Market Women in Uganda Celebrate International Women’s Day


On 18 March 2022, UN Women supported a commemoration event for market women, at Kalerwe Market in Kampala, to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022. The vibrant engagement allowed Ugandan market women an opportunity to celebrate their important role feeding Uganda.

women seated in a meeting
Market women gather under the tent at Kalerwe Market to hear from the different stakeholders sensitizing them on business opportunities as market women. Photo: UN Women/Eva Sibanda.

The commemoration of International Women’s Day this year was under the global theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” organized by the Institute of Social Transformation (IST) Uganda, UN Women’s implementing partner. This activity was moderated by IST, who engaged the market women in English and the local language Luganda. This IWD event was unique in that while it was a celebratory event with speeches and awareness raising, it also gave an opportunity for market women to access essential health services which included HIV testing and counselling, cervical cancer screening and family planning services.

Women with placard
Jesca Tuhaise, Programme staff of the Institute for Social Transformation Uganda staff holds up a placard calling for an end to unfair taxation burdens on women. One of the activities was awareness raising on taxation for market women.Photo: UN Women/(Eva Sibanda.

IST Uganda is a UN Women implementing partner whose work cuts across Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG). In this commemorative engagement, awareness raising dialogues were held for market women at Kalerwe Market, Kampala. Sessions were held engaging market women on their rights from sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR), business opportunities, taxation rights. Throughout the day, sessions were led engaging them on their rights. The Kamwokya Christian Caring Community led a sensitization session on non-communicable diseases, HIV/AIDs testing and counselling. A sensitization session on SRHR was led by the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD). Sensitization on taxation regimes, advocating to reduce the unfair tax burden on women, was led by the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI). The market community interacted on HIV/AIDs prevention while testing and counselling took place concurrently on site.  Attending the event were leaders in the market space as well as market women vendors, UN Women representatives, civil society, and health service providers.

woman in mic
UN Women Ending Violence Against Women Programme Specialist Evelyn Letiyo addresses the market women at Kalerwe Market. Evelyn interacted with the women on their bodily autonomy and the power they have over their bodies and choices. Photo: UN Women/Eva Sibanda.

This event was important as it brought services directly to the women. This is key because they often cannot leave the workspace due to their workload, combined with unpaid care work duties. One hundred and four of the market women in attendance registered for SRHR and other health services, including cervical cancer screenings and contraception consultations. Bringing the health services directly to these busy women allowed them to sign up for essential health services such as cervical cancer screenings, antenatal care and HIV testing among others.  Remarks were shared by the Market Chairperson who encouraged IST to keep bringing such health services to the market community, followed by the Executive Director of IST Uganda Moureen Wagubi:

Moureen shared: “We heard a testimony from market women who have worked in the market for over eight years that this was their first time to access health services. Our role is to ensure that we extend these services to other markets in Kampala and the country at large. We acknowledge that health contributes to business performance for women. We are working on an Issue Paper to present to Parliament to make a case for extending these services to other market communities who are unable to access health services due to busy work and domestic schedules.”

woman addressing crowd
Moureen Wagubi, the Executive Director of IST Uganda addresses the national media and explains the purpose of this commemoration event during International Women’s Month. Photo: UN Women/Eva Sibanda.

With the support of UN Women, IST Uganda engages market women through economic empowerment, promoting them in leadership and ending all forms of violence. This project is supported by Sweden and began in 2016. Representing UN Women in Uganda, Evelyn Letiyo (EVAWG Programme Specialist) engaged the market women in a question-and-answer session emphasizing their rights and spoke on the issue of power, particularly over their bodies. Evelyn asked the women to share some of the challenges they face. The market women highlighted climate change and weather pattern shifts as one, along with the cost of living and sexual harassment.

In a rare opportunity, UN Women support to IST Uganda enables the health services to come directly to the women in the market. Market women line up to register for cervical cancer screening, contraception insertions, antenatal services and HIV testing. Photo: UN Women/Eva Sibanda.

“As we work together Moureen [IST Uganda], there are many things for us to do. I hope next time we come together for International Women’s Day we have many women speaking in one voice. This is when we will see changes, there is power in collective!” - Evelyn Letiyo

To close off the day, an interactive engagement between IST Uganda, UN Women and the market women was held where market women shared the challenges, they face operating in this sector as women.