By Geoffrey D Obbo
On the 8th of March, the world reminds itself of the strides that have been achieved in attaining human rights and dignity for women around the world. The day is also used to highlight the different challenges women still face in achieving full rights and equal dignity.
This year’s theme for the International Women’s Day Campaign is “Choose to Challenge”. I implore every Ugandan to choose to challenge the rampant abuse of women’s rights in commercial investment schemes including; factories, plantations, flower farms and many others.
The continued abuse of women’s rights in investment schemes negatively impacts the economic wellbeing of women in Uganda. One of the incidences that caught the attention of the public was the 2016 poisoning of over 80 women workers at the Royal Van Zanten flower farm.
These women were poisoned by the pesticides applied to the flowers. It was found that one of the major causes of the poisoning was inadequate protective gear given to women in the flower farms.
The issue of provision of adequate gear for female workers around Uganda is not only in this flower farm but a major concern in many plantations and factories around Uganda.
In several plantations like palm oil plantations in Kalangala, it is common to find women applying corrosive fertilizer with bare hands. This causes many side effects like skin irritation and skin diseases.
In addition to this, women in investment schemes continue to suffer harsh working conditions including; carrying heavy loads, spending the day with no meal, poor housing, forced cohabitation, among others. Uganda this women’s day must choose to challenge the abuse of rights of women working in investment schemes.
On this women’s day, we must also choose to challenge the termination of women for getting pregnant. Although the Employment Act provides for maternity leave, several women around Uganda are dismissed from work the moment they are realized to be pregnant.
It is incumbent on the state to ensure that laws protecting the rights of citizens do not remain on paper but are put into effect. Under Article 33 of Uganda’s Constitution, the state must put in place facilities and opportunities for women to achieve their full potential.
The same article further provides that the state should protect women taking into account their unique status and maternal functions in society. However, it should be noted that some of the investments that are violating women’s rights are partners of government under the “Public-Private Partnership (PPP)” system. The violation of human rights by government partners is a violation of human rights by the government itself.
The government must always remember its obligation under Article 20 of the Constitution to respect, uphold, promote and protect human rights even as regards trade and investments in Uganda.
This International Women’s day, let’s also choose to challenge the lack of a human right impact assessment in our investment laws. Let’s choose to challenge the inaction by the government to protect the rights of women in commercial investment schemes in Uganda.
Let’s choose to challenge putting profits before the lives of women in Uganda. This International Women’s day, let’s choose life before profits.