Archive for July 18th, 2013

Globally, women make up over half of the world’s population and are often the backbone of societies. Women hold up half the sky… except in decision making. Over the years, the number of women  taking up public offices and political leadership including the highest offices has gradually increased. Today, Africa has two female presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Joyce Banda of Malawi while  several 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 purpose of the  discussion  was to find out the achievements so far made, what enabled them and the challenges. The discussion 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 objects and who are supposed to remain in the bedroom and the kitchen.  She also noted that principally, the political space was not supposed to be for women  and women have constantly pushed to be there.

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%. Meanwhile, Uganda is at 35% which is  beyond  the global and Sub Saharan range which shows that the country in doing well in terms of numbers of women in political leadership. Thanks to the Affirmative Action

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

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 especially the issue political party affiliations as one  women PM noted “ Parties are influencing us and making  us loose out, we are being manipulated and  in the end we will come out with nothing”.

As the number of women in decision making positions continue to grow, women must find ways to translate their numbers and presence  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.

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

Let me also leave  you  with  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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