Constraints to women in the participatory planning process in a decentralized system: a case of River Oli Division, Arua Municipal Council
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Participatory planning process is one of the priority areas provided for in the 1997 Local Government Act. This study was carried out to identify the main factors constraining women’s contribution in the participatory planning process in a decentralized system. More specifically, the study was designed to: (i) Identify the nature of participatory planning provided for in the decentralization framework, (ii)to ascertain the level and nature of women’s role in participatory planning and (ii) to assess the factors constraining women’s role in the planning process. The study was carried out in River Oli Division, Arua Municipal Council, Arua District and the study population comprised Politicians, Civil Servants, Parish Development Committees (PDCs), Opinion leaders and women from the three wards (Pangisha, Kenya and Tanganyika) within the Division. The data collection methods included structured questionnaires that were administered to women, key informants guides for key informant interviews and focus group discussion guides for women groups, Parish Development Committess and Local Councilors 3. Data was edited during the field activities in order to ensure consistency of the responses given. The Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) was used in data analysis. The study findings reveal that the nature of participatory planning process in River Oli Division is bottom-up whereby planning starts from grass-roots (village levels) and it follows the path through parishes and then to Sub-County or Division level. Through this process, communities identify their pressing needs or problems, prioritize them and forward to Parish Council where they also set their priorities and develop Parish Investment Profiles; which are then forwarded to the Division as an input for the Division’s Three Years Development Plan. The study further revealed that women’s involvement is highest at the village level where a good number of them attend planning meetings. But their participation as in contributing to issues being braised is very minimal due to over domination by men, who always hijack the whole planning meeting/process. Women’s contribution apart from involvement, is highest at the Division level where both female and male councilors have attained some level of education, which enables them to debate fluently in both English and local languages. The study reveals a number of factors which constrain women’s participation in the planning process which included the following; fear to talk and express oneself in public; heavy domestic work load which makes them unsettled in planning meetings; restrictions by men imposed on their wives; religious and cultural attitudes and practices that prohibit women from talking in public; poor timing of meetings and gaps in information flow from the Division to Village level. The study concludes that women aged 29-39 years are the most active in community affairs and should be targeted so as to influence the rest of community members. The decentralization process and responsibility should be marched with: adequate steady transfer of resources implementation of the planning process, sensitization of the public about the advantages of involving women fully in the participatory planning processes; capacity building of actors involved in participatory planning processes to make sustainable change in attitudes and behaviour; the need to organise separate meetings for women to get their specific needs; the need to encourage girl child education to boost the confidence level of women and improvement in the terms and conditions of services in Local Governments for women’s involvement and participation in the system.