By Perry Aritua, Executive Director,Women’s Democracy Network Uganda Country Chapter, Uganda
An abbreviated version of this presentation was delivered during the fifth convening of the International Women’s Democracy Network during the World Movement for Democracy’s Seventh Assembly in Lima, Peru in October 2012.
- Friendly legislative framework that provides for affirmative action in the Uganda Constitution of 1995 but also allows women to contest for leadership positions outside affirmative action seats. A number of other African countries like Rwanda have adopted affirmative action to increase the number of women in leadership. Despite the controversies surrounding affirmative action, it has increased the numbers of women in leadership in countries that have adopted it and also created an environment that is more accepting of women in leadership.
- The laws and policies in Uganda have provided more opportunities for women to run for elective office.
- More mentors for women aspiring for leadership e.g. H.E. Eileen Johnson –President of Liberia, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga female Speaker in Uganda, Hon. Martha Karua MP in Kenya are playing a role in encouraging more women to run for elective office.
- There are more women in leadership. This is important for women aspiring for leadership because they already have those whom they can look up to for guidance as they aspire for elective office and when they get elected e.g. Uganda’s 9th Parliament is comprised of 35% women.
- Gender policies (Uganda Gender Policy, 2007) that promote gender mainstreaming in all government ministries and districts local governments are making it mandatory to have women in positions of leadership.
- More gender sensitive population that is beginning to appreciate the positive roles that women are playing in leadership. This has been enhanced by good female role models in leadership e.g. the Speaker of Uganda’s 9th Parliament.
- Young population that is more accepting to women in leadership. More than 70% of Uganda’s population is made up of youth. Their attitudes towards women in leadership are more liberal than their predecessors.
- A more diverse media that is reaching more citizens and providing a platform for women leaders thereby increasing information about them and their contribution to decision making.
- Women have a right to vote and can therefore make their voices heard through voting.
- More women NGOs that are conducting advocacy to demand for more female representation in politics, providing training for women aspiring candidates and those elected into political leadership. Women organizations are also conducting civic education to educate women and men about various issues including civic participation in governance.
- Women who aspire for political leadership through election are affected by low literacy levels, lack of resources for their campaigns, limited political experience and cultural and traditional beliefs that still place women at “home” rather than in political leadership.
- Reluctance by women to compete for political leadership due to economic, cultural and political environment that is at times plagued by violence.
- Intimidation of female voters by their spouses thereby preventing some women from listening to campaigns and voting for candidates of their choice. In addition some women are not supported by their spouses when they aspire to join politics. This discourages some qualified women from joining politics.
- Some women leaders in both Parliament and local councils are unable to effectively articulate the interests of women and objectively support interests that promote the common good for various reasons including low literacy levels, low capacity, limited exposure, dynamics of multiparty politics which emphasis supporting party positions regardless of whether they do not promote the interests of the electorate.
- Poverty affects the effective participation of citizens in governance e.g. during elections many are bribed and vote without scrutinizing the manifestoes and abilities of candidates.
- After elections they are more concerned about day to day survival and do not prioritize attending community meetings, trainings and dialogues on governance. This has an effect on their support for women leaders as they do not know the contribution women leaders make and remain with a biased attitude towards women in political leadership.
- Limited resources that have the effect of denying some women the opportunity to contest for political leadership.
- Limited civic education thereby denying some citizens an opportunity to gain information on different candidates, the issues they should look out for when making their decisions.
- Apathy towards politics. This has affected the quality of women particularly in local councils.
- Corruption which has affected use of public resources for personal gain and negatively impacted on women majority of whom do not have the economic resources to compete with male counterparts.
- Media has some gaps particularly in relation to its depiction of women.
* All opinions expressed here are those of the author’s and do not reflect those of WLP