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In commemoration of the International Women’s day 2022, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Uganda Inclusive Agricultural Markets (FtF IAM) Activity and Agribusiness partners, Home Harvest and Oasis Uganda Limited collaborated with the Abim district local Government, World Vision, and USAID Uganda Implementing Partner NUYOK, to reach out to, and celebrate the women of Karamoja with an event under the theme “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”. Karamoja is one of the marginalized sub-regions in Uganda.

The event was held on March 11, at Koya primary school, Magamaga sub-county in Abim district (located in Karamoja sub-region).  As stipulated by the district Gender Focal Person in the event synopsis, Magamaga is one of the sub-counties with the highest rate of Gender-Based Violence incidences, specifically with the second-highest cases of physical and sexual violence in Abim district. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic that saw the closure of schools, the rates of teenage pregnancies in Abim district hit a record high with Magamaga sub-county reporting one thousand one hundred ninety-Six (1196) teenage pregnancies in 2021. It is against this background that the Magamaga sub-county was chosen to host the Women’s Day event.

The event commenced with a live performance by the brass band in Abim town and Magamaga trading center matching towards the event venue. This was followed by speeches from several keynote Speakers. Kirsten Pfeiffer, the FtF IAM Deputy Chief of Party (DCOP), thanked all participants for gracing the event and mentioned that the reason for the existence of the FtF IAM Activity is to increase the incomes of households by bringing genuine agricultural inputs, veterinary services, and agricultural markets closer to every farmer including the women, youth and all marginalized people, through local partners.

We all know women are good farmers. I spend a lot of time talking to the best businesses in Uganda working in agriculture and those businesses want to work with women. So, for the young women in groups here, please know that there are opportunities to help these companies to sell input as agents, as entrepreneurs, and aggregators. I’m happy to see women embracing their role in Agriculture and I hope to see the success of the FtF IAM partners bettering the women in this community.” She said.

She also announced that the Activity is supporting Farmers to produce Iron Rich Beans not only to generate income but also to boost the nutrition of the people in Karamoja. Karamoja is one of the regions with a high prevalence of Anemia (a health threat especially among children), estimated at 52.1% according to the 2021 Food Security and Nutrition Assessment of the Karamoja sub-Region. However, Nutrition Specialists advise that Iron-rich beans, when eaten regularly, can provide up to 80% of an average person’s daily iron needs and help prevent iron deficiency Anemia.

Kirsten further, emphasized that women are at the Heart of the FtF IAM Activity, noting that women contribute to most of the smallholder agriculture, but are the least rewarded. Additionally, the Deputy Chief of Party revealed that the FtF IAM Activity is an active advocate against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and as such, FtF IAM has instituted a team of GBV response champions compromising of FtF IAM staff across the different departments to craft strategies for reducing incidences of GBV in the interventions supported by the FTF IAM Activity. To the audience, she said, “I encourage all of you here to be GBV response champions in the areas where you stay.”

Kirsten thereafter led the Guest of Honor to inspect the FtF IAM partners’ exhibition stalls. The partners that showcased their products include Oasis Agribusiness (U) Limited, an agri-technology company supported by FtF IAM to implement a village agent model that engages different actors in the market: the poor, women, youth, as aggregators, and input suppliers to scale agriculture services like high-quality inputs, market linkages, and other business development services to farming households in Abim district, hence enhancing access to agricultural inputs. The Guest of Honor also visited partner Home Harvest’s stall and launched the home harvest kiosk that was handed over to the Abim district-based agent, Grace.  FtF IAM supports Home Harvest to design a clear channel that brings quality inputs closer to the farmer through Agro-dealers. The exhibition session was wrapped by the FtF IAM-supported Iron Rich Beans farmers in Karamoja who showcased the Iron Rich Beans.

Among the leaders of Abim district who spoke during the event was Miss Awili Rose, the area Local Council 1, who urged men to respect and value women. “Our dear male friends, please respect us.” She passionately requested.

Honourable Rtd Captain Omara Yuventine, the Local Council V of Abim district and Mr. Peter Logiro, the Resident District Commissioner who highlighted the Ugandan Government policies on women. Most speakers also notably reported that the insecurity caused by the cattle rustlers in Karamoja has increased the incidences of GBV.

The speech’s closing shot was conveyed by the guest of Honour Mrs. Achieng Caroline, the women Councillor, who encouraged women to support one another. She said, “love one another, Women are known for a “pull-down syndrome” but we should join hands for tremendous work to happen.” She encouraged families to live in peace and called upon Mothers in Law to love their Daughters in law. The guest of honor also urged parents to educate the girl child, government to put in place intentional programs that support women, requested the girls who got pregnant during the COVID-19 induced local down to go back to school, told husbands to support their wives with house choirs, and emphasized that Women should not always go after the second positions (Deputies), but also aim at the topmost positions. “Men be allies and support us.” The Guest of Honor respectfully asked.

The event climaxed with edutainment of school performances from Morum Girl Schools which presented a poem on the challenges of a girl child and Adea child and Youth Development Center who presented a song on women empowerment. At the top of the enlightening event, the crowd was stirred up by a local cultural group that performed the “Myel Bul dance” loosely translated as the drum music dance. A day that was!

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