Examining the influence of gendered perceptions on women’s political participation in Local Councils: a case of Wakiso district.
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The study investigated the effects of gendered perceptions on women’s political participation in local councils. Using the case of Wakiso district in Uganda, the study arose out of the concern that, though the number of women in local councils has increased, their political participation is still ineffective, and their presence does not reflect effective participation Despite the fact that some women councilors have attained the same level of education as their male counterparts, their presence in the public sphere does not reflect effective participation. Hence, it sought to examine the influence gendered perceptions have on women’s political participation. It employed a cross-sectional, gender-analytic design to gather information on perceptions and attitudes toward women’s political participation. Wakiso district was purposefully selected, and qualitative and quantitative methods were employed, i.e., interviews, focus group discussions, interview guides, and observation, to generate data that led to the findings. Focus group discussions and interview guides were used for the in-depth information in order to explore the effects of gendered perception on women’s political participation. The major findings revealed that although there is an increased number of women in the public sphere, the community still perceives the private sphere as the right place for women. The majority of the women councilors themselves still perceive domestic responsibilities as their primary role. Women politicians are considered weak, emotional, dependent, and indecisive, while men are typically perceived to be authoritative and independent. The rejection faced by female councilors by male councilors is due to the perceived position of men and women in society. The perception of women as tokens and additions, councilors without geographical representations, and always referred to as women councilors (Kansala Waabakyala) hinders their effective political participation. Affirmative action (AA), a quota system in this case, aimed at the inclusion of women in political participation in societies where social and cultural militate against women's political interests, was intended to close this gap. Social and cultural factors were found to be a major impediment to affirmative action. It was found that the use of AA for the promotion of women’s inclusion would remain ineffective unless the social-cultural factors that undermine women were addressed. Affirmative action has also extended another burden towards women councilors; whenever there is any pending issue concerning women the outrage is directed at women representatives only. Gender perceptions are caused by cultural influence and the socialization process, which gives women a secondary position in society. Gendered perceptions were found to have an impact on women’s political participation. These kinds of attitudes toward women leaders and decision-makers have resulted in stigmatization. The key recommendations are to change the political and social-cultural institutions to value women, to sensitize the community to equal power sharing, and to change their attitudes towards women's political participation. Much more importantly, women need to stand firm and fight for their rights, and to reconstruct culture.