ACFODE spearheaded the civil society coalition that was charged with advocating and pushing for the enactment of the Equal Opportunities Act (2007) and the subsequent formation of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The Equal Opportunities Commission is mandated to eliminate discrimination and inequalities against any individual or group of persons on the ground of sex, age, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, health status, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability, and take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalized on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them, and to provide for other related matters.
ACFODE has partnered with the Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development; Parliamentary Committees, the Uganda Police, JLOS, the Ministry of Education, Health, Finance, Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD), Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development (MFPED), LGAs and civil society organizations to lobby and advocate for gender-responsive laws and policies. These include;
- The Domestic Violence Act,
- The Sexual Offences Bill
- The Marriage and Divorce Bill (2009)
- The Affirmative Action Policy
- The Succession Amendment Bill (2018),
- Employment Amendment Bill (2018)
- The National Policy on the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence in Uganda (2016)
- National Housing Policy (2016), National Land Policy (2013)
ACFODE has undertaken studies such as a gender analysis of the Affirmative Action Policy, the Uganda Food and Nutrition Policy, The Land Policy, The National Youth Policy and the National Microfinance Policy and Regulatory Framework in Uganda.
ACFODE uses Graphic Advocacy to challenge all kinds of impunities committed against women and girls. ACFODE has organised public photo exhibitions on sexual harassment and abuse, policies, laws and procedures in place to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG). Notably, ACFODE spearheaded the Not Another Woman campaign in 2017, a campaign that aimed at creating awareness about violations against women in Uganda and called upon security agencies to strengthen and prioritize safety for women. ACFODE spearheaded “Know Your Role in the Fight against Sexual and Gender Based Violence” that was carried out in 2013 at the Uganda National Museum. During such expositions, artefacts depicting the state of gender equality in Uganda are showcased. As mediums of social change and records of the women’s movement struggles and women rights abuses, the artefacts, with their bold and persuasive messages inspire viewers to become advocates of gender equality and empowerment of women within their communities.
ACFODE also has extensive experience in producing information, communication and education materials (Print video and audio). Over 2,000,000 people have been reached with messages on gender, governance and women’s rights. ACFODE utilises traditional and social media to raise awareness of women and girls ‘rights.
Prevention of Sexual and Gender Based Violence
The organisation has employed community approaches such as ‘the model couple approach’ to challenge power relations and negative socio-cultural practices that are the root causes of violence against women and girls. The targeted couples have addressed power imbalance including early marriages, disrespect of women and girls’ rights and choices within their households and have been recognized as role models in their communities. The model couple approach is a self-sufficient structure at the community level that works in close collaboration with social actors such as cultural leaders, religious leaders and duty bearers such as police particularly the Child and Family Protection Unit, health workers and probation officers to reduce violence against women and girls and promote access to Sexual Reproductive Health services.
ACFODE has influenced the review and formulation of ordinances and district by-laws that address VAWG and SRHR. By-laws that have been passed include – a decree that regulates the issuing out of birth certificates to offer the girl child protection against all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation, in Nyarusiza Kisoro District and a by-law on the right to Equality in Education as a means of promoting girl child education passed in Agwata Sub County (Dokolo district).
ACFODE has created a cadre of young people who are gender-sensitive and appreciate women and girls’ rights in primary, secondary schools and higher institutions. The target group is district inspectors of schools, headteachers, health workers, senior women and men teachers, student leaders, Parents and Teachers’ Associations (PTAs), School Management Committees (SMCs), members of guild councils and deans of students. These have established Gender-Based Violence (GBV) school clubs and Debate clubs in Universities that spearheaded “Sexual Violence” and Sexual Harassment campaigns in schools and universities respectively.
ACFODE works in refugee settlements to strengthen community structures and the capacities of GBV actors to design gender responsive services that respond to women and girls concerns. ACFODE has empowered women leaders in refugee settlements to influence processes and systems both in the refugee and host communities for gender-responsive policies, plans and budgets across the country.
Good Governance, Citizen’s Participation and Democracy
ACFODE has been involved in Uganda’s democratic processes. In 1988, the establishment of the Ministry of Women in Development under the President’s Office was a landmark for ACFODE since it served as the national machinery for the advancement of women. This was followed by the creation of women’s desks in other government ministries and in public offices (local government). Today the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development is responsible for the overall formulation and coordination of policies on women.
ACFODE was a leading force in pressuring the government to ensure that affirmative action becomes embedded in the institutions of the State. ACFODE played a role in convincing the NRM government that affirmative action was also of crucial importance in the political arena. As a result, binding seats were secured women representatives at all levels of the local councils. Today as a result of affirmative action, 121 women were elected into the 10th parliament and the numbers of women who competed on open seats both at the national and local level have steadily risen.
In 1995, ACFODE participated in the formulation of the landmark 1995 Constitution of Uganda. ACFODE together with a number of women’s organizations successfully lobbied for the inclusion and enactment of gender-related human rights provisions appearing in the preamble, in the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State policy. ACFODE was proactive in influencing the content and outcome of article 78 and 180 of the Constitution that guaranteed women’s representation in Parliament and local government structures.
ACFODE participated actively in the review of the 1995 constitution. When the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was set up to receive countrywide views on the constitutional reforms, ACFODE commissioned research into the gender gaps. The study findings which reflected the people’s views on constitutional reform formed part of the memorandum that ACFODE presented to the CRC.
ACFODE has been part of active and collective civil society involvement in election observation and voter education as a member of the following coalitions/groups: The National Organization for Civic Education and Elections Monitoring (NOCEM). NOCEM observed the 1994 CA elections and the 1996 Presidential and Parliamentary elections; The National NGO Election Monitoring Group (NEM Group – Uganda) formed in 2000, the Group monitored the 2000 national referendum on the return to multi-party elections, and then the 2001 presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections; The Democracy Monitoring Group (DEM Group) observed the 2005 referendum, presidential and parliamentary elections in 2006 and 2011 and finally The citizen’s Election Observation Network (CEON-Uganda) which observed the 2016 General Elections.
All throughout this process, ACFODE maintained a specific focus on monitoring the participation of women, youth and other marginalized groups, including identifying reporting incidents of violence against women voters, candidates and party agents.
ACFODE was also key in promoting the Citizens Manifesto (2011), a document highlighting the concerns of Ugandan citizens and their expectations from their leaders. The Manifesto also pointed out the roles and responsibilities of the different leaders and the citizens. It was meant to mobilize citizens to engage in governance processes and participate in the 2011 General Elections.
ACFODE under the Women Democracy Group compiled the Women’s Manifesto 2016-2021. The manifesto is a political document that stipulates five priority issues that must be addressed to improve the livelihoods of women. The document was a point of reference for aspirants in the 2016 General Elections on women’s issues and continues to be a blueprint for women leaders, elected into office on what must be improved for the country to realize and gain from women’s full potential.
Women’s Leadership and Governance
ACFODE runs women’s leadership and governance programme with the aim of increasing the transformative representation of women in political and decision-making positions. The programme targets both the active and potential women leaders at the district and sub-county levels to strategically position themselves for leadership in a multiparty dispensation in Uganda and to compete favourably with men to build leverage around their political demands. Interventions under this programme include; training and support for aspiring women’s leaders; experience sharing spaces, mentoring and coaching and support towards women’s caucuses.
To date over 60,000 aspiring and elected women leaders are equipped with skills and knowledge in leadership, good governance, gender equality, advocacy, communication, planning and budgeting, to ensure that women’s interests and concerns are fairly represented in decision making. Women have been elected as Members of Parliament, onto the District Executive Committees and as Heads of Committees and as a result, gender concerns have been brought to the fore at sub-county, district and national level.
ACFODE has supported the formation of 210 women’s networks and caucuses. This through facilitating them to hold planning and review meetings, hold community meetings and participate in media engagements on issues affecting women and communities. The caucuses have been instrumental in monitoring service delivery and influencing budget allocations especially on gender related concerns in their communities. The caucuses have played a key role in moving motions, passing ordinances and by-laws on the need to prioritize women’s needs in plans and budgets. A number of ordinances and by-laws on Education, school feeding, public intoxication (alcoholism), criminalizing forced marriage, child marriage and domestic violence have been passed.
ACFODE has trained over 500 national and community-based organizations (CSOs) on gender-responsive laws, governance, and women’ rights. The organizations have in turn engaged with an estimated 100,000 rights holders and duty bearers on issues of gender, human rights, public service delivery, access to justice and economic well-being of women and men.
ACFODE spearheaded the creation of a network of civil society organizations promoting accountability and democratic governance called the GAIN Network. The Network has overgrown to a national organization with over 50 members from the four regions of the country.
Youth Engagement Programme
ACFODE runs a three-pronged youth programme focused on creating a cadre of young people with knowledge and skills in gender equality and women’s rights and who will utilize their skills for personal, professional growth and to benefit their communities.
ACFODE works with students in Uganda’s tertiary institutions, equipping them with skills in debate, creating political awareness on human rights, good governance and gender equality. As a strategy, ACFODE has adopted a ‘competitive inter-institutional debate approach’ informed by the British Parliamentary debate format). ACFODE has partnered with 40 institutions of higher learning in the 4 regions of Uganda and has trained over 5000 students. The youth gained public speaking skills; exposure, networking and knowledge on how to advocate for gender-responsive policies in their institutions, a number of young people have gone on to take up leadership positions both in their institutions and communities and to form debate clubs that were meant to continue the discussions on good governance and gender equality.
ACFODE also runs a mentoring program for the youth which brings together youth in and out of university, and young professionals from the different regions of the country. The sessions have empowered the youth with personal development skills like public speaking, goal setting, business skills, financial intelligence, personal branding and presentation skills, leadership, and team building. To-date the sessions have been attended by over 500 young people.
In partnership with universities, ACFODE runs an internship programme where placements are provided for students as part of their practical skills training. ACFODE receives up to 10 interns each year. This is to provide hands-on experience in a professional working environment, expand their skills in teamwork, reporting, documentation, communication and concepts of gender and women’s rights. The interns who perform well also get placement within ACFODE as volunteers, with some getting permanent employment within the organization and others recommended to other organizations. The interns continue to relate with ACFODE especially when in need of references, recommendations and also through participation in the organization’s activities.
Women’s Economic Empowerment:
ACFODE is credited with running the Revolving Refund and Micro Credit programme, women were trained on leadership, business identification and management skills, when the groups became viable, and they would access funds from the revolving fund. The project had over 500 beneficiaries; and through the revolving nature of the project, a number of projects grew from small scale to medium and large-scale businesses. ACFODE also produced booklets called Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) to help the groups manage their businesses. These were translated into the local languages.
ACFODE has built the knowledge and skills of 460 women farmers in Namutumba, Dokolo and Pader districts on achieving, improving and maintaining food security, production, storage, value addition and marketing. The farmer groups were also supported to register with formal institutions; were given modern farming implements and as a result, have increased their production capacity and have food-secure households.
ACFODE has supported 16 Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and an estimated 70 social enterprise groups in districts of Apac, Dokolo, Oyam, Nebbi, Pader and Amolatar districts in Uganda. The support is in form of capacity building in financial literacy, development of Income Generating Activities, vocational skills, group dynamics, linkage to financial services and provision of bicycles and seed capital. ACFODE supported them by linking to UWEP, YLP, CDD, OWC and similar government programs in the area. The VSLA approach has been used as an entry point to empower women to participate in leadership, decision making and prevent domestic violence.
Currently, ACFODE supports four (4) Cooperatives namely; Uganda Central Cooperative Financial Services, Mt. Rwenzori Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union, Semuliki Cooperative Union and Shelter and Settlements Alternatives. These cooperatives are involved in farming, housing and financial services. ACFODE has supported the cooperatives to review and develop gender-sensitive policies that take into consideration women’s economic empowerment, advocate for women’s leadership in cooperatives and provide gender-responsive products and services to their members and communities. Such products and services include farmers’ loans, housing loans, micro insurance, business loans and home improvement loans. ACFODE also supports the four Cooperatives to advocate for effective implementation of the National Land Policy, knowing that land is a critical asset for production and livelihood development.