The Gender and Decentralisation Programme was implemented in Lira District, Uganda, from February to April 1997. This sensitisation programme aimed to create awareness at the community level on the need to support and enable women to effectively utilise the opportunities to participate in local level decision-making processes. Two-day workshops were carried out in each of the 24 sub-counties of Lira district and the four divisions of Lira municipality. The programme provided opportunities for women and men to discuss and examine the issue of women in leadership positions. A strategic moment was chosen: just before the Local Council elections. The programme provided a chance for women to strategize for effective participation in community leadership.
The specific objectives of the Gender and Decentralisation programme in Lira district were to:
The participants in the workshops included leaders from local councils, clans, religious groups, women's groups, youth and other small groups. Specific emphasis was put on women. They used their experience to evaluate and learn from each other about how far women had come in the struggle for equal participation in politics and leadership, the challenges and constraints they face, and how they can be supported. The workshops focused on household and community roles for both women and men. The discussions revealed that women do all the reproductive work, undertake most of the productive work and take up a bigger share of community roles. Furthermore, they continuously take up more roles that were traditionally men's tasks.
Though the programme is rated highly successful, there is no guarantee that this success can be sustained. Therefore, a follow-up programme ought to be designed to reach more people. People's attitudes cannot be effectively changed by a one time activity.
The programme has been an eye opener to leaders and development workers in Lira District. and shown how development plans can be "engendered". Local leaders appreciated the many areas where training has improved their knowledge and ability to educate the communities and to perform their roles more effectively and efficiently.
Whereas politicians are policy makers, the technical people are responsible for the implementation of policies and advise politicians on policy issues. The technical experts in different sectors such as health, education, agriculture, and community development need to know how to integrate gender considerations in programme planning and implementation, as most of them have had training that was gender blind. Integration of gender in technical fields is important for the implementation of policies. This requires a training programme to teach technocrats to integrate gender as a crosscutting issue.
Gender issues need to be integrated at all levels of programme implementation. At Community level, most programmes are implemented through extension workers in different fields, like agriculture and health. These field workers could be trained to integrate gender in what they do. There are also many teachers at primary levels. Some of whom could be selected for training in gender issues so that they are able to make gender central to their work.
It is important that all the sensitisation and training programmes be re-enforced by IEC materials in the local languages. Posters based on the issues raised during the discussion sessions should be produced in the local language to bring the results closer to the people and to enable them appreciate the situation better.
There is a need to design monitoring tools, using the gender assessment study as well as the report of the Gender and Decentralisation programme. These should focus on gender representation at all the local government levels, commitments to the implementation of the Local Governments Act 1997, as well as the impact of the experiences.
The Gender and Decentralisation programme in Lira district could be replicated in other districts as well. Each district needs to design and develop their own programme for training Local Council Members in a more comprehensive and sustainable manner.