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UGANDA: WOMEN IN PARLIAMENT


WOMEN IN PARLIAMENT: UNDERSTANDING THE TERRAIN, MAKING A DIFFERENCE


With many Parliaments around the world still struggling to increase the numbers of women Members, it is the obstacles faced by many women – even after gaining a seat – that deter others from following suit. AMember of the Parliament of Uganda argues that political participation is a process that is constantly developing and evolving, and is one that requires the efforts of both men and women to work together as agents of change.


Hon. Betty Amongi, MP Ms Amongi has been a Member of the Parliament from Uganda since 2006. She has been much involved in the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, especially gender-related work, and served as the 2nd Vice President of the IPU Women’s Bureau (2012-2014) and also the President of the 17th Women Meeting in 2012. She has also been the Chairperson of the Uganda Woman Parliamentary Association as well as the Commonwealth Women Parliamentary Association’s Uganda Chapter since 2011.


Hon. Betty Amongi, MP Introduction


I regard the key principles outlined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one of the most powerful guiding documents of our time. It embodies a simple, but powerful message that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. With the declaration, it was made clear that such rights are not conferred by government; they are the birth right of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or who we are. We are human, and therefore we have rights, which governments are bound to protect.


174 | The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three


In the 65 years since the declaration was adopted, many nations have made great progress in making human rights a human reality. Barriers that once prevented people from enjoying the full measure of freedom, the full experience of dignity, and the full benefits of humanity have slowly fallen away. In many countries, racist laws have been repealed, and legal and social practices that relegated women to second-class status have been abolished. Today, I can tell you that in many countries around the world, the issue is no longer about whether women should participate in public spheres. Instead it is about how to facilitate and fast track the participation of women in all spheres of life. This can be attested by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) data, indicating that many countries have made progress in enhancing women’s participation in the political sphere. Saudi Arabia, recognized as one of the most conservative monarchies in the world, were women are still not allowed to drive, appointed 30 women to join the previously all-male Shura Council in 2013.


Comrades in the struggle will agree that in most cases, progress was not easily won. People fought and organized and campaigned in public squares and private spaces to change not only laws, but hearts and minds. Thanks to the work of the previous generations, millions of women are now able to live more freely and participate in the political, economic, and social lives of their communities.


Today I contend that the main task for our generation is to accomplish what the previous generations fought for: achieving equality for all. I implore you all to fight to give women and girls a chance to achieve their full potential to be on equal footing with men and boys. Democracy must ensure that its core imperative is to ensure that every human being is treated equally. If we do not realize a campaign for women’s rights and opportunities, the world we want to live in, the country we all love and cherish will not be what it should be.


To quote a paragraph from the U.S. constitution: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” This


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