By Emar Okanokodi
Every year on May 8, the world commemorates International Women’s Day. According to the UN, it is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.
In Uganda the theme for the day was “Women’s Empowerment in the Changing World of Work” The theme provided an opportunity for Uganda to reflect on the changing situations at different places of work and what it means for women.
The Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) supported and joined Nwoya district to commemorate the day at Purongo Hill primary school in Purongo sub County.
It was a jubilant mood all through as we drove to Purongo. Just about five kilometers from Anaka town council, along Olwiyo road, we met a group of jubilant women with brooms in their hands, singing and sweeping the already clean tarmacked road. They waved us down and demanded that we drop some coins in a basket to support their cause.
When I asked what Women’s Day meant to them, one of them, an elderly woman shouted “this is our day, one out of the many days in the year which has been granted to us”.
When I asked the women what they expected men to do on the day, a much younger one, probably in her late twenties answered “today our men should do all the work that we as women always do like cooking, fetching water a bathing the children”.
As we approached the celebrations grounds I could see a crowd — school children, women groups and district officials, however, the question which was going on in my mind was, do all these women gathered understand the meaning Women’s Day?
It did not take long before I got an answer. Just as we parked under a mango tree, perched on a roaring tractor with hands on the steering wheels I saw a lady.
Akello Kevin, 26, is an instructor at Youth Empowerment Center (YEC) in Purongo. She tutors tractor driving and repair to youths at YEC and has been at it since last year.
“I started this work last year in May and I have been teaching mostly youths on how to drive and repair tractors’’ she tells me.
Driving heavy duty vehicles like tractors is in Uganda considered a ‘‘man’s job’’ but not to Akello.
“What a man can do I can also do. Even some of the men admire me when they see me driving a tractor,’’ she said.
Akello’s tractor-driving has challenged stereotypes ‘‘some say tractor driving is not good for women because it damages the hips but I haven’t had such problems since I began driving.”
Akello hopes to one day apply her tractor- driving skills in her own farm.
“I was motivated to tractor driving because I like farming. I wanted to learn how to drive a tractor so that one day when I get a farm I can plough it using my own tractor”.
She advises fellow women not to under estimate their ability saying both men and women have the same potential.
“If I work, I can support my family. If my husband work, I can I support him and this makes it very easier for us as a couple.”
Akello’s message on attaining skills and work was a dormant message for the Nwoya women’s day celebrations.
‘‘More emphasis should be put on educating and skilling the girl child,’’ said Simon Oyet, the Nwoya county member of parliament who said he is already running bursary that offers equal opportunities for scholarships for both boys and girls.
As the Women’s Day celebrations ended, Akello was a true testimony of an empowered woman in a changed work place.