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Archive for July, 2013

Women globally make up over half of the world’s population and are often the backbone of socieities. Women hold up half the sky… except in decision making. Over the years, the number of women in taking up public officers and politcal leadership including the highest offices. Today Africa has two female presidents and several countries have female vice presindents;Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Joyce Banda of Malawi and countries such as Zimbabwe and Gambia have female vice presidents.

In July,2013 I attended a meeting, actually a focus group discussion with  Women Members of parliament in Uganda under their umbrella organization Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) as part of the research study that is being undertaken by Isis-WICCE to examine the effectiveness of female Members of Parliament and Councilors in influencing decisions for gender equality. It was well attended with over 30 women members of parliament representing different districts/ constituencies in the country.

The discussion whose purpose was to find out the achievements so far made, what enabled them and the challenges. This was facilitated by Prof. Josephine Ahikire from Makerere University, Department of Gender and Women Studies, who is also the lead researcher. In her remarks, she pointed out that women political leadership is at the apex of a society and it comes with  its costs and benefits.  She further mentioned that the attitudes of  men towards women’s participation in politics  has not changed. Men still look at women as sex object and controlling the  women  by  keeping them in the kitchen. Principally, the political space was not for women . Women pushed to be there and constantly they have to  continue pushing.  Global statistics indicate that women in political leadership  at  17.7%, Sub Saharan Africa 17.7%, Asia 16%, Arab countries 9.1%, Nordic countries 41% and  specifically  Uganda is at 35% which is  beyond  the global and Sub Saharan   range.

For the past twenty years, the political participation of women in Uganda has been shaped by the affirmative action system supported by a gender sensitive constitution. Members   appreciated the bold steps that women have taken in political leadership as noted by Hon.Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, the Vice Chairperson UWOPA

“in 1986, when the current government had taken power, they were looking for women at local councils to be secretaries  and they were nowhere”.

 

Today, there are  134 women MPs (34%) out of 383 Parliamentary seats. With this, it is presumed that gender equality concerns would take centre stage in the policy making process. However, despite women’s increasing numbers in governance and decision making, the lives of women are not improving.  Feminised poverty, increased gender violence and the lack of respect of the rule of the law and women’s rights are escalating.

At the same time a study conducted by the Daily Monitor that analysed Parliamentary Hansard that keeps track of all the MPs’ contributions to debates showed that 34 women MPs have spoken less than 15 times in the House dominated by the male lawmakers from May 2011 to May 2013.

Influencing Policy

With the support of the first ever female speaker, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, the women legislators have pushed hard and succeeded in influencing the legislative agenda up to 61%. This has been demonstrated through the passing of gender sensitive laws such as; The Female Genital Mutilation Act, Domestic violence; influencing the national budget to be gender sensitive especially on the issues of health’ the introduction of Mama Kits to encourage women to give birth in hospitals/ health centers. The women legislators have also influenced leadership within parliament committees and 40% of heads of the Parliamentary committees are women;

Despite the above achievement, there are many challenges   that are still glaring.  One of the clear set back  that was pointed out is the Political Party affiliations as one member commented “ Parties are influencing us and making  us loose out, women must have the courage  otherwise they will manipulate us and  in the end we come up with nothing”.

As the number of women in decision making positions continue to grow, they must find ways to translate their presence in politics into action and influence. It is therefore hoped that this research will be a measure of how far women leadership has come in Uganda and what needs to be done to increase their participation in this space.

Watch out for more  findings from  the research as it is still going on.

Let me also leave   with you justifications for women’s political participation that   have been agreed internationally;

  1. Excluding women is   simply un fair because  they  have the population
  2. Fear to lose resources because women bring  new values on board to make life more humane
  3. Cleaning up politics because women  stand up for justice
  4. Women leaders will represent women’s issues better and more likelihood that  they will represent interests.
  5. Democracies will be more legitimate  if you bring on board  more diverse group  such as women, disabled, workers etc
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