Women Rise in Uganda

“I went into politics because I saw the corruption in Uganda…………………….,” stats Oromait, the recently elected youngest member of parliament in African history. (Courtesy: David Smith, The Guardian)

 

Many today show concern about the limited or low representation of women in politics. This concern lies with mostly international organizations and women rights organizations seen around the world. Looking into history, women have played a relatively small role in politics. However women today are different from then. Today we see that women too are active as men (this does not mean that women of olden days were not active). Over the last half century it has become clear that women have made great efforts and progress to achieve equality in all areas of society.

This is not different in Africa. African women are not less in anything in comparison to those around them. In Africa today there is a total of 20.4% women representing the parliament in different capacities. This is an increase in comparison to the past decades. African women are always strong. What they were lacking was opportunities to take the lead. Looking into the past of Africa – there has been number of women in the legislature in countries such as Benin, Nigeria, South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Liberia with the present President H.E. Elena Johnson Sirleaf.

But yet statistics state that while some countries in the African region (Congo, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe have a between 10% – 14% women representation) show a low level of female representation in politics, there are also some countries that are leading the continent in terms of female representation. Even though Liberia is a women president headed nation, it has still been unsuccessful to increase the women representatives from around 14% to 30%. There are also many other countries whose female representation in the parliament is still seen low, or has decreased in recent past.

In this context, it is an honour and pride to be able to mention that Uganda is of the countries in Africa that has stood out in bringing in more female representatives into the parliament. Today in Uganda, out of 50.1% of total female population, 24% are seen representing in parliament.

In 2011, Uganda became the first country in the African region to have the youngest member – notably a female – to enter the parliament. School leaver Proscovia Orimait 19 years old, is evidence that women are no less than men in entering politics. Women are gradually penetrating historic barriers and are attaining high levels of leadership in significant roles in Uganda.

In July 2011, the first female African Union leader was elected from South Africa. After Liberian Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the first female President in Africa, Joyce Banda became second female president from Malawi. These ladies being adult women, it is encouraging to see that even young women like Proscovia Orimait, who are still in the end of their teens, facing the repressive cultural practices.

Uganda’s Proscovia is evidence of progress and should leave all other young African women with a challenge as to why they are not coming out of their shells and taking up leadership positions.

During the recent increase in the number of districts to 112, there are currently 112 District Woman MPs in the 9th Parliament making women representation also at the district levels.

Uganda began to endeavour towards female representation by handing over responsible and important portfolios to female ministers. Economist Maria Kiwauka is the Minister of Finance in Uganda, and Hon. Muloni Irene is the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, while there are also other females playing different roles.

Former MP Jane Alisemera, outgoing chair of the Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), says, “The current system benefits women. It’s working – and we women MPs are making things happen.”

These women of Uganda – including Oromait, the youngest and newest female parliamentarian in Africa, are role models for all women, not only in Uganda, but also across the borders. It is proved that in this contemporary world, not only gender, but even age cannot prevent women in entering politics.

Hence, it is time that African women stopped complaining about themselves not being given opportunities to enter into politics; it is enough that they stood aback and only cried; it is enough that women organizations held campaigns on increasing women representation in the parliament.

Time has come for a woman to fight for her own share; for reasonable portion and for her right. It is in our hands and if our African mothers and sisters can do it, then why can’t we? If a teenager could have made it, then why not we?

Why not you and me?

 

Natasha | Uganda