By Sovereign Hasahya
When Specioza Wandira Kazibwe became Uganda’s vice president in 1994, it was viewed by many as a crucial milestone in the journey of women’s emancipation. Kazibwe’s vice presidency opened up political space for women in Uganda leading to the subsequent rise of prominent women legislators, the likes of Winnie Byanyima. There is no doubt Rebecca Kadaga, who was voted speaker of parliament in 2011, made history as the first ever female Speaker in Uganda and Africa at large, following a ten-year spree as Deputy Speaker since 2001.
This milestone indicate that, one area where Uganda has had an impressive record is women empowerment. The most recent glaring example is the appointment of Hon. Jesica Alupo and Robinnah Nabanja as Vice-president and Prime Minister respectively. This proves that the Ugandan woman is scaling the heights.
The stereotype of corporate boardrooms is also slowly changing to include more women, although barriers around organizational culture and unconscious biases still need to be dealt with. Beyond the corporate landscape, female inclusion in leadership has yielded proven benefits in the academia and politics.
Uganda is progressively promoting gender equity with affirmative action in legislative representation in Parliament and the change is being achieved this way. It is observed that the participation of women in Parliament has risen to 33.8% and the representation in Cabinet is fairly high. For instance, women constitute 43% per cent of the cabinet of Uganda, a sign that there is progress and plenty of space for women to emerge in leadership. The participation of women in local councils has also steadfastly increased from 9.4% ten years ago to 46% today.
Much as the legislation can help in this regard, women need to be encouraged more to overcome barriers and challenges that stand in their way.
Empowering women pays development dividends
The achievement of gender equity has enormous socio-economic effects. Empowering women fuels thriving economies and spurs productivity and growth. However, gender-based violence, harmful practices and discriminatory laws and structures continue to keep many women and girls from enjoying their rights. These practices should be eliminated.
What needs to be done to level the playing field
Women have struggled for equality and against oppression for decades, and although some battles have been partly won, women are still disproportionally affected by all forms of violence and discrimination in every aspect of life. It is true that in some areas and on certain issues, there have been improvements: for example, women have been elevated through affirmative action initiatives, which gave them a more raised platform to further advocate for more opportunities.
Women can make the world more peaceful, more connected or even more thriving. Yes, they can, and examples of their commitment are countless. Long gone is the picture of women merely as bystanders in high-level decision-making. It is a fact that Women are powerful, resourceful, and energetic that without them societies would miss out a lot, whether in politics, leadership and business.
Internationally, there is a growing push to have gender equality and women’s empowerment, the push for more feminine policy by promoting more women’s leadership.
The writer is a former minister of gender in the KIU Guild Union. She is currently the female youth leader, Butaleja district.