Mentoring young women for leadership

Sarah Nankame (R) and Rose Kyotungire (L) discuss mentoring young women on this week’s episode.

How would you describe the current mentorship environment for young women in Uganda looking to actively take up leadership? Would you say  that our education systems are contributing to or standing in the way of women reaching their full leadership potential? Do you agree that mentorship starts right from home? This week’s episode of FasiFas! focuses on mentoring young women into leadership with emphasis on the role played by schools, communities, existing systems and the young people themselves in reaching their full leadership potential.

According to Ms. Sarah Nankame, a program manager at MEMPROW, a Mentoring and Empowerment Program for Young Women, there is a number of NGOs that have gone a long way in building capacities and mentoring women looking to join leadership.However, even today, across all societies and communities, young women from all backgrounds are still shying away from leadership.

One of the reasons highlighted is the lack of career guidance from a young age. We see a lot of concentration on the boy-child in homes and schools. Research shows that most of our leaders today managed to develop leadership traits because they nurtured them at an early stage in life. Take for instance Ms Winnie Kiiza, the Leader of Opposition. Winnie was a leader even as a young woman. She was an avid debater in her school days. Her debating passion saw her get selected to travel to Norway to articulate children’s rights in the 1991 Children’s Rights Convention. She was also a class monitor, head prefect, netball captain, chairperson of Scripture Union – a Christianity club in schools. These school leadership positions prepared her for future roles.This proves not only the vast role played by mentoring done in school clubs, but also that you can start your national leadership journey at community level.

We also see subtle discrimination against women in the career world. Organisations are quick to claim support for women empowerment but will still have a gross gender imbalance in leadership and decision-making roles with women at a disadvantage.

The responsibility also lies with the young  leaders to look out for programs that offer mentorship and read extensively.  “If you’re aspiring to become a leader, you as a young person have to look out for information, know and love to read, because as a young leader you  have to be knowledgeable. Make the effort to look for these opportunities”, says Flavia Kalule Nabagabe, Chairperson of Young African Leaders Initiative, RLC East Africa- Uganda Chapter.

We all have a responsibility to mentor and nurture young people around us, whether by placing young people at the center of leadership, policy and governance activities or empowering young people economically.  A mentor can be anyone who assists another in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth.

NGOs like MEMPROW, FEMRITE, ZIMBA WOMEN, UWOPA and many others have already embarked on mentoring young women to become leaders in their fields. In schools, we have teachers like Catherine Nakabugo, a teacher of Math and Science, who mentors her students to establish a number of successful school businesses that help them learn valuable life skills as well as strengthening their academic skills such as Math through working on the accounts.

It’s important for all Ugandans to be part of the mentorship cycle. Being a mentor does not imply that you are an expert. It’s sharing the experience we’ve gained with those who are in a position that we once were either as an individual or as an organiation. Each one of us, man or woman is where they are because in one way or the other, someone guided or shared advice with them.  It is our duty to reach out to the young women in our communities and offer the same hand by mentoring them.

Catherine Nakabugo, a teacher of Math and Science, is a mentor who has helped her students to establish a number of successful school businesses that help them learn valuable life skills as well as strengthening their academic skills such as Math through working on the accounts. She was one of the top 50 Global Teacher Prize 2018 nominees.



Why Fasi Fasi?

Women’s participation in politics especially running for open political leadership posts is minimal. A number of factors including domestic violence, social, economic and society’s attitudes towards gender roles of women hinder women’s participation in politics. For example, men have used propaganda like women are supposed to run for women MP, female councillor seats to unfairly campaign against women who decide to contest for direct political seats.

Such propaganda would have easily been challenged if the electorate had proper civic education. Any one can run for any political seat as long as it is not restricted to particular special interest group.

This brings us to this week’s  episode on Fasi Fasi talk show. Why Fasi Fas! is the episode we are running on Thursday 15th March 2018. Please tune in to NBS Television at 8:30pm for this explanatory episode as we prepare even more fabulous shows in the coming weeks.

As you might have noticed, Fasi Fas! aims at enhancing women’s participation in political leadership by highlighting the issues that affect women’s participation in politics. Unlocking the social and psychological matters that hinder women from accessing top political offices is the first step towards enhancing women’s political participation.

Deconstructing patriarchal society that looks at women as helpers instead of equal partners is a good starting point. As such, women have to know their civic duties and rights. All people have to know and respect the rights of women as fellow human beings.

Societal beliefs like wife beating is a sign of love should be debunked. This week Member of Parliament for Bugangaizi East, Onesimus Twinamasiko, claimed it was okay for a man to somehow beat his wife as a way of instilling discipline. Too bad, that these words came from a youthful member of parliament who is supposed to be championing women’s rights.

But again, this is a reality we have to face. They say better the devil you know than  those who profess to support women’s rights and freedoms yet when at home they mistreat their wives. Recently, there was a domestic violence case about a “human rights activist” who had been battering his wife day and night  for years until, the wife decided enough of this torture and went public.

Until we have more and more women coming out to condemn patriarchal tendencies like those reflected in the utterances of the MP and domestic violence orchestrated by men including those who profess to be “human rights” activists, women will continue to die in silence.  Such perceptions and attitudes about women have to change.

Fasi Fas! aims to show that attitudes like “women should be within the house not in the public space” belong to the past. Here is why. Women comprise 52% of the population of Uganda.  In the previous general elections, 47.5% of candidates for the lower local government leadership positions were women.

However, women participation is still low at higher offices like District Chairperson, Direct Constituency MP and presidential seats. In 2016 elections, only 7 (1.9%) women contested for district chairpersons out of 383 candidates, 83 (6.8%) female candidates participated in direct constituency parliament seats out of 1,306 candidates and one female presidential candidate out of eight. At the end, only three women managed to win district seats and 19 directly elected MP seats.

Whereas, Uganda’s electoral laws don’t discriminate against women and men, women are facing some peculiar challenges, due to the social, economic and cultural construction of Ugandan society. These include: less access to resources than their male counterparts; gender roles which at times prevent them participating in politics; religious and cultural obstacles to their participation; and domestic violence among others.

So where are the women leaders? Apart from district women MPs, majority of women leaders in local governments are councillors representing women at the district and sub-county levels. Fewer women still, manage  to beat men in elections mainly due to societal perceptions of women and men. Female candidates are for instance asked to show their husbands, dress traditionally, things which are in many cases not asked from men. Good enough, attitudes on women in Ugandan communities are not the same. There are communities which are more progressive and more receptive of female leadership than others.

Panelists of episode 3

This calls for civic education to partly address this challenge. Our people need to know that women too can make good and better leaders. They should know that women have rights to vote political candidates of their choice, that women can run for any political office as long as they have the qualifications. So, let’s create way for the women leadership in Uganda. Fasi Fasi, make way.

Civic education is a function of the Electoral Commission and Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). But most often, these government bodies complain that they are constrained by budget so they cannot carry out meaningful civic education. Voter education is a role of the Electoral Commission while human rights education is supposed to be provided by UHRC.

One of the 2016 election observer reports recommends that the Electoral Commission should use all possible means to provide voter information on the voting process as per the Electoral Commission Amendment Act 2015; intensify clarity on the requirements for voting e.g. the identification card, and the voter’s registry; and educate the masses on the biometric system.

Why your political participation matters

Voter apathy and lack of interest to participate in politics are a growing concern in Uganda. Lack of participation of all citizens in the country’s political processes denies it some of the best minds and leaders. This, consequently, aids the election of  incompetent leaders into political offices. Incompetent leaders don’t deliver services effectively.

Let’s look at the numbers. According to the 2014 national population census, 45% of Ugandans are aged 18 and above. The Electoral Commission reported that a total of 15.2 million Ugandans registered to vote in the 2016 elections. Of these 8,027,803 were female while 7,249,394 were male voters.

However, only 10,327,385 turned up to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections, implying that nearly 5 million registered voters did not bother to vote.

Prior to the elections, NRM party had bragged it had bragged it had over 8 million members. But the official election results showed that President Museveni won the election with 5.9 million votes, followed by FDC party’s Kizza Besigye at 3.5 million.

Left to Right: Fasifasi Show panelists,Sandra Ahamya, lawyer, Hilda Bahati, Life Coach, Elone Natumanya, Parliamentary and Youth Affairs, and Nelly Owomugisha, speaker and trainer, pose after recording the episode.

The intriguing question is why the 5 million Ugandans stayed away from voting for their preferred presidential and parliamentary candidates. Why the indifference and how do we get more people, especially women, involved in the political process?

These are of the questions our panelists on #Fasifasi show that airs on NBS television will try to answer in today’s (Thursday 15 February 2018) at 8:30pm East African Standard Time. Here is a tip of what’s coming up on #Fasifasi show tonight. Be sure to watch.

Political apathy is dangerous to the country’s democratic process. It can lead to legitimacy questions for those elected by a few. Voter apathy remains high among the highly educated Ugandans because they have somehow lost faith in the country’s political system. The danger of not participating in political processes is that ineffective leaders are elected which results in average performance and mediocre service delivery.

It’s important that all Ugandans exercise their constitution mandate of voting and participating in the country’s political processes.

Speak out on sexual harassment

News that Justice Lydia Mugambe has given Makerere University two weeks to file its defence against a law suit on sexual harassment should be applauded given that  last week on Fasifasi show we discussed this topic. According to the news article, a former student of the University has sued the varsity administration for failing to protect her from sexual harassment which traumatized her.

In Uganda, fewer women are willing to report sexual harassment to authorities or even talk about it openly. Sometimes the victim of sexual harassment is blamed. This discourages more women to come out to publicly say they experienced sexual harassment.

Yet sexual harassment is a prevalent vice in Uganda. Although there is a law on sexual harassment tacked in the 2006 Employment Act, many working women continuously face harassment from unscrupulous men. Some husbands have gone ahead to stop their wives from working in the formal sector under the guise of protecting them against sexual harassment.

Panelists who discussed sexual harassment last week on Fasifasi

What Uganda’s law says…

  • Sexual harassment is prohibited under the laws.
  • Each employer employing more than 25 workers is required to have in place measures to prevent sexual harassment occurring at their workplace usually referred to as a “Sexual Harassment Policy”.
  • Failure to have such a policy by the Employer work is unlawful and could result in a penalty.

Frequency of sexual harassment in Uganda

  • Every day, women and men in Uganda are sexually harassed, at the workplace, in the taxi parks, on the bus, on the street, and even sadly, in their homes.
  • Women continue to tell of stories of how their superiors at workplaces demand that they sleep with them before they can get a promotion.
  • At university campuses, girls find themselves having to ward off young and old men who feel entitled to sex just because he bought her a plate of chips and chicken.
  • The issue is also that Uganda is a patriarchal society. The culture and systems generally see to it that men are treated as more superior beings, whose every whim needs to be pleased.

The 2016 Uganda Demographic Household Survey shows that sexual violence happens more to women than men.

“Women in Uganda are more than twice as likely to experience sexual violence as men. More than 1 in 5 women age 15-49 (22 percent) report that they have experienced sexual violence at some point in time compared with fewer than 1 in 10 (8 percent) men. Thirteen percent of women and 4 percent of the men reported experiencing sexual violence in the 12 months preceding the survey. Women age 15-19 are less likely (5 percent) to report recent experience of sexual violence age than older women (13-16 percent.”

Sexual harassment happens in higher offices as well. For example:

  • In 2014, Kampala Woman MP Nabillah Naggayi Sempala said female legislators are sexually harassed by their male counterparts.
  • In 2013, year Proscovia Alengot, one the youngest female MPs in the 9th parliament claimed she too was being sexually harassed.

The victims of sexual harassment are not just women. Men too also claim they are sexually harassment although women experience more incidences of sexual harassment than men.

  • A 2008 survey by New Vision newspaper found that 30% of male Makerere University lecturers were sexually harassed by the students.
  • According to the survey, the forms of harassment were manifested in indecent dressing, sexual innuendos, etc. “78% of lecturers complained that the girls were deliberately dressing indecently or exposing their body parts, while 40% said girls made unnecessary visits to their offices. Lecturers also reported that female students winked at them (34%), deliberately.” brushed their bodies against them (22%), tickled their palms (16%) and stroked their breasts while speaking to them.

Achilles’ heel

  • Few Ugandans know of Employment (Sexual Harassment) Regulations, 2012, and dimensions of sexual harassment. Most Ugandans equate harassment to only touching private parts, especially of women. Yet harassment applies to any verbal or physical abuse or behaviour that unreasonably interferes with work or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
  • Weak law. Sexual harassers can be convicted under Regulation 19 to a Shs120,000 fine or imprisonment for up to three months, or both.
  • A Master’s Degree thesis on sexual harassment in Uganda police by Samuel Kyomukama found out that women police officers experienced sexual harassment but rarely reported it as harassment. When the harassment became unbearable the victim policewomen would ask to retire from the police force.
  • Sadly,sexual harassment at the workplace still goes unnoticed, and is often swept under the carpet because the victims fear losing their jobs or being victimized.

Way forward

Nevertheless, we all have to speak out on sexual harassment. Report the perpetrators to police. The police officers should handle cases of sexual harassment faster and humanely.


How political violence affects women’s participation

How does violence affect women’s participation in politics? That’s the question we’ll be answering on #FasiFasi this Thursday 8 Feb 2018 on @nbstv at 8:30pm. Listed below are some of the highlights of the nature of political violence in Uganda and its effect on women’s participation in politics.

Fear of political violence always builds up each time Uganda heads for elections at presidential, parliamentary and local government levels.

This political violence may not always be physical. It can be verbal threats from the military like “we shall not salute any other elected president apart from so and so” or outright intimidation of owners of venues where competing political candidates intend to hold rallies. Therefore, electoral violence manifests itself in different forms for the purpose of controlling others.

The most pronounced election-related violence was in 2001 when Major Kakoza Mutale and his gang moved around the country beating up supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye. Mutale was never apprehended and many voters were intimidated.

Panelists discussing how politically motivated violence affects women’s participation.

In the 2016 elections there was violence between supporter of presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi and those of the ruling political party, NRM, candidate in Ntungamo district, South Western Uganda,  an act that provoked President Museveni to say the perpetrators of this violence had “touched the leopard’s anus”. Soon police had to act by arresting several supporters of Mbabazi leaving more people intimidated in attending political campaign rallies of their favourite candidates.

Most times the police violently break up opposition rallies, processions and demonstrations accusing the politicians of holding illegal assemblies.

On the election day of especially presidential and parliamentary candidates there is usually heavy deployment of the military armed to teeth. This creates fear in many voters who decide not to show up for voting.

Political violence intimidates the voters causing some to avoid exercising their constitution rights to vote and participate.

Women politicians have not been spared either. Ingrid Turinawe, had her breasts fondled before cameras during her arrest, brutal arrest of women opposition politicians like Fatuma Naigaga, Nabila Sempala, some nearly undressed scares many women from participating in elective politics,

Over 20,000 crime preventers were recruited during the 2016 election campaigns. These crime preventers are accused by the political opposition of violence and intimidating opposition supporters.

Because most electoral violence usually happens in military or quasi military governments, the immediate effect of political violence is for the citizens to find safe zones.

Several studies show that military governments mark those who politically disagree with their policies as enemies. The militarism is relied on to settle political disagreements. As a result, in Uganda, you have more women who fear to stand on opposition political cards because they will be targeted by the police and other government agencies.



How commercialization of politics affects women’s participation

In central Uganda, there is a saying that goes: “atalina sente tafumita lizindazi”, which literally implies a person without money cannot pierce (eat) bread. Yes, in Uganda today, it’s increasingly becoming clear that only those with a lot of money stand a better chance to get elected into (pierce?) political offices. Money is playing a critical role in politics.

It is on this account that, in our third episode of our series: “enhancing women’s participation in leadership“, we discuss the role of money in Uganda’s politics. How are women affected by commercialization of politics?

There is no scientific study on the actual cost of becoming a political leader at any level in Uganda. But evidently individuals who run for political offices in this country are spending lots of money to sweet-talk voters. The guys who vote seem to be concerned about money not ideas.

Candidates in local and national political offices spend on: election posters and fliers, hiring venues, public address systems, transport, facilitation to campaign agents, nomination and registration fees paid to the electoral commission. All these are normal costs.

Fasi Fasi episode 3 Panelists: women’s rights activist, Penlope Sanyu (Left), human rights lawyer, counsellor Zaituni Kakyama (2nd Left), Nicholas Opiyo (2nd Right), journalist Jacky Kemigisa (Right)

However, one particular problem is developing. That is a vice of paying the voters. Much as it is criminal to buy goodies for voters, often times the political candidates are confronted by voters to buy them alcohol, sugar, soap, salt, clothes, among other goodies. Sometimes the politicians entice the voters to take up these things in a hope that they will be voted back. That’s a tragedy for our country.

In addition to paying the nomination costs which vary depending on the seat one is contesting for, another cost of bribing voters is making running for political office very expensive for the poor. Consequently, those without money but good leadership abilities and ideas will be locked out.

Continue reading How commercialization of politics affects women’s participation

Why Uganda’s women struggle to get into politics

In the second episode of Fasi Fasi show which is airing today on NBS TV at 8:30pm, the debate is about perceptions of women leadership.

Without doubt women are underrepresented at all levels leadership across the world. In Uganda, even when women comprise 51% of  the country’s population, their participation as candidates in general elections especially those running for the open seats is worryingly low.

According to the 2014 Uganda population census, there are 34.85 million Ugandans. Women make 17.9 million (51%) of the total Uganda population. Men are 16.9 million (49%).

18th Jan 2018 on NBS TV_3
Panelists discussing how to deal with negative perceptions of women leadership.

For instance in the 2016 general elections, out of the eight presidential candidates, only one was female representing 12.5 %, while out of the 1,306 candidates contesting for the open Member of Parliament seats, only 83 (6.8%) were women. Continue reading Why Uganda’s women struggle to get into politics