The Constitution of Uganda sets the policy and legal framework for gender equality and women’s empowerment. It recognizes gender equality as a fundamental human rights principle, (Chapter 4); provides for affirmative action to redress imbalances including those based on gender, and specifically recognizes the rights of women to reach their full potential in social, economic and political activities; and calls for the outlawing of customs, traditions and practices that undermine the welfare, dignity and interests of women. The policy also states that each of the districts elects one woman representative and that 30% of local councilors have to be women.
In preparation for the general elections in February 2016 ACFODE organized leadership trainings for women aspirants in the different districts in northern region including Oyam and Amolator districts. A total of 100 women aspirants drawn from the sub county to national were mobilized and trained on campaign management, public speaking and message development. Out of the trained women aspirants including a woman MP aspirant Oyam district, 40% women trained failed an election right from the sub county to national level.
In light of the above, ACFODE organized a one day experience sharing forum for women aspirants who lost in the general elections held in February 2016. This experience sharing forum is part of the activities under the project of Strengthening Community Participation in Local Governance and Promotion of Women and Girls’ Rights in Lango Sub-region (Amolator & Oyam Districts with financial support from Diakonia.
The sharing aimed at documenting the experiences of the female aspirants who lost and assess enabling and limiting factors for women’s participation in leadership and decision making. The sessions focused on how best the knowledge and skills acquired from the leadership trainings by ACFODE will be utilized in other forums and spaces for the advancement of women and girls rights. One of the enabling factors highlighted by the participants during the forum include the preparation trainings from ACFODE on effective campaign management and public speaking, and facilitation of radio spaces for those on direct seats. Participants noted an increased interest among women in the electoral processes.
“There are more women coming up to vie for political leadership unlike in the past two elections, because of the sensitization especially by women’s organizations like ACFODE. And the turn up of women to vote was in large numbers compared to men,” Former Ms. Florence Okello MP Aspirant Oyam District.
During the last general election, women were not only vying for affirmative action positions but also contested on the open seats locally known as direct seats which have otherwise been made a preserve of men.
“I contested as an LCIII chairperson in my sub county; this exposed me to the different factors women go through while contesting with men. However much I lost an election, I will continue participating in community meetings and fronting women concerns,” Ms. Auma Beatrice Okello former Aspirant LCIII Chairperson Abok Sub County.
Increased competitiveness amongst women on affirmative actions as well as open seats points out Improved community attitude towards women’s political participation. Participants from Oyam and Amolator noted a positive change of community support for women in different positions. There were also limiting factors raised by former women aspirants during election campaigns such as vulgar language, assaults, intimidation, and Domestic violence as a result of different political parties.
Participants pledged to stay relevant in the communities by participating in different community projects, activities and programs through monitoring, fronting women issues and concerns in different foras and holding the leaders accountable. Participants applauded ACFODE and Diakonia for the opportunity to share their experiences.