OP-ED

IVAN MUGONERO: Women in Governance, Women in Leadership Work

There is growing recognition of the untapped capacity and talents of women and women’s leadership

Over the years, the subject of gender equality has practically transcended all spheres of society ranging from social-economic spheres and now to governance and leadership. The dynamics of the current times have made the world recognize the vital role of women in society like never before. The world now appreciates the special position of women in the transformation agenda and that the world cannot transform without the transformation of the place of women especially in matters leadership and governance.

Governance may include the wide range of ways in which the political, social, and administrative structure of a society affects the access of its members to basic opportunities and capabilities. In promoting gender equality, it is important to promote the idea of women in leadership. This simple essay, though not exhaustive attempts to engage with the subject of women and governance, with particular interest on why we should have women in governance, the challenges and prospects for the future. 

The right to political participation-Not just a democratic rhetoric for women

The engagement of women in governance is not just an empty rhetoric of the democratic governance process, it is rather a practical reality for the realization of the right to political participation as laid out in the 1995 constitution of Uganda as amended. The involvement of women in governance processes at all levels of society was rightly envisioned by the framers of the constitution. Of particular interest here is the second objective of the constitution which speaks to the democratic principles of the country.

The second objective in its first and second paragraphs opens the space for the involvement of women in governance. The two paragraphs under the second objective that are important here are that;
(i) The State shall be based on democratic principles which. empower and encourage the active participation of all citizens at all levels in their own governance;
(ii) All the people of Uganda shall have access to leadership positions at all levels, subject to the Constitution. The realization of this particularly for the rights of women is later shown under Article 33 (4) of the constitution which provides that; Women shall have the right to equal treatment with men and that right shall include equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities.

The other laws and provisions are found in the Local Government’s Act (1997) and the National gender policy of 2007. Uganda has also ratified a number of conventions and chatters for the purpose of protecting and promoting the rights of women that are focused on causing gender equality. Most notably the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), The protocol to the African chatter on human and people’s rights on the rights of women among others that make up the long list. 

Why women in governance/leadership?

As earlier on referred to in this write up, the concept of women and governance speaks to the participation of women in decision making processes and leadership at the various levels of society. This invites for a justification of the involvement of women in leadership and the governance processes of a country.  The unique experiences of women in society imply that they are capable of bringing perspectives and strengths different from those of their male counter parts. It is these different perspectives that build into the ability of women making different decisions that respond more to the priorities of women. The participation of women in decision making has a direct impact on policy issues and the solutions suggested to address such issues. A leader’s gender has a bearing on policy priorities which makes it important to have women secure a place in politics for the adequate representation of the often-ignored concerns of women and other marginalized groups. Having women in governance helps step up responsiveness of policy-making and governance. 

The presence of women in governance leads to the prioritization of policies that positively affect quality of life in society. These include health, education, employment and welfare programs for the disabled and the elderly.  Having women in elective positions like at the district councils and at the parliamentary level is one sure fire way of increasing policy-making that prioritizes families, women, and ethnic and racial minorities.  

At the legislative level, female legislators place women’s issues in the wider picture of social issues given the role women have traditionally played as mothers and caregivers in their communities. In this case women leaders use government as a tool to effectively serve the underrepresented groups of society. 

The stumbling block 

Though women have moved a significant journey towards gender equality in matters governance, women are still underrepresented in governance roles and stand slim chances at higher echelons of governance that are key for important decision making.

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