Citizens of Uganda and of voting age will in 2017 go to the polls to elect local council I and II chairpersons, the first of its kind under the multiparty dispensation. This shall be after a period of fifteen years since the last elections were held in 2001. The chairpersons once elected, will in turn appoint their executive committee members who according to the Local Government Act should be 11 in number. These comprise the chairperson, vice chairperson, a general secretary and secretaries for information, education, security, finance, production and environmental protection. In addition to the afore mentioned categories are councils for persons with disabilities, the youth and the women’s council whose respective chairs are appointed as secretaries for their representative group to the main council.
The legal framework for these elections is compounded in the 1995 Uganda constitution specifically in Article 176 (1) where it is stated that the system of local government in Uganda shall be based on the district as a unit under which there shall be such lower local governments and administrative units as parliament may by law prescribe. Local council I and II are considered administrative units and the Local Government Act in section 46 defines such units as those composed of all persons of 18 years or above who reside in that village and are willing to be members.
Owing to the significance of these positions and in line with the organization’s objective of “ increasing women’s effective involvement in politics and decision making through building the leadership capacity of potential female leaders at all levels in Uganda” ACFODE organized trainings for female aspirants in three districts of Uganda. These included Kaberamaido, Apac and Pader districts. A total of 180 female aspirants were trained across different political parties including independents. 99 of the aspirant ascribed to the National Resistance Movement party, 28 to Forum for Democratic change, 1 people’s progressive party, 22 Uganda people’s congress, 1 Democratic Party and 29 were independent aspirants. 90% of the aspirants whose age ranged from 20-65 are vying for these positions for their very first time and had never received any leadership training but are eager to serve their respective communities.
Taking cognizance of the multifaceted challenges and limitations aspiring women leaders face across the board, the training aimed to impart hands on knowledge and skills to the female aspirant’s significant for their candidacy and eventual win.
Amongst the topics discussed was the legal framework for the local council I and II elections with emphasis on the recent amendments to the Local Government Act and some sections within the 1995 Uganda constitution. Of contention was the mode of voting for chairpersons by way of lining up behind ones candidate of choice as opposed to secret ballot and limited time that will be accorded for campaigns. “my fear is that some people may not turn up to vote due to worries of hatred, disunity and conflict’’ revealed Adelo Dinah a local council 1 chairperson aspirant from Kaberamaido district.
“I am worried that violent scenes may erupt at the polling stations due to the method of lining up and this would interrupt the whole process” said Agwero Damalie from Kaberamaido.
Such were the voices of reservations expressed by the female aspirants.
However, considering that the method of voting is likely not to change, the aspirants moving forward resolved to strategize better if they were to emerge victorious. “I intend to start my ground work much early by particularly traversing my entire village and meeting with different groups of people in my community; youths, women, elders and PWDs. I want to pass on as much information as possible about the method of voting and why it is important for the citizens of voting age to turn up regardless of the voting method. They need to know it’s a fulfillment of their right and as chairpersons we are the closest leaders to them ’’ AYOO STELLA, Female Aspirant Pader District.
The day’s event also drew attention to the significance of women’s participation in the fourth coming elections, roles of the local council chairpersons, serving in a multi-party system, campaigning and related tips relevant to their candidacy.
“I thought voting would be by secret ballot like it has always been, I am happy to learn of this piece information though disappointed that it will be by lining up behind a candidate of one’s choice” said ANAYO HELLEN at the close of the training.
“Initially, I thought that by standing for LCI, I will get myself a job. Through this training, I have learnt that it should not be the case. I shall double my effort and continue with my business alongside service once I am elected.’’ ALWATO ANNA GRACE.
The trainings were officially closed by local government representatives of the respective districts namely the LCV chairpersons and resident district commissioners. In their remarks, they reiterated government’s determination to promote gender equality and women’s rights including rights to land. The female aspirants were encouraged to stand firm amidst the rough tide to eventually emerge victorious including fighting negative cultural practices, norms and perceptions towards women and girls. They were cautioned against disunity and hatred amongst themselves but rather uphold the virtues of togetherness and support for each other.
With the information, knowledge, skills and tips given to the female aspirants, ACFODE is optimistic many will emerge victorious and therefore add to the numbers of the women participating in political leadership and influencing decision making processes and actions in Uganda.
The trainings were made possible with funding from UN women and are part of the activities ACFODE is undertaking under the women’s Democracy Group. The group comprises of 5 women’s organizations namely; Uganda women’s Network, Center for women in Governance, Forum for Women in Democracy and Women’s Democracy Network -Uganda chapter.
Complied by Yossa Immaculate Daisy
Human Rights & Governance Department