Woman standing in a field of trees, showing the camera vegetables she's grown

Grantee stories

Empowering women in agriculture to become SRHR champions

Grantee Partner: Environmental Conservation and Agricultural Enhancement Uganda

Grant type: Strengthening

Priorities: Access, Youth

Country: Uganda

Women are a driving force of agriculture across the globe, growing the food and crops that sustain communities and form the cornerstone of many economies. 66% of women, compared to 60% of men, rely on agriculture for their livelihood across sub-Saharan Africa. For women in agriculture, ensuring access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services further supports their ability to work. Respectful SRHR and maternal healthcare should be available, accessible, and affordable for all. However, in many rural communities, there are barriers to accessing care which negatively affects women’s health outcomes. Engaging community members to hold their local government, health clinics, and community structures to account is key to working towards positive change and breaking down barriers to care.

Environmental Conservation and Agricultural Enhancement Uganda (Eco-Agric) is a women-led organisation working to improve livelihoods and health outcomes of their communities. They accomplish this through rights empowerment, sustainable agricultural production, environmental conservation, health education and promotion, economic empowerment and nutrition, skills development, and educational support through capacity building, research, and training.

The 2014 Uganda Population and Housing Census report indicates that 68% of the population depends on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. In rural Kibaale district, most women rely on agriculture as their main source of income. In a baseline survey conducted to assess the quality of SRHR services available in Kibaale district, Eco-Agric identified that:

  • There was a general lack of information on SRHR and the availability of services among women and young people, affecting usage of services.
  • SRHR service delivery was poor and characterized by corruption and bribery. Many places required payment for basic supplies and services, such as immunizations, gloves, and safe delivery kits, preventing some women from accessing care.
  • Women seeking prenatal care faced physical and psychological abuse from service providers, affecting their desire to continue seeking services.
  • Infrastructure, such as road quality, to access clinics was poor, resulting in longer journeys to access care. Some women go into labour and deliver roadside.
  • Many clinics had a lack of healthcare providers able to provide services. In some places, there were no government clinic facilities available.

Eco-Agric identified that few women farmers, agro-producers, and agro-marketers participated in SRHR planning, budgeting, and monitoring in their districts. Against this backdrop, Eco-Agric, with an AmplifyChange Strengthening grant, implemented a project promoting improved SRHR service delivery in Uganda by empowering rural women dependent on agriculture to become SRHR advocates.

A woman stands in a field of trees, showing vegetables she's grown to the camera
Eco-Agric works closely with women agricultural workers

Building a grassroots movement for change

When Uganda adopted a decentralized system of governance in 1993, there was little understanding of the policy’s implications between state and non-state actors at the local government level. Decentralization and the implementation of a new poverty-eradication framework, called the Plan for the Modernization of Agriculture (PMA), shifted the responsibilities and relationships of local governments and other stakeholders, including agribusiness groups. Although farmers, agro-processors, and product sellers are central in agricultural service delivery, few of them participate in local decision-making about agricultural and other community issues. Not all agribusiness workers know that they can participate in budget and council meetings, and there is a lack of knowledge on advocacy and accountability approaches.

The project’s main aim was to build the confidence of women agricultural workers to participate in Kibaale local government planning and budgeting processes to promote grassroots voices in decision-making around SRHR. The project additionally empowered girls, adolescents, and young women to demand the necessary services and information to make informed decisions about their healthcare and report gender-based violence (GBV).

Eco-Agric accomplished this through the following key activities:

  • Designing and implementing a training program for women to actively participate in SRHR planning and budgeting to incorporate SRHR priorities into local level policies, plans, and budgets.
  • Training women on SRHR budget monitoring to ensure accountability and value for money.
  • Engaging local women, girls, and young people in SRHR education and outreach, and teaching them about their rights to services.
  • Empowering Eco-Agric Uganda staff to support communities to participate in different lobbying and advocacy activities.

Eco-Agric translated the Planning and Budgeting Guide Information into Runyoro-Rutooro as part of their training to support advocacy processes.

A group of people at a farmer's market stall talking to people in front of a banner.
The Eco-Agric team during an outreach activity

Bringing women to the table

The project supported the formation of the Kibaale District smallholder women farmers, agro-producers, and agro-marketers Association to empower women agricultural workers to continue advocating for change. The project reached 16,581 women; to this day, women in Kibaale are more involved with local government decision-making and actively track and monitor SRHR budget expenditure.

Through their advocacy and accountability efforts, a number of concrete changes have occurred in the district:

  • There is better staffing and access to prenatal and immunization services, including dedicated days for antenatal and immunization services.
  • There is wider availability of resources, such as ambulances, incubators, and delivery beds, and construction for new maternity wards and new clinics and upgrading those in disrepair.
  • There is more usage of SRHR services at local health centres by women and girls, reducing maternal morbidity and mortality.
  • Community development workers underwent gender awareness trainings and implemented a radio program for improved SRHR service delivery, reaching more community members.
  • Young people have a greater understanding of their rights and of gender equality, and schools have identified reduced gender-based violence incidents.
  • Women have an increased awareness that their voices are important in improving service delivery. For example, in Kyakazihire, a group of women organised a peaceful demonstration to advocate for road improvements. As a result of the demonstration, the council repaired the affected road.

Additionally, the project allowed for Eco-Agric to strengthen their own organisational structures. Their board received training on governance, safeguarding, and accountability, and their team updated their internal policies and programmes.

Looking forward

Through their work, Eco-Agric seeks to continue improving the health and rights of their communities:

  • GBV continues to be a present issue within communities and schools. There needs to be an increase in the number of GBV case workers; support to community structures, including health facility-based one-stop centres, to improve the clinical management of rape victims; and livelihood interventions to support survivors of GBV and those at high risk. Other priorities include the establishment of mobile courts; the refurbishment or construction of safe shelters and support to Uganda police to ensure safety for women; and improving investigation and prosecution of cases.
  • Advocating to improve the availability of comprehensive education about SRHR, GBV, and gender equality and rights into school curricula and for out-of-school youth would ensure that future generations live in a more gender-equal and inclusive world. Supporting schools to have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual abuse and harassment would additionally support young people.

By working closely with rural communities and empowering women agricultural workers to use their voice for change, Eco-Agric shows how important and influential grassroots movements for change are to improving SRHR.

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