While Uganda joined the rest of the globe in commemorating International Women’s Day on Tuesday, civil society organizations say the right to dignity and livelihood of women, particularly those employed in commercial investment schemes such as factories, remains a myth.
SEATINI Executive Director Jane Nalunga told journalists in Kampala that many commercial investment strategies are becoming synonymous with human and environmental rights breaches.
Women’s rights are infringed in a range of commercial investment projects, including factories, flower shops, and plantations. Property-based investments are displacing and evicting communities from their land in order to cultivate the same cash crops as the displaced, such as sugarcane, maize, coffee, palm fruits, and soy bean.
They subsequently turn the once self-sufficient and food-secure community into landless, low-paid casual laborers, depriving them of their livelihood and the right to live in dignity,” Nalunga explained.
” There exist power asymmetries between investors and host communities, particularly among women, resulting in a situation of investor impunity.” Factory and plantation employees, particularly women, work in extremely risky conditions.”
She mentioned that there is widespread casualization of labor, with no contracts, daily wages, arbitrary dismissal, no access to annual or maternity leave, and a very hard work load.
“This problem affects other East African countries, as well as Africa as a whole.” The workers’ plight is made worse by the wages paid in the absence of a minimum wage, which is currently shs 6,000, a number that has not been adjusted since 1984.
The existence and absence of sufficient legislative frameworks to ensure the protection of individuals and the environment from investment-related human rights breaches has exacerbated this situation.”
Despite the existence of the Employment Act of 2006, the CSOs pointed out that it does not safeguard workers from casualization of labor.
According to them, while Uganda has signed a number of bilateral investment treaties (BITs), six of which are currently in force, these treaties do not protect the rights of Ugandans.
“As a result, investors have not been held accountable for their actions infringing on people’s and environmental rights. Women workers have been hurt more by this gap in our investment policy frameworks because they have limited capacity and ability to understand and negotiate.
better working conditions According to David Kabanda, Executive Director of the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights, “in order to attract investments, the government portrays Uganda’s labor as cheap and has given companies leeway to degrade Ugandans, particularly women” (CEFROHT).
He stated that many women in factories have been exposed to toxins as a result of working without protective equipment, and that their employers have turned a blind eye to this.
The civil society organizations encouraged the government and investors to put citizens’ rights to dignity and the livelihood of women workers ahead of profits.
“The government should review the Investment Code Act, 2019 as soon as possible to address the challenges associated with large-scale land-based investments, including human rights impact assessment and performance requirements, and specifically enforce the African Union guidelines for large-scale land-based investments and the UN guiding principles on business and human rights,” Lydia Bwite of Platform for Labour Action urged.
She stated that the Employment Act of 2006 and the Occupation Health and Safety Act of 2006 should be reviewed in order to provide worker protection and communities’ right to dignity and livelihood.
The civil society organizations also encouraged the government to speed up the process.
Ratification of the International Labour Organization Convention No. 190 and alignment of the legal framework to address workplace violence and harassment.
“Investigate the working conditions of employees in commercial investment schemes such as factories, flower shops, and plantations in order to obtain remedy for those who have been harmed.” Investigate the condition of community land dispossession by commercial investment programs in order to obtain redress for the affected individuals and communities.”