HerStoryOfChange – Agnes Mirembe, Executive Director of ARUWE, Action for Rural Women’s Empowerment, Uganda

Agnes Mirembe is the Executive Director and team leader of ARUWE (Action for Rural Women’s Empowerment). ARUWE aims to empower women and girls in rural areas by focussing on four primary areas empowering and promoting women in leadership; economic empowerment and access to resources; environment and climate change adaptation (including access to green technologies for water and energy); women’s health by way of improved and accessible water, sanitation, and hygiene.

As an ecofeminist network, we want to provide space for the stories of inspiring champions in the field of gender equality and the fight against climate change and environmental pollution. We believe that a sustainable future and environment needs feminist solutions reflecting the lives of people on the ground. That is why we work on transformative gender equality and women’s human rights in interconnection with sustainable development and climate justice. One of these champions is Agnes Mirembe

Rural women in Uganda are dependent on their environment for survival. However, the positions that enjoy the most influence on climate policies are still male-dominated. Rural women have little to no influence on the well-being of their environment. Therefore, improving the position of women in Uganda is of crucial importance in developing gender-just climate policies.

“At ARUWE, we support girls to become more aware of their rights in order to change the status quo in their communities”

By building women’s and girl’s confidence, the capacity to participate in leadership and political spaces increases. ARUWE uses grassroots advocacy to bring rural women to the forefront of the policymaking processes. At CSW62 in 2018, Agnes Mirembe advocated for the full and equal participation of rural women and girls in decision-making processes, the enforcement of legislation against discrimination, and increasing financing of official development assistance for rural women.

“Creating a difference in a girl’s or a woman’s life is such a rewarding experience for me”

Regarding the just energy transition, ARUWE has successfully advocated the benefits of women’s equal participation in technology deployment. By training rural groups in the management, theoretical constructions, installations, maintenance, and operation of sustainable energy technologies, ARUWE has been able to help rural women overcome challenges in using, accessing, and distributing energy in Uganda. By creating energy cooperatives, ARUWE has contributed to the national strategy towards a just energy transition of Uganda.

Many industries and leadership positions are male-dominated in Uganda. Agnes urges the importance of including the men who occupy the political, cultural, and religious leadership positions because these men hold a lot of influence. “Some men still have a belief that gender equality is intended to empower women to replace them and take on their roles, many men believe are meant for men, in the society and at home. So, their attitude to appreciating and supporting gender equality initiatives in communities is usually negative. So, you find that, most of the leadership positions are dominated by men, of whom some do not appreciate gender equality and so advocating for a gender equality agenda is not always a simple process.” Therefore, ARUWE actively pursues the building of community awareness to overcome such challenges.

Among the many triumphs of ARUWE, is the implementation of national law that allows women to possess important resources like agricultural land. Women in Uganda can now truly participate in the economy and sustain their families with the profits they make from their lands. Also, these women are becoming increasingly aware of the rights that they have to political and economic participation thanks to the efforts of Agnes and ARUWE. Through ARUWE’s work in the empowerment and training of women, more than 700 women in Uganda are now producing sustainable crops.

“We want to ensure that women are resilient, given the impacts of climate change”

ARUWE has furthermore managed to make education for women and girls more accessible at Bussi Parents Primary school by providing an ECOSAN toilet. This provision ensured the possibility for women and girls to properly manage their menstrual hygiene at school. In the past, due to the lack of a safe and clean toilet, women and girls often stayed home during their periods. Which resulted in a grave educational disadvantage for them. Now, an increased number of girls are participating in challenges and leadership roles that boys previously occupied