State of equal opportunities poor in key sectors

The Equal Opportunities Commission has presented its annual report to Parliament noting that the status of equal opportunities is still lacking in the sectors of Health, Education, Works and Transport.

The Chairperson of the Commission, Sylvia Ntambi Muwebwa, said that the annual report was the fifth in series under the theme: “Promoting equal opportunities to address inclusion and accessibility challenges of the 21st Century”.

While delivering the report to the Speaker on Wednesday, 14 September 2018, Muwebwa noted that with regard to employment, the government has programmes targeting the poor., She said however that "findings revealed the informal sector has limited access to formal financial institutions with 77.8 per cent privately sourcing capital.”

She added that farmers, especially in the villages, have to obtain money from moneylenders and informal financial institutions that charge exorbitant rates.

“Seasonal crop farming is realising negative returns with an average investment of shs3.5 million, and yielding an average of shs2.97 million at a loss yet they acquire this capital through loans,” Muwebwa said adding that “street vendors obtain financial services from friends and relatives to a tune of 92 per cent”.

Muwebwa said this affects the ability of people in the informal sector to invest in business yet this should be easy with government programmes that are in place to support informal businesses with loans.

She said the health sector remains underfunded and heavily dependent on external funds with major challenges in maternal mortality, drug stock outs, low staffing, lack of equipment and housing for health workers.

“Ninety three sub counties do not have any government health facilities whereas 225 have a Health Centre II,” she said, adding that, “majority of the islands in the country lack healthcare facilities whereas those with health facilities lack electricity”.

Muwebwa explained that the report also indicated glaring imbalances in the state of equal opportunities in the education sector.

“Only 8.4 per cent of children aged three to five were attending pre-school in 2017, which translated to over five million children not attending pre-primary school,” she said, adding that, “22 per cent of children aged 15 to 19 are not enrolled in secondary school while districts in the northern Uganda have the lowest level of gender parity in secondary schools”.

Muwebwa revealed that 5,242 students benefited from the university students loan scheme.
“Majority of the students who got loans were male at 72 per cent while females were at 28 per cent presenting a gender imbalance,” she added.

Under the Works and Transport Sector, Muwebwa said that the road network connectivity index within the districts that constitute Lango, Karamoja, Acholi and Elgon is below 50 per cent.

“Seven districts do not have ferry services and remain inaccessible; Uganda has over 160 islands out of which only two have ferry services,” she said.

Muwebwa said that the works and transport sector demonstrated low commitment to addressing gender and equity concerns for persons with disabilities, women and children with a compliance level of 23 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, thanked the Commission for bringing to light the disparities in the various sectors and urged the Commission chairperson to address the issues.

“We need to discuss and find solutions to the things affecting the status of equal opportunities, like why girls are missing out on the education loan scheme and how we can support the informal sector to access funds,” she added.