Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world. In 2012, 37.8 percent of the population lived on less than $1.25 a day. Despite making enormous progress in reducing the countrywide poverty incidence from 56 percent of the population in 1992 to 24.5 percent in 2009, poverty remains deep-rooted in the country’s rural areas, which are home to 84 percent of Ugandans.
People in rural areas of Uganda depend on farming as the main source of income and 90 per cent of all rural women work in the agricultural sector. In addition to agricultural work, rural women are responsible for the care taking of their families. The average Ugandan woman spends 9 hours a day on domestic tasks, such as preparing food and clothing, fetching water and firewood, and caring for the elderly, the sick as well as orphans. As such, women on average work longer hours than men, between 12 and 18 hours per day, with a mean of 15 hours, as compared to men, who work between 8 and 10 hours a day.
To supplement their income, rural women may engage in small-scale entrepreneurial activities such as rearing and selling local breeds of animals. Nonetheless, because of their heavy workload, they have little time for these income-generating activities. The poor cannot support their children at school and in most cases, girls drop out of school to help out in domestic work or to get married. Other girls engage in sex work. As a result, young women tend to have older and more sexually experienced partners and this puts women at a disproportionate risk of getting affected by HIV, accounting for about 57 per cent of all adults living with HIV in Uganda.
Maternal health in rural Uganda lags behind national policy targets and the Millennium Development Goals, with geographical inaccessibility, lack of transport and financial burdens identified as key demand-side constraints to accessing maternal health services; as such, interventions like intermediate transport mechanisms have been adopted as a means to improve women’s access to maternal health care services in rural regions of the country.
Gender inequality is the main hindrance to reducing women’s poverty. Women are subjected to an overall lower social status than men. For many women, this reduces their power to act independently, participate in community life, become educated and escape reliance upon abusive men.