The 2021 scientific election is excluding women and other marginalised groups, activists have said.
Speaking during a consultative stakeholder dialogue on promoting inclusive electoral processes at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday, the activists said many rural women will not be able to follow the mode of campaigning on radio, TV and social media since they can’t even afford the electronic gadgets.
“Women would have gatherings before COVID-19, where they would listen to different candidates. With the current situation, women will miss out and have limited choice on the candidate to represent them,” Florence Acuma, the Apac District Youth Councillor, said.
“Many women were rendered jobless because of the pandemic; these have now resorted to farming. The problem is the men will remain home with the radios so the women will not have access to information,” she added.
The activists added that most female candidates cannot afford the nomination fees and charges being demanded for airtime on radios and TV to campaign.
Lillian Babirye, an activist, said: “Most of the women are aspiring for Woman Member of Parliament and not constituencies. As women aspirants, we would like the Electoral Commission to talk to stakeholders like NAB [National Association of Broadcasters] to reserve some on air space for women aspirants.”
UN Women Country Representative Dr Maxime Houinato said: “The question I would want to be addressed here is how the rural women are going to be helped participate in the elections. We have to see how the education gaps, political gaps, institution gaps are going to be addressed.”
Achayo Rose Obol, the Chairperson Board of Directors at NUWODU said: “There is a need for the EC to take forms to the grassroots, preferably with the local councils. This will ensure accessibility by all people interested in contesting for various political positions.”
Equal Opportunities Commission Chairperson Sylvia Ntambi said: “Our participation as the Equal Opportunities Commission is basically to re-emphasize the need for inclusive elections. My prayer is for all the guidelines and processes to be inclusive. That is the only way we are going to give all Ugandans a chance to participate in the electoral process. In the last 20 years, there has been an improvement in the participation of the vulnerable groups in elections. We request that as we get close to the elections, the gaps are closed.”
Mr Leonard Mulekwa, the Director Operations at EC, acknowledged that women participation in electoral processes has been low.
“In the last General Election (2016), out of the 296 parliamentary constituencies for directly elected MPs, 1,328 candidates were nominated, and only 106 were women. This is still low,” he said.
However, he said the measures and modes to be applied in the conduct of the election activities should ensure the protection of both the health of the citizens, their democratic rights, and safeguard democracy.
“The Commission was live to the COVID19 pandemic and its characteristics coupled with the nature of elections. The Commission found that it is possible to conduct election activities during this time but taking on different modes given the health risks.”
Justice Simon Byabakama said the Commission expects to gain more understanding and capacity to address issues that may affect and/or limit the participation of women as well as other vulnerable groups in elections during the COVID19 pandemic.
“The Commission has made extensive consultation with different stakeholders to discuss the procedure of fairly using different media platforms for all political candidates, including women. The health and safety of women is our concern. The Commission has put in place measures to control the spread of COVID19 before, during, and after the elections.”