Gender inequality affects various aspects of life, including access to education, employment, and healthcare. According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2022, the percentage of boys completing formal education is higher than girls. Girls and people identified as diverse genders are at risk of early dropout from formal education due to the pressures of traditional gender roles, gender discrimination, and lack of inclusive policies. 

In addition, stringent anti-LGBTQ laws and stigma in Uganda prevent people identifying as diverse genders and sexual orientation participating fully in society. They also may face additional challenges in accessing healthcare services due to fear of persecution and discrimination.  

Sarah Rachael Akello

Sarah Rachael Akello

In October 2023, Commonwealth Alumnus Sarah Rachael Akello delivered a radio talk show and community-focused workshop to promote gender equality, raise awareness about diverse gender identities and associated challenges , and advocate for the provision of equal opportunities at the household and community level, and in schools and workplaces in Kaberemaido district, Uganda.  

Sarah is an experienced social worker and a public health professional. She is passionate about community engagement and uses her expertise in public health to promote health awareness. Sarah is currently pursuing a Master’s in infectious disease field epidemiology.  

This activity promoted the 2032/24 ACEF theme: Gender and Sexuality.

Reaching audiences through the airwaves

 On 30 October, Sarah and four expert speakers took to the airwaves in collaboration with local radio station, Dwan Waa, to raise awareness about diverse gender identities, roles, and how best to nurture children at home, school and in the wider community. 

 Dr Emetu Joel, a medical doctor, and Tino Grace Esolu, a Senior Health Educator, discussed the importance of acknowledging diverse gender identities, gender roles, challenges associated with reproductive health. This included discussion on school dropouts, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and drug abuse among the youth, and parental support to address these. They encouraged listeners to promote gender equality and inclusivity in their community. 

 This was followed by a session on promoting inclusivity in schools delivered by Emiru Jacob, a gender and social welfare expert, and Didi Evelyne, a midwife and youth peer educator. The speakers highlighted the importance of inclusivity in schools and shared the benefits of fostering an inclusive environment.  

The show received 20 calls from listeners who asked questions about gender and sexuality, reproductive health, and challenges faced by individuals of diverse genders. Sarah encouraged listeners to break stereotypes, foster a culture of acceptance, and create an open and non-judgmental space for all genders. The sessions were well received by listeners and the station has received requests for more talk shows on gender and sexuality.  

 Creating change together Guest speakers stand to deliver information to attendees.

On 31 October, primary school students and community members in the Aperikira sub-county took part in a workshop titled, ‘Creating change together’. 24 students and 12 teachers from 6 local primary schools took part in the event alongside local community leaders. This included the Residence District Commissioner, Local Chairperson, District Health Officer, the District Secretary for Health, District Community Development Officer, and the Aperikira sub-county Community Development Officer and Youth Councilor. They were joined by the guest of honour, the District Education Officer.  

Guest speakers from the radio talk show facilitated topical discussions, including a session on ‘Unveiling gender and sexuality myths’, to debunk common myths and misconceptions around gender, and a group discussion on ‘Gender equality and inclusivity in education’. Students and teachers identified key challenges and discussed the importance of ensuring equal educational opportunities for all, strategies to challenge gender stereotypes in classrooms, and explored ways to create a safe and supportive environment for students in schools. 

 Committing to change 

 Sarah facilitated small group activities encouraging participants to develop action plans to promote gender equality and inclusivity. Each group presented their ideas and commitments, which included role plays, songs and speeches on gender equality. Ideas presented included the establishment of youth clubs to increase awareness on gender equality and ongoing support through resources and advocacy efforts. 

Feedback from participants suggests that teachers, students, parents, district stakeholders, and community leaders better understand the challenges and barriers faced by people with diverse genders and the need to create an inclusive learning environment in schools. Sarah now plans to visit each school and provide support to establish youth clubs and ensure continued efforts in promoting awareness. 

Sarah believes that the success of these activities has the potential to be scaled up and delivered in other regions. She hopes to encourage stakeholders, including educators, community leaders and NGOs, to replicate this initiative and engage policy makers to promote inclusivity and gender equality in education policies.  

 Sarah Rachael Akello is a 2020 Commonwealth Shared Scholar from Uganda. She completed an MPH in Public Health at the University of Leeds.