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Women who aspire for political leadership are affected by a myriad of challenges. These include but are not limited to highly monetized campaigns, lack of democracy in political parties, low literacy levels, limited experience in politics and cultural and traditional beliefs that consign women to the caretaker role. Women are accorded a low status both in their families and in the community generally.
In addition, community support for women in electoral politics is also largely influenced by the electoral position the individual women contest for, with such support leaning toward women contesting for the position of women representative rather than those contesting for the position of Constituency Members of Parliament or ‘open’ seats. Women have been relegated to contesting for the ‘affirmative action’ or women’s seat, and the constituency seats are seen as a preserve for men. Women’s marital status, level of education and party affiliation are also some of the issues that influence citizens’ support for women in electoral politics. As a result, few potential women leaders offer themselves for elections, a situation that negatively affects their overall success in the electoral contests.
As Uganda prepares for the 2016 General elections, ACFODE in partnership with KAS will conduct grass root citizens’ conversation sessions. They will be a platform to engage in meaningful discussion with members of the community on the participation of women in politics, including the opportunities available for women in politics, the hindrances and how they can be overcome, and to call upon the citizens of voting age to participate actively in the election process and support women in politics.
The sessions will focus on (1) the popularization of the Women’s Manifesto 2016-2021 and (2) voter education.
The Women’s Manifesto is an initiative by the Women’s Movement, led by the Women’s Democracy Group. It is a compilation of the five major needs of women throughout the country that they would like the elected leaders to address for the advancement and wellbeing of women in society. The key issues are women’s health, land and property rights, education, economic empowerment, and participation in politics and decision making.
The women’s manifesto is a political document and a bargaining tool for citizens to hold political aspirants accountable for advancing women’s concerns and rights. It aims at raising awareness about gender issues among the various political players and mobilizing the electorate to actively participate in all processes that promote people-centered democracy and the interests of women in the development process.
Voter Education is a crucial component of the constitutional, governance, democratic and electoral processes. The purpose is to encourage citizens, particularly women and other marginalized groups, to actively participate in all activities of the electoral process, as well as to enable them to make informed decisions with regard to voting for candidates and participating as candidates and voters in the electoral process.
The sessions will also aim to sensitize men and women about the importance of women’s participation in governance and that for the government to deliver to their constituents; they must be truly representative, gender responsive and recognize that women must be equal partners in the process of development. ACFODE will work closely with the Electoral Commission (EC) to include sessions on election processes and procedures and the key milestones in the 2016 elections.