Rural Ugandan Women

Article excerpt

Rural Ugandan Women: and the Technological Race to the 21st Century

by Immaculate Wamimbi Tumwine

The words "technology" and "twenty-first century" have become intimately connected in popular discourse. Many in developed countries perceive the twenty-first century as an age of ever more sophisticated technology in schools, hospitals and homes, an age of speeding production lines, automated toll roads, as well as the era of the quickly evolving information highway. Many in developing countries, however, fear that the twenty-first century add yet another ten decades during which millions of women, men and children will stay where they are: condemned to the tail end of the revolution and the hard struggle for survival.

There exists a wide world where electricity and the related electric cooker, refrigerator, television, telephone, computer or microwave remain unknown. There, the village clinic, if there is one, has antiquated equipment and has no cold storage facilities for vaccines. Factories have malfunctioning machinery, the schools are dilapidated, and the housing poor. Many rural areas are characterized by the absence of clean water and inadequate sanitation. Additionally, over half the world's population lives 2 hours from the nearest telephone source.

Looking at the conditions of the women, men and children who live in the undeveloped world, we should ask ourselves whether we -- women, men and children in developed countries -- are comfortable running in a technological race for the twenty-first century when most of the world's population has not even left the starting blocks? Are we fully aware of our potential to engage in or support activities that could enhance the quality of life for so many millions through technological advancements?

Women, as a group, were targeted for analysis during the United Nation's Women's Decade (1975-1985), and most UN member states have ratified the UN conventions that focus on improving the conditions of women in areas that include technology.

Some Current Technological Needs of Women in Developing Countries

In most developing countries, it is still the women who perform the bulk of the work in agriculture and who carry the heavy burden of domestic work. These women, however, lack technologically advanced agricultural implements, and still rely on low production tools such as hoes. They do not have supportive and affordable water pumps, and lack dry food storage and grain preservation facilities. There is need for affordable, suitable technologically advanced implements and storage facilities in the area of agriculture.

There is also urgent need to ease the burden of domestic work through facilitating the acquisition of affordable, easily usable domestic appliances. A 1988 Women's Needs Assessment Survey in Uganda (Nalwanga-Sebina and Natukunda, 1988), indicated that the women surveyed worked an average of 15 hours per day, which left them little time for other activities. The limited application of technology in domestic activities, as is the case in agricultural production, is mainly due to general unavailability of cheap appropriate or easily adaptable technologies for rural area development.

In many developing countries, rural transport networks are poor or non-existent, which makes agricultural and other products difficult to market. Development-related information dissemination is inadequate, due to absence or lack of affordable radio and television posts in remote communities. The telephone and even the post office are unavailable in many rural communities. The 1988 Women's Needs Assessment Survey in Uganda referred to above, established that 31% of the women surveyed did not have any access to radio. Access to a television post is out of the question, since rural electrification has not yet reached remote communities.

Satisfying women's technology requirements would substantially reduce women's domestic and other workloads, thus enhancing their quality of life, improving their contribution to agriculture and facilitating their participation in other important developmental activities, such as managing income-generating activities, taking better care of children, and participating in village politics and adult education activities. …