By Atwiine Sabrina

Atwiine is a Technovation Alumna, Student Ambassador, and winner of the 2023 Changemaker Award from Uganda. She founded Nimarungi, a youth-led startup which addresses education inequality by helping investors and governments make data-informed decisions to best leverage their investments for the highest impact. In July 2023, Atwiine visited the United States to deliver a speech at the UN, and to spend time with Technovation staff and supporters.  

This International Women’s Day, March 8, 2024, the United Nations celebrated the day under the theme Invest in women: Accelerate progress. Here are Atwiine’s thoughts on why investing in women is key to women’s empowerment.

I’m excited about this year’s International Women’s Day theme, for so many reasons but mostly because we transform communities when we empower women. I’m privileged to work on a project called EFE that I pitched last year and won $5000 under the Technovation Changemaker award. Investing in women is the background of EFE. We are solving the gendered division of labor problem by financially empowering women and using their skills, knowledge, and talents to develop profitable and sustainable businesses for them. Seeing the success of my mom (EFE’s very first beneficiary, MHRIP) in a very short time makes it even more exciting to invest in women.

I have dedicated myself to solving the gendered division of labor which particularly affects women in rural areas. This problem grounds women in rural areas in domestic spaces where their potential, services, and skills are not given the appropriate commercial value. They are denied the ability to earn from skills that improve their economic and even social status. The impact of this is that women become more vulnerable to gender-based violence and receive limited access to resources like education, healthcare, and basic necessities. There is also the challenge of limited participation in decision-making processes both in their own households and in their communities and this can further reinforce gender inequalities and limit women’s ability to advocate for their own needs, interests, and more so, the larger economy.

According to the 2016/2017 National Household Survey (UNHS), women make up about 51% of the rural population in Uganda. In terms of income, the survey found that women in rural areas generally earn less than men. The median monthly income for women in rural areas was UGX 70,000 (about 20 USD) compared to UGX 90,000 (about 25 USD) for men.

Regarding unpaid work, the UNHS found that women in rural areas spend a disproportionate amount of time on unpaid care and domestic work. On average, women in rural areas spend about 5.5 hours per day on these activities, while men spend only about 2 hours per day. In terms of hands-on skills, the UNHS did not collect data specifically on this topic. However, it did find that women in rural areas generally have lower levels of education than men, which may impact their ability to acquire certain skills.

It is urgent and important to address and ultimately eliminate the gendered division of labor for several reasons. First, it limits women’s and girls’ participation and advancement in the workforce, which in turn has negative impacts on their economic empowerment, income, and career opportunities. This also has broader implications for the economy, as studies have shown that increasing women’s participation in the workforce leads to higher economic growth and productivity. Second, the gendered division of labor perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes and expectations, reinforcing the idea that certain tasks and roles are “women’s work” and others are “men’s work.” This limits women’s ability to express their full range of talents and interests, and it leads to discrimination and marginalization based on gender. Third, the gendered division of labor has negative impacts on family dynamics and relationships, as it reinforces traditional gender roles and expectations within the household. This creates unequal power dynamics and contributes to conflicts and tensions between partners and family members. And women are the most affected in these family dynamics.

Working on projects that empower and invest in women is my life’s purpose.. I can confidently say that it is for everyone’s better good. Look at the reduction in dependency levels and what that means to the economic growth of a country like Uganda. It also breaks down societal barriers, challenges traditional norms, and promotes a culture of inclusivity, where women have the freedom to pursue their passions, unleash their potential, and contribute meaningfully to their families, communities, and the larger economy. I envision a future where women in rural areas are empowered with the necessary resources, knowledge, and support to transform their entrepreneurial dreams into successful, sustainable businesses.