In Uganda, women’s participation in politics is no longer in contention. Their participation in politics has been high on the agenda of the state and this has scaled up their leadership abilities on the social, political and economic platforms of social change. A lot of campaigns have been staged to lobby for key social needs and concerns like education, health, poverty,peace and security however today, what is central to the debate is how to make their participation sustainable and effective enough to influence the governance agenda and make it responsive to women’s interests, needs and concerns.
Early this year April 2018, Centre for Women in Governance (CEWIGO) is implementing a project to strengthen the capacity of women in political leadership at village, sub county and district levels to effectively participate in decision making processes at all levels. The project is implemented in the districts of Buhweju in Rwengwe T/C and Karungu Sub County, Mbarara in Kakoba Division and Rubindi Sub County, Buliisa in Buliisa T/C and Kigwera Sub County, Hoima in Kigorobya T/C and Buseruka Sub county, Masindi in Pakanyi Sub County and Nyangahya Division, Kween in Binyiny T/C and Ngenge Sub County, Bukwo in Bukwo T/C and Chesower Sub County and Kapchorwa in Kapchorwa Central Division and Kaptanya Sub county.
The project has led to community interventions like mentorship training for women leaders on the advancement of the women’s manifesto, formation and training of 8 community led advocacy development groups for gender advocacy and quarterly reflection and review meetings for gender advocacy groups and leaders (councilors)at the sub county.
My sharing is on the key findings of the review meetings conducted in Bunyoro region covering the three districts of Masindi, Buliisa and Hoima. Women trained in the three districts can to some extent address gender concerns in their constituencies. The main gender issues /concerns in the region as stated by the councilors are GBV, early child marriages, child labour and incest. The councilors testified that violence has led to family breakdown leading to school child dropout and the practice sets a bad example in the community hence influencing moral decay in communities.
Members of the advocacy development group were able to pass on the knowledge and skills acquired in regard to leadership and gender equality and equity. This was evidenced through sharing their success stories: One Alice from Buliisa said that she mobilized women in her village and talked to them about the importance of keeping the girl in school. In the same effort, Alice together with other area councilors organized a youth conference of about 58 youths with the help of the catholic church leadership in her village where both boys and girls relearned the value of appreciating themselves the way God crated them. The youth were encouraged to engage in safe spaces to enhance their skills through peer to peer learning.
During the review exercise in Kigwera sub county women councilors had never engaged with their community members ever since they were elected into power. This was caused by the fear of high expectations from the community yet the councilor had nothing to offer in terms of money. After CEWIGOs interventions, councilors were able to lobby and utilize community spaces like in the church but also engaged community members from their places of work like boda boda stages or socialization spaces. The strategy is working out for many since it lowers people’s expectations.
Exerting pressure on both the political parties and the government can increase women’s effectiveness in politics. Therefore it is very important for women in politics to closely work with women groups or movements and women professionals to be able to bring gender issues at a forefront. This will foster collaborative efforts between and among women and regular interface of women political and women groups at grassroots levels.
Women alone cannot secure gender issues at the forefront of national politics. Therefore, its upon the women to identify gender sensitive men in high profile political positions and work with them to support their issues. Men are more willing to listen to their fellow men and once these men are well informed and convinced on these gender issues, they can spear head the debate in parliament and other policy making political organs hence bringing gender issues at the forefront of national politics.
Noreen Nampewo, Program Officer