Affirmative action for women’s political participation and gender transformation in Uganda
Mutuuzo, Peace Regis
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This study set out to examine the effect of affirmative action for women’s political participation on change in gender transformation in Uganda. Specifically, the study examined the level of awareness of affirmative action policies for women’s political participation, analysed the perception on the effect of affirmative action to changes in gender relations and the status of women in both the political and local community. It also explored the structural barriers that limit women in achieving gender equality in politics. The study employed a mixed method research design using largely qualitative data collection approaches. A sample size of 400 respondents was drawn from four regions, each represented by one district with 100 respondents (that is: Mukono for the Central, Arua for the North, Kasese for the West and Jinja for the East). Structured interviews were supported by 2 FGDs from each district. Key Informants’ interviews were conducted, with 38 Members of Parliament, 80 District Councillors, and technocrats with knowledge on the subject matter were selected purposively for interviews. The second data collection method comprised of document reviews like journals, and policy documents and legal frameworks such as Parliamentary Hansards, Constitution, newspaper articles and Ministerial reports. The study established limited awareness by local community and politicians about the various affirmative action policies that promote women’s participation in politics. It was also established that the local community was willing to vote for a woman on the open seat, for as long as she measured and demonstrated the same political traits and capacity as men. It was also established that women’s political achievements are accepted as long as they did not lose their femininity determined by gender roles to challenge the male leadership position at family level and cultural or religious leaders. The study thus, concludes that while some patriarchal cultural norms have changed and women are accepted as leaders, social transformation is yet to occur with women leaders having to shoulder both their feminine and male gender roles. Arising from the stagnation in growth of numbers of women in politics, affirmative action in its current design will take long to deliver the transformation of gender relations needed to guarantee gender equality in society. The adopted quota design in Uganda does not meet nor mean equitable distribution of power and resources between men and women. I conclude that placement of women in the special interest group (in as much as it was a necessary compromise then) has now turned to be one way the policy sustains the perception of women as vulnerable. To eliminate the structural barriers that limit women from achieving gender equality in politics, the study recommends integration of gender equality in education curriculum at all levels and digital sensitization taking advantage of the young population in Uganda. The study recommends a review of quotas for women from 30% to equal representation of one man-one woman for every elective position in politics at all levels to accredit women as equal to men in their own rights.