, with support from Democratic Governance Facility to create a platform (a Gender Convention) that will bring together women actor from across Africa to discus Gender and Extractives issues.

In National Development Plan II, and Vision 2040, Uganda emphasizes the extractives Industry as one of the pillars through which economic growth will be achieved. However, if the question as to whether the set development targets will be achieved is to be answered in the affirmative, gender must be mainstreamed least this looming economic depression will worsen.

James Muhindo is a lawyer and Project officer at Global Rights Alert

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