Despite affirmative action; women’s participation in politics remains low; with only 19 women making it to parliament on the direct seats. Out of 31 Uganda’s ministries, 11 are occupied by women, 17 out of the 49 state ministers are women. Even within the public service, of the 112 Chief Administrative Officers in Uganda, only 17 are women, out of 29 permanent secretaries only six are women, and of 29 undersecretaries 14 are women, while out of 126 Ambassadors and their deputies only 63 are women.
Women vying for political leadership in Uganda continue to face a myriad of challenges including; the threat of violence; women are often the more vulnerable group and bear the heavy burden of supporting their families when the men are injured, imprisoned or even killed. Women campaign agents were subjected to difficult conditions such as assaults, vulgar language and intimidation. The open MP seat is not – open. Instead the seat is now open only to men and closed to women. The open seats especially at MP level have now been named in no uncertain terms- “ekifo kyabasajja” (men’s seat). In a country where men remain perceived chief providers for women and their families, are given more access to and control over resources both in the private sphere and within the public sphere, commercialization of politics has pushed women out of politics.
In light of this ACFODE with partners Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) held a conference to reflect on the just concluded electoral process, and the impact on women in leadership. The national convention was an opportunity for women in politics to: analyze and reflect upon women’s presence in public office and women’s voice in decision making both at local and national level.The conference included sessions and discussions on the Women’s Manifesto and the Key Issues, the role of Civil Society, Media and Private sector in promoting women’s rights and utilizing our spaces to further the women’s cause in the next five years.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Regina Bafaki the Executive Director ACFODE argued that due to their numerical advantage and their role during the election campaign, women needed more representation. “When you look at the different cabinet positions and the number of women therein, women still need more; out of the 80 cabinet appointments, women only take 33% of the positions which is unfair.”
While the President has appointed women to key ministries of Health, education, energy, works and trade participants at the workshop agreed that women needed more cabinet posts and other key positions in government. We also need more Ambassadors, Permanent Secretaries, Undersecretaries and key positions in political parties which can influence policies.
Woman MP for Soroti District, Ms. Angelline Oseggesaid that women should front their capabilities and not their gender as they demand to be given more; she said that there was need to move beyond numbers to quality and that there are many qualified women who can take up key positions to serve the country. “I believe we have many competitive women in Uganda. There is nothing wrong if they are given opportunity,” she noted.
Ms. Sarah Okware, with the USAID/UKAID GAPP Programme noted that women are not ready to discuss the hard topics. She said most MP’s do little in the parliament and called upon them to serve their people. She also emphasized the need to engage political parties; political parties need to offer financial assistance to candidates and give women positions for effective work.
Mr. Mathias Kamp, the KAS Country Representative said the performance of women has improved compared in the 2011 where only 11 were elected on directly elected seats, saying much still needs to be done to support them for more positions in 2021.Rita Aciro, the Executive Director, Uganda Women’s Network agreed, pointing out that if it was not affirmative action, women representation would only be 19 MPs for the directly elected seats. She said there is need for political parties and other stakeholder to build capacity among women to stand for directly elected seats against men in 2021.
As a way forward participants called for more funding to the health sector to 15% of the national budget, addressing of women land rights, promotion of quality education among girls with increased enrollment and boasting women economic empowerment through cooperatives, create market for agriculture products and controls prices.
When we have women in the different hierarchies of leadership, we know that we shall have gender responsive policies; we shall also have role models that the young women and men can look up to.