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Not good enough internationally

By Rukiya Makuma

Despite high numbers, Ugandan women fail to hook top jobs

Uganda has more women in parliament compared to Kenya and Tanzania. UP to 33 percent of MPs are female and regionally, only Rwanda with 49 percent female representation is higher. Kenya trails with only 18 female representatives or 8 percent in a 222 seat parliament and Tanzania has 30 percent women.

Uganda’s huge involvement of women in high level decision-making percolates down to the grassroots.

Each district in Uganda has one District Woman Representative and similar representation is constitutionally prescribed for all the levels of administration up to the smallest village governing Local Council.

However, experts are now questioning why, despite two-decades of affirmative action, Uganda women have failed to break through on the international scene.

Currently, Tanzanian-born Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka is the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. She joined UN-HABITAT as Executive Director in September 2000. Tibaijuka is the first African woman elected by the UN General Assembly as Under-Secretary-General of a United Nations programme. She is currently serving a second, four-year term.

Tanzania also has Asha-Rose Mtengeti Migiro who is the third deputy secretary general of the United Nations (UNAIDS) a post she has held since 2007.

Before that it had Gertrude Ibengwe Mongella who is considered one of the most influential people in the world and her extensive and highly successful career spans over a number of decades.  Mongella was Secretary General to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China and also held positions in the UN as Special Envoy to the Secretary General of the UN on womens issues and Development and as UN Under-Secretary.

Kenya has the Nobel Prize laureate, Prof. Wangari Mathai, who is also the founder of the worldwide Greenbelt Movement.

Kenya has several women in top jobs at the UN, though not as illustrious as Tanzania. It has Liz Ahua, the Country Representative for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kenya, Dr. Olivia Yambi is the Kenya representative for UNICEF and Irimu Wangui an officer for the International Labor Organization (ILO) in charge child labor programme in Kenya.

Among the top women internationally, Uganda has only Florence Mugasha, who is the Deputy Secretary General of the Common Wealth.  Others on the move up include Winnie Byanyima, who is the Director of the UNDP Gender Team, Bureau for Development Policy.

Jane Alisemera Babiha, chair of the Uganda Women Parliamentarians Association (UWOPA) says some of the jobs are very competitive and require high qualifications to get. She says many Ugandan women have not yet achieved such qualifications but are moving ahead. She says in future more Ugandan women will run for these posts. She says the parliament has so far achieved its target in elevating the status of women in the country because more women have come to occupy top positions throughout the country especially through affirmative action.

Part of the problem, however, is that in Uganda the skill requirements for political office are basic. An MP needs only an Advanced Certificate of Education or its equivalent as the minimum qualification.

Recently, Christine Nachat, was elected as the first LC 5 chairperson of the newly formed Amudat district. She was elected unopposed for the post because she was the only person with the minimum required Senior 4 qualification among the five councilors in Amudat. The other two councilors stopped in Primary and another two did not go to school at all. Nachat becomes the second female LC5 chairperson in Uganda. In her new job, Nachat and her councilors will have to draw up development plans, budgets, and work plans for the district.

Even in parliament today, many representatives have only diplomas and this lowers their chance of qualifying for UN jobs.

Uganda’s East African Assembly legislator Margret Zziwa says the responsible governments are supposed to participate vigorously in campaigning for suitable candidates to take up the UN jobs. However if one of the countries from the East African countries say Tanzania has a better candidate, we all support that candidate since we are one community, she says.

Zziwa said this responsibility is for the Foreign Affairs Ministry to identify the available jobs in the UN and make them public so that suitable candidates can compete for them.

Another East Africa Legislative Assembly MP Dorah Byamukama says Uganda has a variety of women who are qualified enough to take on the UN jobs. She says its an issue of the country being alert and having quick information on these opportunities as they arise.

We need a data bank of women who have the credential of serving at the UN, she says. The data bank should contain names, experiences and contacts because this makes it easier for suitable candidates to be contacted to fill up the available positions.

Byamukama said Ugandan women should not only stop at being leaders on the local level but they should strive to achieve the leadership even on the international level. We should work hard to increase their numbers and government should also help to lobby for these jobs, she says.

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