KAMPALA — Women’s leadership and equal participation in public affairs is a key element of democracy and a pre-requisite for achieving sustainable development gaols, Dr. Maxime Houinato UN Women, Uganda Country Representative said during the second session of Kampala Geopolitical Conference.
Discussing the role of women in reshaping foreign policy, Dr. Maxime said that while many women are embracing the opportunities now on offer, key obstacles remain in a traditional patriarchal order, for which men are fairly rigid custodians.
“We still have big gaps for women in politics, economics and in society,” he said, noting that the gaps are driven by patriarchy and social norms in different settings.
Dr. Maxime, however, praised Uganda and said it is one of the few determined countries in the region who are putting in place affirmative actions for woman but said most women still face challenges in the workplaces despite efforts in lifting barriers to advance their social and economic participation as they seek to play a proactive role in the country’s economic transformation.
“We have 35% of females in the Parliament, 45% in local councils, cabinet ministers are 35%, State Ministers are 33%. The Judiciary has up to 45% female,” he said, adding, “this tells us that we have tried compared to most of other countries on the continent and other areas”.
While he commended the country, he said only 25% per cent of female Ugandans are employed in the public sector and only few are in positions of decision making in the private sector, a situation he said must be addressed with men supporting women.
Dr. Maxime noted that the number of women in public services do not exceed 25 percent— undermining initiatives that emphasized the need to empower women in leadership and decision-making positions.
“When women are in power, there is positive impact on policy. Women make up 86% of Uganda’s cross-border traders, mostly the informal trade which needs to be more documented”.
Agnes Igoye, the Commandant Uganda Immigration Training Academy and Uganda’s deputy coordinator of prevention of trafficking persons said that, while many obstacles had been lifted by the government to advance women’s economic and developmental inclusion and engagement, many of the challenges that remained were mostly at a social level.
When women get into certain places of authority she said, “they are lonely. And so there has got to be deliberate effort to support them”.
She called for mentorship programmes to empower them but also to prepare men for the women leadership.
“Women have to be mentored on how to handle those positions and managing the challenges that come with being in top leadership positions,” she said.
She added: “Mentoring is one lever we can activate to advance more women in their work, to help them gain access to capital and economic opportunities they might otherwise miss, and to be better prepared for opportunities when they come,” she said urging that the fact is that the obstacles preventing most women from reaching positions of power remain firmly in place.
With women still pushing to reach the top, Ms. Igoye also noted that some women in higher position haven’t helped to uplift and mentor other fellow women, because they feel who they uplift will become a threat to their current high positions.
She also said many women are still faced with a range of challenges that many of their male counterparts don’t have an understanding of and that it is these issues that are preventing many of them from achieving their goal of becoming leaders and diminishing their ability to get ahead in business and other leadership structures.