By Sophie Kyagulanyi
Once again the appointing authority changed guards at the Local Government level. The recent reshuffle of Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) is a welcome move, especially for those appointed to the new districts.
Whereas the youth gained in terms of numbers given that there were many new young ‘faces’, the numbers of women RDCs both substantive and the deputies are perturbing. Out of the 378 RDCs and Deputy RDCs appointed only 26 (almost 20%) were women. This does not facilitate the attainment of the 50:50 gender parity, and the misconstrues the ongoing efforts of increasing the number of women participating in both appointive and elective decision making positions in the country.
It is thought that the fewer the women occupying decision making positions in the public sphere, the lesser public services will appropriately address women’s strategic and social needs. This is mainly because when there is inadequate representation of women, then the power of the few available women to influence and sway policy decisions in favour of the unique gender equality and women specific needs is limited. This analogy can better be explained by the NRM approach on how it has used the power of numbers at the different government structure to its benefit.
It is commendable that the Government has taken measures to promote the rights of women as well as their participation in politics and leadership. These measures include the 1995 Uganda Constitution which guarantees gender balance and fair representation of marginalised groups on all constitutional and other bodies and the affirmative action, which has steered increased women’s representation and participation in decision-making and development process.
The appointing authority owes it to the women of Uganda, having 36 out of 378 women RDCs makes it extremely unfair to women in terms of resource share, voice, opportunities and entitlements. This is coupled with the persistence of barriers such as low self-confidence, inadequate capacity and resources as well as male dominated institutional culture which limit women’s participation in decision-making. We thus implore the appointing authority to be more responsive to women’s needs and enhance fair representation of women and men in leadership positions.
I am making this appeal because women are the highest population in Uganda representing 51%. In addition, women make up a majority of the population engaged in small businesses and the informal sector and thus major contributors to the government revenue through direct and indirect taxes. Furthermore, women’s experiences are different from men’s experiences and thus need to be fairly represented in discussions that translate into meaningful livelihood for the women. Unfortunately, this difference that could have espoused equity and accountability continues to be largely ignored.
My last argument and justification of increased women’s inclusion in decision making processes stems from democratic governance and its predisposition whereby substantive democracy cannot exist without the equal participation and representation of women and men, which enhances democratisation of governance in both transitional and consolidated democracies.