‘Women’s rights are human rights’

Judith Adokorach works at the Dutch embassy in Kampala, Uganda, as the policy officer for SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights), Gender & Family Planning. Before joining the embassy in 2015, she worked for Save the Children and CARE. For me it is rewarding to work for a big donor like the Netherlands.'

‘I believe health is a right. It is not only a medical issue, but a human rights matter as well. If women’s sexual and reproductive rights are violated, human rights are violated. That is my motivation for doing the job I do, and working for the Dutch embassy. If we envision a better world where every woman lives in dignity, then we have to address the social, economic and political factors that marginalise and disadvantage women. Many people do not realise that some cultural practices and social norms are detrimental to people’s well-being and overall dignity, especially women’s and girls’. Lack of knowledge leads to a situation in which some harmful traditions are tolerated. The Dutch embassy works with its partners in Uganda to advance the cause of women, girls and gender equality as a whole.’

Judith Adokorach

Grassroots understanding

‘Coming from the countryside and having a very humble background, I have a grassroots understanding of women’s health. My colleagues from The Hague cannot always envision what life is like in rural areas, but I grew up in a village and experienced it at first hand. I would like to use this knowledge and experience to contribute towards decisions and actions at local, national and global level. I want to connect the dots. When I started working in healthcare, I realised that so many of women’s and girls’ poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes were due to cultural and social factors. If we fix the issues of gender and power relations at household and community level, we would perhaps reduce the burden on health facilities.’ 

‘In Uganda, 70% of agricultural labour is done by women, for example. Their economic activity is important for themselves, for their families, and for the country as well. The gender gap in agriculture amounts to an estimated $67 million in Uganda per year. So economic empowerment of women is vital. Neglecting women’s empowerment will harm economic development.’

Women’s empowerment

‘To promote women’s empowerment, and fight inequality and violence against women, it is important to empower people, strengthen systems and also engage in diplomacy. These are part of what the embassy does. It is in the interest of the government of Uganda that existing policies for promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality are well implemented, so the Netherlands backs the authorities on this, whilst simultaneously holding them accountable. Commitment from both sides is necessary.’

‘I believe the role of men in influencing the transformation we desire is critical. It is important to target and reach them as change agents, partners to the women in whose lives we desire change and also recognise that sometimes they too are victims of gender violence. Currently we are working on a small project in the countryside near Arua. The testimonies of especially the men participating in this activity touched me. Some of them have changed from violent to very supportive husbands. To them, it was all about masculinity, proving that they were men. It is important to facilitate positive masculinity among men and boys, and this is part of our programming approaches to ending gender-based violence.’

In touch with the Dutch

‘For me it is rewarding to work for a big donor like the Netherlands. The Dutch play a significant role in global development policy. As a member of staff based at the embassy in Uganda, I feel I can be a valuable link between the national context and decisions, actions and negotiations in The Hague and other global platforms. I can make my voice heard, and share my thoughts and opinions on a global issue.’

‘It is special how much I, as a Ugandan, am connected with Dutch culture. I’ve gained a better understanding of the Dutch culture and mindset, and see the link between this and what the Netherlands seeks to advance through development cooperation. This is very hard to appreciate from the outside. So when I talk to Ugandans, I’m better placed to explain why the Dutch want what they want, and why this makes sense. Dutch culture is, through development cooperation, significant for this country. It is a perfect opportunity to both help my Ugandan colleagues and to address problems. In the end, I am not promoting a Dutch issue, but an issue which is important for human dignity.’

Judith Adokorach 1000

Judith Adokorach works as the policy officer for SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights), Gender & Family Planning at the Dutch embassy in Kampala, Uganda.