Communities call for improvement in access to information

A GRA Gender assessment report reveals glaring gaps in access to information for men and women. Where men have access to channels mainly used to relay information like radios and meetings, women are often limited by their gender roles in accessing information in the extractives sector. The report titled Assessing Gender Sensitivity in Uganda’s Extractive Industryshows a stark difference of 80 percent male and 20 percent female attendance at meetings organised in communities. This is because men are more mobile than women and have more access to information than women, whose roles mostly confine them to the home.

The study was carried out in the oil rich Hoima and Buliisa districts, as well as gold rich Mubende districts.

To facilitate women and enable them to get access to information, one must be careful in choosing the channel of communication, time of addressing communities and the way the message is delivered. Because women are responsible for food security at home, they often miss out on meetings scheduled for the morning as they are in the gardens digging. The level of education, cultural norms and practices also has an impact on access to information for both men and women.

The difference in attendance is also affected by the agenda of the meeting. If the meeting is related to climate change, which directly affects food security, women will be active participant. In contrast, if the meeting concerns other aspects like governance, there is typically a small presence of women.

The study further revealed that information is skewed towards a certain gender. Job adverts in the extractives call for “physically fit” – giving men a better advantage. Less paying jobs like cleaning and catering are skewed towards women. In Mubende district, undermining women’s roles is even worse. Women are not being paid and are dismissed arbitrarily under the guise that they are lazy. This discrimination runs counter to both national legislation and international instruments on labour relations.

However, when meetings are taken to urban areas, the story changes. In the town and trading centres, meetings are attended almost evenly by both men and women. This is attributed to more exposure and empowerment (social and economic) by women in urban centres, as opposed to women in the rural areas who are less educated, less literate, less exposed to and therefore less likely to participate in public gatherings.

When GRA studied who passes information to communities, local leaders in the communities said their role is not clear and they are often side-lined in information dissemination. Their role is sometimes interpreted as mobilizing people to attend meetings, while central government officials from Kampala do the talking.

“People from [the Ministry of Energy in] Kampala pass by and go directly to the community. We may not even know what they say to the community,” one respondent said.

GRA shared the findings of the study with communities in Hoima, Buliisa and Mubende districts. At the meetings which were attended by 101 people, GRA communicated a need for a gender response mechanism to aid players at different levels to establish and strengthen their efforts in identifying, documenting, and addressing gender specific needs and challenges, as well as tapping into the opportunities that are otherwise overshadowed by the gender dynamics. In particular, a system that provides information to women and offers opportunity for engagements will be go a long way in promoting an equitable and inclusive natural resource governance framework.