Women issues during elections in Uganda

Author: J.J Opondo.


By J. J. Opondo

Tororo—August 5, 2020: In every election in Uganda, women are reminded that their freedom is a preserve of the current government’s spiritual achievement and that it should be rewarded with praises and constitutional rights to vote like what The Bible in the Book of Deuteronomy teaches and the tithe in Deuteronomic Law was not an obligation to the giver.

But the impression we get in the book of Deuteronomy is that of an obligation placed on the giver because the LORD gave the possession and emphasised every Sunday save for Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s the time our sisters, mothers, sengas take issues of constitutional rights to vote so seriously in this forthcoming elections because its implications go far beyond just voting but rather, it must guarantee the future of our children’s children.

We should stop being lied to that NRMO brought freedom or women liberation. No way, women liberation started in Europe during an industrial revolution in the 1800s.

The Industrial Revolution in part was fuelled by the economic necessity of many women, single and married, to find waged work outside their home like in Uganda today. Women mostly found jobs in domestic service, textile factories, and piece workshops. They also worked in the coal mines. For some, the Industrial Revolution provided independent wages, mobility and a better standard of living. For the majority, however, factory work in the early years of the 19th century resulted in a life of hardship.

The following selections are testimonies from England and Wales, collected by Parliamentary commissions who began to investigate the industrial employment of women and children in the early 1840s. Inspectors visited mills, mines and shops taking evidence from workers to see ways in which the Industrial Revolution affected women and families which isn’t the case in Uganda. Their findings revealed thus;

Working conditions were often unsanitary and the work dangerous.

Education suffered because of the demands of work.

Home life suffered as women were faced with the double burden of factory work followed by domestic chores and child care.

Men assumed supervisory roles over women and received higher wages.

Unsupervised young women away from home generated societal fears over their fate.

As a result of the need for wages in the growing cash economy, families became dependent on the wages of women and children.

There was some worker opposition to proposals that child and female labor should be abolished from certain jobs.

When the above situation was unfolding in Europe women’s suffrage, in the United States of America were equally taking shape and the legal right of women to vote, was established over the course of more than half a century, first in various states and localities, sometimes on a limited basis, and then nationally in 1920.

The demand for women’s suffrage began to gather strength in the 1840s, emerging from the broader movement for women’s rights. In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention, passed a resolution in favour of women’s suffrage despite opposition from some of its organizers, who believed the idea was too extreme.

By the time of the first National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850, however, suffrage was becoming an increasingly important aspect of the movement’s activities.

The first national suffrage organizations were established in 1869 when two competing organizations were formed, one led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the other by Lucy Stone. After years of rivalry, they merged in 1890 as the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) with Anthony as its leading force.

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which was the largest women’s organization at that time, was established in 1873 and also pursued women’s suffrage, giving a huge boost to the movement.

Hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court would rule that women had a constitutional right to vote, suffragists made several attempts to vote in the early 1870s and then filed lawsuits when they were turned away. Anthony actually succeeded in voting in 1872 but was arrested for that act and found guilty in a widely publicized trial that gave the movement fresh momentum.

After the Supreme Court ruled against them in the 1875 case of Minor v. Happersett, suffragists began the decades-long campaign for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would enfranchise women. Much of the movement’s energy, however, went toward working for suffrage on a state-by-state basis.

In 1916, Alice Paul formed the National Woman’s Party (NWP), a militant group focused on the passage of a national suffrage amendment. Over 200 NWP supporters, the Silent Sentinels, were arrested in 1917 while picketing the White House, some of whom went on hunger strike and endured forced feeding after being sent to prison.

Under the leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt, the two-million-member NAWSA also made a national suffrage amendment its top priority. After a hard-fought series of votes in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures, the Nineteenth Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution on August 18, 1920.

It states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

The struggle were brought to light when women’s contribution to the war effort challenged the notion of women’s physical and mental inferiority and made it more difficult to maintain that women were, both by constitution and temperament, unfit to vote. If women could work in munitions factories, it seemed both ungrateful and illogical to deny them a place in the voting booth.

But the vote was much more than a reward for war work; the point was that women’s participation in the war helped to dispel the fears that surrounded women’s entry into the public arena before the coming into of UDHR in 1948.

Universal declaration of human rights 1948.

Men and women of full age, with no limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution and the declaration gave more momentum.

Numerous international and regional instruments have drawn attention to gender-related dimensions of human rights issues, the most important being the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979.

In 1993, 45 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, and eight years after CEDAW entered into force, the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna confirmed that women’s rights were human rights. 

Ladies, your wars were fought already, and it’s nonnationalistic, diabolical. African leaders who are using this public information knowing that you may not know and Uganda being a basket case, use it retrospectively against women in Uganda.

More frustrating to note is that since Uganda became a state party like other African states, there’s low priority given to comprehensive legal reforms to eliminate sex-discriminatory provisions and to close legislative gaps in order to bring the country’s legal framework fully into compliance with the provisions of the Convention and to achieve women’s de jure equality.

The Marriage and Divorce Bill, the Sexual Offences Bill and the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill, Comprehensive Electoral Amendment Bill (citizens compact 2014) that would have eliminated discrimination against women engaged in elections are passed into and ensure government fulfils and comply with its state party obligations.

Annoying thing to note is that what happened in Europe and America in 18th century is what our dear mothers go through in 21st century and the situation is more dire for women ex-convicts, who are faced with stigma due to lack of social-economic policy to address their reintegration into the society and most of them, if not all, at the end of prison life, everything including assets, properties left behind are confiscated either to meet legal costs or grabbed by their relatives and community life reduced to misery.

There’s still in place other legislation and customary practices that discriminate against women and are incompatible with the Constitution of Uganda of 1995 as amended.   

UPC envisioned a world where women, children, youths and men are free from all forms of discrimination.

In my 100 days in office as your MP of West Budama County Central, I will move a motion in parliament to ensure that all unpassed legislation lying idle, be passed into Law to give effect to women’s rights in Ugandan society.

Please, say no to NRAMO hoodwinking, nonsensical stereotyping of women’s issues during elections as its programs or agenda. It’s the World’s order and Uganda is accountable to international standards for enforcement of those declarations, treaties and national constitution at our cost moreover!

We lack political will and focused leadership to address women issues.

Ladies, please don’t be lied to anymore.

The author is a candidate for a Member of Parliament, West Budama County Central—Tororo, 2021-26

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