KAMPALA – Women activists have denounced the way female politicians contesting for seats with men in Uganda are treated. Speaking at the launch of three studies by the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), seasoned feminist and social justice activist Solome Nakaweesi said Ugandan society was not yet ready for women leadership while Patricia Munabi Babiiha, the executive director of FOWODE called on government to accelerate efforts to close the gender gap in society.
The activists were speaking at the launch of reports titled, “Reality Check: Women in Leadership Positions in Uganda,” that interrogates the position of women in the public sector and, “Women Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Experiences from the 2016 Elections in Uganda.”
Nakaweesi said, “Violence has been normalized in our society, it is part of the exercise of patriarchy, another hindrance is a new group that has emerged in the last three elections of god fathers and god mothers, composed of politicians and business people who determine who is good enough as a woman to stand for a political seat.”
The activist also criticized the media for trivializing women based on how they look, how they are not married, how the husband has 10 wives, issues that are not connected to the political race. In terms of the multi-party dispensation, she said, “there is a crisis of emergence of independent candidature. Many women were kicked out from party primaries in the last election, but they stood and won as independents. Women should be respected, do not rig them out. Sexual harassment within the political space must be addressed to support women to get into politics.”
Kamuli municipality MP Rehema Watongola, one of the few legislators elected outside the affirmative action framework said, “There is a challenge with men in Uganda, they think they alone are the ones supposed to legislate and take a decision in every meeting. Let us change that attitude. My fellow women were convinced that this seat does not belong to a woman but a man. That confusion of men is too much in this county. Government must sensitize the public so that our people appreciate that under our constitution men and women are equal.”
The deputy Lord Mayor of Kampala city, Doreen Nyanjura held a divergent view and thanked men for standing with her when she needed a shoulder to lean on as an upcoming politician.
“From my own experience, I am a product of the downtrodden, unemployed youth, the dregs of society, but I can tell you that the men have listened to our voices more than the women. When I was contesting for LC 5 women councilor in Makerere University, I was largely supported by males. The same is true with the speaker of Kampala Capital City authority where I was supported by men,” Nyanjura told participants. She also called on parents to stop pampering their children, especially the girl child, “if more iron ladies like Cecilia Ogwal and Nyanjura are to come up.”
In a related development, FOWODE on Friday launched a study titled, ‘Accelerating Women’s Economic Empowerment? A Review of the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP)’. The study spearheaded by consultant Nite Tanzarn assesses government of Uganda’s efforts to boost women entrepreneurship. According to a 2018 MasterCard (2018) report, one in three (33.8%) businesses in Uganda is owned by a woman. The review by FOWODE established that despite the relatively high levels of female entrepreneurship, women are still confronted with various barriers that restrict their undertaking of economically viable enterprises. The number one barrier to women’s entrepreneurship reported by 75 percent of the beneficiaries interviewed is a lack of start-up capital.
Some women (43%) also pointed out their lack of skills and knowledge to manage a successful business. A similar proportion identified lack of innovation as a challenge that results in their tendency to engage in similar businesses resulting in high competition and minimal profits. Some beneficiaries (39%) drew attention to their lack of confidence, risk-aversion and lack of business leadership skills as additional barriers.