Uganda Women Breaking Barriers in Politics and leadership

Christine Kyarikunda  

It’s truly remarkable how Uganda has seen a significant shift in its political landscape regarding the role of women. Historically, like in many parts of Africa, women were marginalized and relegated to domestic roles without much say in governance or decision-making processes.

The societal norms dictated that women’s primary duties were within the household, and their value was often measured by their ability to serve their husbands and bear children.

Winnie Mashaba(photo source: online)

However, the political narrative began to change, especially after Uganda gained independence in 1962. The mistreatment and disrespect towards women, including acts like rape and other inhumane actions, started to be addressed more seriously.

President Yoweri Museveni’s tenure, especially since 1986, has played a crucial role in this transformation.

Museveni’s government has actively worked towards promoting women’s rights and their participation in governance. Constitutional provisions, such as those outlined in articles 21, 33, 32, and 274 of the 1995 constitution, have provided a legal framework for gender equality and non-discrimination.

This legal backing has empowered women to challenge traditional gender roles and actively participate in politics and government programs.

The appointment of women to various leadership positions, including vice presidents, ministers, and deputy prime ministers, reflects a tangible shift towards gender inclusivity in Uganda’s political sphere.

President Museveni’s acknowledgment of women’s hard work, trustworthiness, and effectiveness in combating corruption compared to men further underscores the importance of their involvement in governance.

Moreover, the significant representation of women in the current cabinet, with over 30 out of 32 ministers being women, showcases a concrete step towards gender-balanced leadership.

This not only demonstrates a commitment to gender equality but also highlights the recognition of women’s capabilities in driving the efficient functioning of the state.

Winnies Shine NINshabaI MAtovu, LC111 Chairperson Kamwenge Town Council

Uganda’s journey towards gender equality in politics is a testament to the power of legislative reforms, political will, and societal awareness in challenging entrenched gender norms and fostering inclusive governance.

Jemimah Tumwijukye Buhanda, the 71-year-old chairperson of Shema district in southwestern Uganda is a mother, grandmother, teacher, and counselor by profession. Her  journey to leadership are one of resilience and determination.

From her early days as a school athlete, where she captained teams from primary to high school, Jemimah displayed natural leadership qualities. Her first foray into community leadership came in 1986 when she became the first female LC1 chairperson for Kitete village. Over the years, she rose through the ranks, serving as Chairperson LC11 Kyabandara in the former Bushenyi district and as a women’s councilor in Kagango subcounty, where she even won the speakership in the district council.

In the 2021 elections, Jemimah stood against three male opponents and emerged victorious as the LCV seat holder for Shema district. Despite facing discouragement, including skepticism from her own husband, and overcoming physical challenges such as a leg fracture, Jemimah’s unwavering courage and confidence propelled her forward.

Her dedication to service has not only earned her the respect and admiration of her community but has also brought tangible benefits to her husband, who now proudly supports her endeavors. Jemimah’s story serves as an inspiration to women everywhere, proving that with focus and determination, no obstacle is insurmountable.

As she continues to lead Shema district with grace and resilience, Jemimah remains committed to promoting gender equality and empowering women to participate fully in governance and development initiatives. Her legacy is a testament to the transformative power of women’s leadership in shaping a brighter future for all.”

Winnie Shine Ninshaba Matove is a pioneering figure in Kamwenge district, Uganda, breaking barriers and inspiring others through her journey in politics. After tragically losing her husband, who had won the LCIII chairperson seat for Kamwenge Town council but passed away before taking office, Winnie stepped forward to continue his legacy.

Despite facing the grief of her husband’s passing, Winnie’s active involvement in his political campaigns earned her the trust and support of the community to take over his role. In the subsequent re-elections, she courageously contested against three male opponents and emerged victorious, becoming the first female chairperson of LCIII in two decades for Kamwenge Town council.

Winnie’s belief in the importance of women’s leadership stems from her observation of successful Ugandan women in politics, such as Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, and Miria Matembe, the former Vice President. She emphasizes the inherent qualities of women, such as loyalty, mercy, and transparency, as valuable assets in governance and leadership roles.

Drawing inspiration from President Museveni’s initiatives promoting women’s emancipation and freedom, Winnie recognizes the significant progress made in challenging traditional gender norms in Ugandan society. She remains steadfast in her commitment to advancing the development of Kamwenge town, particularly focusing on infrastructure improvements to modernize the community.

Winnie’s story exemplifies the strength and determination of women in Ugandan politics, highlighting the transformative impact of female leadership on local communities. As she continues her journey in politics, Winnie serves as a beacon of hope and empowerment for women across the region, proving that gender should never be a barrier to leadership and progress.”

The stories of Jemimah Tumwijukye Buhanda and Winnie Shine Ninshaba Matove, among others, highlight the significant strides made by women in Ugandan politics and leadership. Their courage, determination, and commitment to gender equality have paved the way for greater female representation and empowerment in governance and decision-making processes.

Jemimah’s journey, from being a village leader to becoming the chairperson of Shema district, exemplifies the transformative power of women’s leadership. Despite facing discouragement and physical challenges, she remained steadfast in her pursuit of equality and justice. Her advocacies for women’s rights and active involvement in various platforms, such as church and radio talk shows, have inspired countless women to assert their voices and claim their rightful place in society.

Similarly, Winnie Shine Ninshaba Matove’s story reflects the resilience and strength of women in overcoming adversity and breaking gender barriers. Her willingness to contest for political positions traditionally held by men, coupled with her dedication to serving her community transparently and diligently, underscores the indispensable role of women in governance.

 Winnie’s emphasis on women’s loyalty, honesty, and transparency in leadership highlights the transformative potential of gender-balanced representation in public office.

The support provided by the government, through policies promoting gender equality and equity, has been instrumental in fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for women’s participation in development programs and leadership positions.

 Initiatives such as the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program (UWEP) and the Development Response to Displacement Impact Project (DRDIP) have empowered women economically and socially, enabling them to contribute meaningfully to their families and communities.

Moreover, the testimonies of beneficiaries like Christian Tusingwire and Karoli Barahuka affirm the positive impact of women’s inclusion in income-generating projects on household income and well-being.

By addressing the root causes of poverty and empowering women economically, these initiatives not only improve livelihoods but also contribute to reducing instances of domestic violence and promoting gender equality within households.

The experiences shared by these women and the support provided by government and community stakeholders are testament to Uganda’s progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in politics and development.

However, there is still work to be done to fully realize the potential of women as leaders and agents of change in Ugandan society. Continued efforts to challenge stereotypes, promote gender-sensitive policies, and foster an enabling environment for women’s participation are essential for achieving sustainable development and inclusive governance.

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