WOMEN CAN CONTEST WITH MEN FOR MAINSTREAM POLITICAL SEATS

 

Women's political participation is no longer an issue of contention as the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda gives every woman the right to vote, campaign for elective office, attend village/local council meetings and belong to a political party of their choice among others. 

Vibrant women's political participation in Uganda heightened after the Beinjing conference of 1995. The same year saw the promulgamation of Uganda's constitution which incidentally is one of the most gender sensitive constitutions in the world. In addtion to providing for the quota system, it dedicates a whole article 33 for the inclusion of women in national governance. 

With a provision for affirmative action of atleast 30% of women's representation at the National Parliament which is also provided for in the Local Governement Act(2007). It should be noted however that these provisions didn't come on a silver platter but with vigorous advocacy and lobbying  done by gender responsive indicuals , civil society and women at large. As a result the number of women in politicsover the years was raised at parliamentary and local governement levels. Even with this increas, women are still underepresented as they compose over 51% of Uganda's population yet there are only 34.4% females Members of Parliament in the 9th Parliament. 

Status of women in the 9th Parliament

  Female MPs % of women MPs Male MPs % of male MPs  Total number of MPs 
NRC  50 18% 230 82% 280
6th Parliament  51 18% 230 82% 281
7th Parliament 75 25% 230 75% 305
8th Parliament 102 30% 231 70% 333
9th Parliament 131 35% 244 65% 375

Besides the increased number of female politicians at every level, their effectiveness in influencing policy is less felt or at times not felt at all. We have women in power, without power but serving power; this has been attributed to a number of issues.

There is low political will by the leaders to fully realise the potential of women. The affirmative action was largely seen as a token of the current governement, for which the women of Uganda had to be grateful. Dr. Consolata Kabonesa says; "In the early 1990's, the NRM government prioritised gender equality so that they could be able to get women to rally behind them and that explains why women in rural areasgive a block vote to NRM!"

Patriachy is still deeply entrenched in the political system. In a publication titled Inspiring Change:Voices of Ugandan Women Leaders by Cn=entre for Women in Governance(CEWIGO), the Speaker of Parliament Hon. Rebecca Kadaga points out that men are chauvinistic  and do not want women to be where they are because they think those are men's jobs. She adds that the trashing of the Marriage and Divorce Billl was a very good example of patriachy. 

Traditional and cultural beliefs as well as societal perceptions  still rule the decisions families make in regard to women's political participation. At times men are reluctant to let their wives , sisters and inlaws participate in politics for fear of losing control over them. For the men, the fear that the women in their lives will be taken by other men also worries them thus their indifference towards women being politically involved. 

Political party leadership lacks commitment towards supporting women's full participation in decision making right from thr party structures (National or Central Executive Committees). Only People's Progressive Party (PPP) has 53% representation of women on the party's National Executive Committee. Women's Leagues still struggle with the lack of resources to implement their programmes and they rely on the goodwill of well wishers in order to thrive. 

Monetisation of politics has not only made it difficult for women to compete favorably in politics, but has also fuelled corruption. Women represent the majority of the agricultural force in industry and services and yet they continue to lack access to and control over economic resources such as land. The voters today have developed a culture of accepting bribes in exchange for their vote and only those who an afford to pay this price are willing to join the political race.

Apart from the constitutional affirmative action, the number of women contesting for the constituency seats where women compete with men still remains low. 

On this note, CEWIGO calls upon the women of Uganda to embrace the constituency seats besides the constitutional affrimative action policy. Lets rise up and support women to take up these seats towards a healthy nation. Forhow long shall we remain at the 30% thresh hold?We need to see 50/50 representation of women at all levels of political life in Uganda. 

 

By Teddy Namale

CEWIGO INTERN