Gender equality is a fundamental human right that is recognized by the Ugandan constitution. Therein the constitution, it is specifically highlighted that the rights of women to reach their full potential in social, economic and political activities is an indispensable entitlement. Furthermore, the Local Government Act sets principals, whereby 30% of local councilors must be female while every district has to elect at least one-woman representative.
Past affirmative actions enhanced the participation and empowerment of women in political offices and increased female representation at all levels of governance from 18% to 30% within the last 25 years. While the constitutional framework of female inclusion into the political sphere has been set and women´s participation at national level has enlarged significantly, political participation of women at district level is still low: only 3 out of 117 district chairpersons are female while approximately 40% of local government seats are upheld by women.
Women leaders still face numerous challenges while carrying out their mandate due to limited knowledge on relevant laws and policies, a lack of skills on how to set priorities within their department and the commercialization of politics as a male dominated field which hinders women to effectively participate in the political field.
ACFODE and her partner Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) conducted refresher trainings in Apac and Pallisa in February and March respectively. These trainings were an opportunity for the councilors to reflect on the exchange learning visits conducted in Gulu and Mbale districts and to share progress on what actions and initiatives have taken place as a result. there were also sessions on Gender budgeting and Women’s Rights, Gender-Based Violence and concepts of multi-party politics.
In Apac, the chairperson of the women’s caucus shared the lessons they’d learned from the learning visit in Gulu; one was solidarity; “Irrespective of our party affiliations so as to contribute to the lives of the women. Since the visit to Gulu, the caucus has been able to visit 8 women groups, 4 in Aduku town council, 2 in Apac municipality and 2 youth groups to mobilize and organize them to embrace the government programs like UWEP and YLP (Youth Livelihood Program).
The caucus learnt from Gulu counterparts that it is important to influence in gender responsive planning, budgetary allocation and implementation. In this case the caucus monitored and found that some schools along the lake shores had no or very few desks which the few are used by boys. And in response to this the caucus planned for allocation of desks in this schools of Alwala P/S in Akokoro sub county, Boda and Tegot P/S in Chawente sub county so that girl children can also benefit from it and retained at school. The procurement process is underway and supply will be effected this quarter.
The caucus advocated for the enforcement of education ordinance of Apac district 2015 against parents who detained their children at home, parents were arrested in Abongomola and Ibuje sub counties while in Owang P/S a parent was summoned for detaining his two daughters at home, when his daughters were registered to sit for PLE, he allowed the girls to go school to sit for PLE.
In Apac, Mr. Nicholas Akwang, the Principal Township Officer of Apac, gave an introduction to gender, merging into gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting. “Not behind, but besides every successful man stands a comparably successful woman,” he said. Nicholas further shared his idea of gender equality, which starts by lifting up men and women on the same stage. He also added that to promote gender equality effectively, gender mainstreaming is a powerful tool whereby the different interests and needs of women and men are respected within all decisions and levels of society. Gender mainstreaming however, can only be received through gender sensitive budgeting. In every kind of action concerning the public budget of the state or community, it considers the continuous equalization of men and women.
While in Pallisa, the women caucus too spoke about the lessons they had learned from their counterparts in Mbale district. Hon. Esther Amulen, the chairperson of the caucus said there has been an improvement of in the participation of women in the council. The women councilors are more confident and articulate. The caucus has also been able to hold meetings with citizens on the topics of land rights and inheritance and gender-based violence. The Caucus also acknowledged that the performance of students in the district is very poor, and increased monitoring of schools in the district. At the workshop, the women councilors were happy to report and improvement in performance of schools.
Still in Pallisa, Peter Espan from the Pallisa District Electoral Commission shared with the participants on understanding multi-party politics, and how to position themselves to get the most of and grow their parties at the grassroot. “Multiparty politics can and will only work if local leaders understand its very basic fundamentals,” shared Peter with the councilors in Pallisa. Mr. Julius Kisembo, a member of ACFODE, later took the participants through a session about gender-based violence (GBV). He shared his knowledge and experience about working on gender related issues. “Although women are often seen as holding the weak position in society, they should never feel discouraged to run for political office,” he explained.
At the end of both trainings, participants shared their feelings about the necessity of such trainings, in order to lift up women and equip them with crucial skills to run for political offices and fairly compete with men in Ugandan politics.