The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part six in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
Women's groups in Uganda were furious when the government banned the local version of The Vagina Monologues in February. The title of the famous play about violence against women by the American Eve Ensler was damaging to social standards, according to the officials. The women's organizations felt that the government's censuring had moved them back through time: after all, Uganda is one of the countries that truly respects the freedom of expression in actual practice.
The draft cultural policy, which will be submitted to Cabinet for approval in August 2005, links the arts to social development. The responsible ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development has integrated culture into the national plan to combat poverty. It promotes cultural industries as a source of income for the poor and encourages the use of indigenous know-how. The ministry emphasizes de-centralization: local authorities should formulate their own cultural policy, albeit based on the national guidelines. Of Uganda's 56 districts, 13 have their own culture office. In other districts, community development officers are responsible for the local cultural policy.
The government of Uganda also believe that the commercial sector can play a part in the area of culture. Not only in selling books, video's and cd's made in the country, but also in organizing cultural activities in communities and establishing art funds. A special department in the ministry of Trade, Tourism and Industry bears responsibility for Uganda's museums and monuments. The literary and book world fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, which compiled a policy plan for that sector in 1997. Stimulating publications in the national languages, making books accessible and constructing a network of libraries are the main elements of that plan.