Uganda – Equality & non-discrimination


3.8 Women, Vulnerable and Marginalized Groups 

Human rights instruments set out obligations and commitments to ensure equality and non-discrimination. These are highlighted in various human rights instruments at international, regional and national levels including the following: SDG 5 gender equality and women empowerment , 8 on decent employment and 10 on reducing inequalities within and among countries, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the Constitution of Uganda under Chapter Four on the Protection and Promotion of Fundamental and Other Human Rights and Freedoms, the National Equal Opportunities Policy (2006), the National Gender Policy (2007), the Persons with Disability Act (2020) and the National Policy on Disability (2006).

Despite the positive strides taken to provide legal protection for vulnerable groups, gaps persist and certain groups remain susceptible to suffer negative consequences of business operations. In particular, those that are already marginalized or excluded in society – as is often the case for women, minority groups, migrants, and persons with disabilities and persons living with HIV/AIDS.


Women: Women continue to face significant violation of human rights especially in employment in business operations. The National Social Protection Policy (2015) indicates that there are enormous risks, which include low pay, job insecurity, limited labour mobility, discrimination, sexual harassment, lack of maternity protection and poor working conditions. There is also a significant pay gap between men and women in Uganda. About 85 percent of the paid workers are employed in the informal sector without formal contracts and have no social security. Approximately 33.8 percent of the workers in the private sector earn less than Shs 50,000 per month. Agricultural wage workers, the majority of whom are women, receive the lowest wages. The findings from the consultations showed sexual harassment of female workers and coercion into sexual activity with employers to access employment or salary payments. These cases were largely under-reported due to fear of negative repercussions on the victims. If these challenges are not addressed, women will continue to bear the burden of violations and abuses of human rights in business operations and remain at the periphery of social protection and development.

Over the past few years, there has been strong initiatives to protect women’s property rights in Uganda. However, due to social constructions of gender and traditional underpinnings, challenges remain in implementation and enforcement of these measures. Ownership of land by women has been affected by increased demand for land for foreign direct and local investments. Considering the extractive industry, women often bear the disproportionate share of social, economic and environmental risks while men primarily capture the benefits of the industry. Women employed in mines work under unsafe conditions often characterized by meagre pay, sexual harassment, poor sanitation, domestic violence and exposure to hazardous substances such as mercury among others. Environmental degradation, often caused by business operations, is felt most keenly by women, who bear the greatest burden to mi gate food insecurity, water pollution and shortage and decreased health of families. Women in certain industries such as large-scale agriculture and extractives often lack access to appropriate protective equipment, which exposes them to dangers, and hazards which can affect their health and safety, including their sexual and reproductive health.

Children: Child labour remains a serious issue in Uganda. At least two million children aged 5-17 are engaged in child labour with 1.7 million below 14 years of age, and 507,000 involved in hazardous work (ILO/IPEC & UBOS, 2013). This includes children working in the agriculture sectors, domes c services, extractive industry (including children involved in artisanal and small-scale mining) and those that are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The proportion of children in hazardous work was more than double in urban areas (61 percent) as compared to the rural (23 percent) (ILO/IPEC & UBOS, 2013). These issues were also raised during stakeholder consultations. Children were reported to be recruited to work on sugar, rice and tea plantations, as well as in the fishing sector. The vices were also reported to be common in mining (mineral and stone quarrying) and the construction sector where children are involved in manual labour. Poverty was cited as a main factor driving children to engage in labour. Stakeholders noted that there were reported cases of sexual assault and increase in child labour in the context of the construction of roads, for example during the construction of the Kabwoya Fort Portal Kamwenge road.

Youth: Concerns were raised during the consultation regarding reports of discrimination experienced by youth in terms of accessing employment opportunities. In many cases, they are offered only the least paying casual jobs and without formal contracts specifying the terms of employment. Youth, in the Eastern and Western regions, stated that there were instances of underpay and outright non-payment, in particular by construction companies. The consultation in Northern Uganda also revealed that there were abuse of the rights of the youth working on the large commercial farms established in the region. They claimed that most of these youth were ferried from far districts of West Nile who then end up stranded thus seeking help from the nearby districts whose resources are too meagre to offer repatriation to these victims.

Older persons: The consultations revealed that older persons face the following challenges; limited access to employment opportunities, retention of jobs, as abuse and violence in workplaces, low pay, among others. These issues have led to increased vulnerability and poverty among older persons.

In view of the specific challenges faced by vulnerable and marginalized groups in connection with business activities, the National Ac on Plan calls for particular attention to ensure that such adverse impact is prevented and addressed, including by ensuring access to effective remedies.





OBJECTIVE 2: To promote human rights compliance and accountability by business actors

4.2.2. Empower communities especially vulnerable persons to claim their rights

  1. Develop inclusive information, communication and education materials.
  2. Conduct community dialogue meetings with rights holders prioritizing women, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities and people in hard to reach areas.


4.2.3. Promoting compliance to human rights observance


vii. Enact and enforce gender-sensitive legislation to protect human rights defenders.


ix. Promote gender-sensitive and inclusive land use planning by investors.


OBJECTIVE 3: To promote meaningful and effective participation and respect for consent by relevant stakeholders in business operations.

4.3.1 Promoting FPIC for communities in all business operations

i. Review and enact laws guaranteeing FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent), particularly ensuring meaningful consultations with vulnerable groups, such as women, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, ethnic minorities and persons living with HIV and AIDS.

ii. Develop and enforce guidelines and policies regarding land acquisition, compensation and resettlement of communities affected by business operations, prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable, such as women, persons with disabilities and persons living with HIV/AIDS.


OBJECTIVE 4: To promote social inclusion and rights of the vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups in business operations.

4.4.1 Empower communities to demand for protection and fulfilment of their rights and access to justice

  1. Educate communities, prioritizing vulnerable groups such as women, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities and older persons, on business and human rights including access to justice.
  2. Implement the Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBP).
  3. Advocate for gender equality through ensuring equal opportunity to both men and women in business operations and promotion of the gender equality seal programme.
  4. Advocate for elimination of sexual harassment in business operations.
  5. Strengthen social protection interventions for the vulnerable groups affected by business operations.


4.4.2 Engagement of business operators on human rights


iii. Ensure the establishment and strengthening of gender and equity-responsive internal grievance redress mechanisms in business operations.


OBJECTIVE 5: To enhance access to remedy to victims of business-related human rights abuses and violations in business operations.

4.5.1 Strengthen access to remedy mechanisms against business-related human rights abuses and violations


ii. Provision of government-supported legal aid services to workers, especially vulnerable groups including women, persons with disabilities, persons living with HIV and AIDS and minorities.


iv. Strengthening laws and policies providing for effective, inclusive and gender-responsive remedies on business-related matters.



5.3 Equal Opportunities Commission

  1. Ensure implementation of the action plan and the enforcement of equal opportunities.
  2. Investigate complaints related to victimization, marginalization, injustice, and discrimination
in conduct of businesses.
  3. Create awareness and advocate for equal opportunities for all at all levels.
  4. Influence and inform policies, plans, legislations and budgets of institutions in relation to the NAPBHR.
  5. Under take research on issues of equal opportunities.
  6. Enforce compliance with provisions of equal opportunities requirements.


5.4 Business entities


iv. Ensure inclusion of the vulnerable groups in the business operations.


5.9 Local Governments


ii. Supervise business operations to ensure protection of human rights and social inclusion of the communities.


viii. Coordinate, monitor and supervise implementation of the policy and the equal opportunities Act at their respective levels.



i. Ensure equal and equitable sharing of benefits among communities in conservation areas.


5.11 The Parliament


iii. Monitor business operations in their constituents for protection of human rights and equal opportunities for the vulnerable and marginalized groups.


5.12 Private Sector


iii. Ensure affirmative action interventions for less privileged and marginalized in business operations.


5.16 The communities and households

The community and households will;

  1. Strengthen social support networks and mechanisms to protect and promote the welfare of vulnerable groups.
  2. Promote and respect the rights of the vulnerable groups in communities and households.
  3. Participate actively in implementing interventions and also linking vulnerable groups to service providers.


5.17 The marginalized and other vulnerable groups

The marginalized and other vulnerable groups will;

  1. Ensure full awareness and realization of their rights.
  2. Participate in community dialogue meetings to identify factors which cause their marginalization and vulnerability.
  3. Participate in identification of initiatives and planning and implementing such interventions aimed at improving their welfare.
  4. Monitor the implementation of the action plan.


The strategic implementation framework in the 1.0 Appendices includes: 

  • Objective 2.0, Strategic Actions: Empower communities especially vulnerable persons to claim for their rights
  • Objective 3.0: Improvement in the business entities’ duty to ensure Free Prior and Informed Consent in investment and other business undertakings
  • Objective 4.0: To promote social inclusion and rights of the vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups in business operations

Budgeted outputs in Annex I include:

  • Strengthening the physical planning committee in the district and municipality to do equity planning and budgeting (Objective 1.0)
  • Develop inclusive information, communication and education materials (Objective 2.0)
  • Popularizing existing labour laws (by translating them into local languages (Objective 2.0)
  • Advocate for gender equality through ensuring equal opportunity to both men and women in business operations and promotion of the gender equality seal. (Objective 4.0)
  • Advocate for elimination of sexual harassment in business operations (Objective 4.0)
  • Strengthen social protection interventions for the vulnerable groups affected by business operations. (Objective 4.0)