Stories from another national election: Uganda

From Ireland to Uganda

Ireland’s 2016 general election has clouded my news feed, naturally. As a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, the results affect the social and economic situation of my loved ones. So far I am unable to ‘spot’ the winning coalition through a mixture of uncertainty and hope that the one blatantly staring us in the face doesn’t come to fruition. I’m disquieted by the possibility of a Fine Gael / Fianna Fáil coalition.

One week and a day before our own general election, Yoweri Museveni was once again elected President of Uganda. Although he is credited with overseeing some political and economic stability, his fifth re-election proves once more that he is too long in his position of power. Some of the voting was reported to be unfairly rolled out. Many balloting papers did not reach certain areas deemed to be less than ‘Museveni friendly’ until late afternoon. According to The Economist, it was “It is a tactic to disenfranchise people in the opposition’s urban strongholds.”

As this 30-year story trundles on (Museveni has been in power since 1986) the world occupies itself with more pressing matters such as the Oscars and Kim Kardashian. Regardless there is still a weight on my shoulders. Why is it that those that are in need of a voice get such a small portion of the exposure?

Under the Ugandan National Development Plan women are judged to be under-represented in many political and economic forums. “Uganda’s development progress, however, continues to be constrained by gender inequalities and social vulnerabilities.” While this is true there is little being done to change this at a governmental level. NGOs, human rights organisations, and brave local women continue the battle on the ground. We try and sleep soundly at night by telling ourselves we’ve done our part by reading the article.

Leading up to the election 7 children where reportedly sacrificed in blood rituals associated with wealth and power. This did reach the world’s newspapers today however these killings began in October of last year. Children are the most vulnerable group, entirely unable to speak for themselves, and rather than give them a voice, their deaths are muffled in a sea of seemingly irrelevant garble. The world has failed those young souls.

This is not a comprehensive view of the Ugandan election story, it is merely small pieces of a puzzle I’ve picked up but have been unable to complete. It’s piqued my interest as some of the stories ran parallel to our own election. I am as equally guilty of participation in the irrelevant garble; it keeps the voices at bay.

Copyright © 2016 – All rights reserved

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FIDH 2012 Report On Women’s rights in Uganda:

Today’s Zaman:

The Economist:

Uganda’s National Development Plan:

Thoughts on Female Representatives in Irish Politics

Female Representation

As the counts for the 2016 General Election draw to a close, with 85% of the 158 seats filled, those reporting are at a loss in their coalition predictions. The polling from this short campaign has not prepared us for the voice of the public. Who will be leading the country for the next 5 years is elusive to forecast. In the midst of the discussion on the abandonment of the Labour party’s values and Fine Gael’s heavy losses, I can’t help but feel preoccupied with the uneven balance of male to female candidates.

My own Constituency of County Louth has 16 registered candidates, only 4 of whom are women. To me, 25% is not a sufficient number of female representatives when there is an equal divide of male to female citizens. While Imelda Munster is poised to be the first female candidate elected in the history of the constituency (which is disheartening in the year 2016), she will be the only female in the 5 seat constituency. This is a meager 20% representation to generations of females in the area.

Although we still do not have the results for the rest of the country we know quotas will push the number of female TD’s to 34 in the Dáil. This is opposed to the 31st Dáil having only 28 female TD’s. Even with the reduced number of seats at 158 this still only leaves us at 21.5%. While many fight over the concept of quotas and whether or not they are fair to the male candidates (is the boys club fair to the female candidates?), I consider the problem from further away. We are not sending a positive message to our young women that it is an option to become a politician if they don’t have enough female representatives. It’s not encouraged enough in schools and archaic images of women as homemaker still filters through the progressive cries of those women who have clawed their way out of the norm.

We claim as a country to be progressive and have proven this in some ways with triumphs such as the 2015 Referendum on marriage. Still, Ireland has a long way to go in regards to woman’s rights, especially when the language of our constitution lingers on a woman’s place in the home, and those that choose to work are either shirking their duties or have been given no choice due to economic circumstances. Our constitution cries out:

“2° The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

If the Irish Constitution isn’t something you haven’t read before I suggest you glance over it (there is a link below), you may be surprised how out of date the language still is. I ask you this, what is the state of female representation in 2016 Ireland? Is the tide slowly but surely turning or are we still stuck in our antiquated ways? We owe it to the women in Ireland to change attitudes about their place in society, we need to think ahead.

Copyright © 2016 – All rights reserved

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