The female representation in the House has reached an all-time high. Women in the East African country are now sitting in 35 per cent of 375 available MP seats, up from the previous 30%. ii
On the 18th of February 2011, 1,270 candidates were vying for the directly elected seats, while 443 were running for the special seats reserved for women. 18 candidates, including five incumbent MPs, were disqualified for failing to submit proper supporting documents. iv
Women’s strong numerical presence in Parliament has had some positive effects in Uganda. First, it has led to a gender sensitive constitution that contains articles directly affecting women. Second, together with the civil society, the women in Parliament have been essential in passing legislation important for Ugandan women.
This is a result of many processes, including the government policy enshrined in the Constitution that instituted affirmative action for women at all levels of the political structure. v
The position of women in a new multiparty era is not yet clear. Although the affirmative action seats as well as the use of electoral colleges have increased the presence of women on the political stage these measure could have negative repercussion on female representation in the Ugandan Parliament for two reasons.
Firstly there is the threat that guaranteeing women district spots ensures that women are represented at the local level but fails to provide the candidates with corresponding funding to undertake their responsibilities. Philippa Croome quotes “Uganda's jump was largely due to an increase in the number of districts, which was a controversial move.” vi
Second the mode of electing women to Parliament has influenced the gender-equality debate. An apparent affiliation with NRM party (Museveni’s Party) has translated into a form of patronage that has subjected women to certain positions in return for the party supporting women candidates and party members.
Manipulation of women by political parties which forces them to focus on party agendas is observed as a major challenge. Female representatives’ closeness to the incumbent NRM regime makes it hard for them to challenge the governmental position in matters they find important. vii
Lastly women critical of the Movement or from opposing parties may have difficulties being elected to Parliament. Yet, regardless of potential drawbacks, former MP Jane Alisemera, outgoing chair of the Uganda Women's Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), says the current system benefits women. viii
The mandatory inclusion of women, as well as the general societal awareness that this has generated, have certainly changed the general picture of public politics in Uganda. Increasing female representation has translated into the passing of a domestic violence bill in 2009 and active lobbying for the reform of land and family law.
However, women's location in the electoral process, both as voters and candidates, is still affected, both by mechanisms in the public arena and dynamics at the private and family level. Getting women's numbers up is the first step, keeping them there is the next.
Women’s Political Participation Recent Statistics x
As of 2010
After the elections in 2011
% of candidate lists headed by a female candidate
443/1270 or 34 %
99/ 375 or 29.73%
131/375 or 34.93%
Breakdown of the 131 seats won by women:
Constituency Representatives: 11
Women District Representatives: 112
Youth Representatives: 2
Representatives of disabled persons: 2
Workers Representatives: 2
Representatives of the Uganda People's Defence Forces: 2
iHanssen, K. N. (2006/2007). Towards Multiparty System in Uganda-Working Paper. Norway: CMI-Michelsen Institute .
iiOlaka-Onyango, J. (2011, 05 02). Uganda Elections: " An Exercise in Shame-Faced Endorsement. Retrieved 12 12, 2011 from Pambazuka Press: www.pambazuka.org
iii International Alert . (2007). Women's Political Participation in Countries Emerging from Conflict in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Kampala: International Alert .
ivAccessed from http://www.ipu.org/parline/reports/2329_E.htm-Uganda Parliament- http://www.parliament.go.ug/.
Retrieved 12 10, 2011 from Feminist Africa: http://www.feministafrica.org
viCroome, P. (2011, 05 11). Uganda: Women's Representation on the Rise. Retrieved 12 10, 2012 from Gender Links: www.genderlinks.org
viiNtawubona, J. (2010). Women and Political Participation in Uganda. Berlin: VDM Verslag Dr Muller.
viiiCroome, P. (2011, 05 23). Uganda: Women's Representation on the Rise. Retrieved 12 10, 2011 from Pambazuka News: www.pambazuka.org
ix Croome, P. (2011, 05 11). Uganda: Women's Representation on the Rise. Retrieved 12 10, 2011 from Gender Links: www.genderlinks. org.za
xCompilation or IPU (International Parliamentary Union-Women in Politics Data Base), Government Based Statistics and information from Afro-barometer Data Collection.