Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) has expressed fear that the revised electoral roadmap for the 2021 general elections released by the Electoral Commission could knock out potential women leaders.
The Electoral Commission on Tuesday 16th June 2020 released a revised electoral roadmap in which it announced a ban on mass campaign rallies for the 2021 general elections.
The Electoral Commission Chairman Justice Simon Byabakama said campaigns would be conducted through the media in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
FOWODE Executive Director Patricia Munabi Babiiha, however, says the media campaigns will alienate majority potential women leaders.
“The broadcast and online campaigns will alienate a majority of potential women leaders due to limited access to internet by most Ugandans, the unequal distribution of airtime on broadcast media and the very high costs for purchasing broadcast media airtime,” said Babiiha in a statement.
Various opposition politicians including DP President Nobert Mao, FDC’s Kizza Besigye and People Power’s Robert Kyagulanyi commonly known as Bobi Wine have also spoken against new roadmap.
However, the Electoral Commission spokesperson Jotham Taremwa said drafting an electoral roadmap is not a matter for consultation.
Taremwa noted that a roadmap can be discussed by stakeholders after it has been drafted by the Electoral Commission.
According to Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) Report 2016, men are more likely (10%) than women (5%) to access all three forms of media (newspaper, TV and Radio) on a weekly basis.
Slightly more than one third (35%) of women and nearly one quarter (24%) of men do not have access to any form of three media on a weekly basis.
Babiiha called on the Electoral Commission to consider offline activities to allow aspiring candidates hold consultations.
“The Electoral Commission should consider some offline activities to allow aspiring candidates to hold consultation meetings where candidates can meet their electorates and campaign managers in groups of at least 15 people and also door to door consultations while observing Standard Operating Procedures,” she said.
She further called on Electoral Commission to firmly engage with communication regulators, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and Uganda Media Council to ensure all candidates are given equal and cost efficient broadcast airtime.
Babiiha also suggested that UCC should suspend the ban on megaphone community radios commonly known as “bizindalo” to enable those with less financial muscle to access the electorates.
“The essence of democracy calls for active participation of the people as citizens in politics and civic life, protection of human rights of all citizens. Most women aspiring candidates are not ICT savvy nor do they have the financial power to facilitate payment of broadcast media airtime and internet data costs,” she said.
The Electoral Commission has since maintained that physical campaigns and use of bizindalo will not be allowed.