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Dwindling number of female MPs on direct seats worries CSOs

Kadaga says women who try vying for direct seats are threatened by men who belittle their cause

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Civil society organisations are concerned about the dwindling number of women elected on direct-elected members seats both in the districts and in Parliament. In the recently concluded elections, only 10 women were voted on direct district tickets, while those joining parliament stand at only 13.

This implies that the majority of the women who go to parliament do so on the affirmative action ticket. However, the activists say this ticket has become a disadvantage to women as many people believe this is the only way they can enter parliament, and reserve the direct seats for the men.

The matter came up during the third Women in Politics National Conference that took place in Kampala yesterday. It was organised by Damon, the Forum for Women in Democracy(FOWODE) and the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET).

Patricia Munabi, the executive director of FOWODE says the reduction in the numbers is worrying. She called for more open politics where women are given the same footing at the political party level to enable them to compete favourably with their male counterparts. They say often women are pushed aside to give way for the men, especially when it comes to electing representatives on direct seats.

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga who was the guest of honour at the conference says women need to rise to the challenge and fight for their rights and those of children. “The power hierarchy of this country has 30 people but 29 are men. There’s only one woman, me! This not enough,” she said. According to Kadaga, often women who try vying for direct seats are threatened by men who belittle their cause.

Referring to the ongoing race for the Speaker of Parliament, Kadaga said that often women are pushed out on flimsy excuses. “We have launched campaigns but even then, I am facing opposition from men but also women. They are telling me that I am old. But aren’t the men also old,” she questioned.

The newly elected women leaders that attended the conference told URN that men should stop derailing them. Former journalist Agnes Nandutu said the absence of a husband during campaigns almost led to her defeat. “When I stood in Bududa, I was told to step down because I was not married. Not because I am not educated or not capable, but because I was a single mother. This is so unfair. So many times, we are stopped for reasons that never apply to our male colleagues,” Nandutu said.

The district chairperson-elect for Kapchorwa, Everline Kabarika says on many occasions, her opponents told voters not to vote for her because she was expecting a child.

Joyce Tamale, the FOWODE board chairperson says an urgent mind change is needed to make the political field favourable for women.

“The political field in this country is not meant for women. Men believe that women are not supposed to represent them in parliament. They think they are only good for women affairs. But this not right. We need to educate communities that women can lead and that women can lobby for their interests as well,” she said.



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