2021 General Elections New Campaign Guidelines are Not All Inclusive
The Uganda Electoral Commission on Tuesday 16th June 2020 in a revised electoral roadmap announced a ban on mass campaign rallies for the 2021 general elections due to COVID19. The Electoral Commission Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama revealed that instead of the traditionally used methods of campaign rallies and door to door mobilization, campaigns will this time around be conducted using broadcast and digital media.
The revised polling calendar that was released indicates that the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections are scheduled to take place between January 10th and February 8th 2021. Unlike previous elections, Byabakama said, this time around due to the coronavirus pandemic, there will be no mass campaign rallies.
Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) as a women’s rights organization continues to advocate for a Ugandan society where women and men equally participate in and benefit from decision-making processes. We have been at the forefront of advocating for inclusive democratic and governance processes and ensuring that women are not left behind.
The broadcast and online campaigns will alienate a majority of potential women leaders due to limited access to internet by most Ugandans, the unequal distribution of airtime on broadcast media and the very high costs for purchasing broadcast media airtime.
According to the UDHS report 2016, men are more likely (10%) than women (5%) to access all three forms of media (newspaper, television, and radio) on a weekly basis. Slightly more than one-third (35%) of women and nearly one quarter (24%) of men do not access any of the three media on a weekly basis. Men are more as likely as women (23% versus 9%) to have used the internet in the past 12 months
The Electoral Commission should consider some offline activities in some communities to allow aspiring candidates to hold consultation meetings where candidates can meet their electorates and campaign managers in groups of at least 15 people and also door-to-door consultations while observing standard operating procedures.
With the COVID19 scare still around, we call upon the Electoral Commission to firmly engage with its sister agencies like Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the Uganda Broadcasting Council to ensure that all candidates are given equal and cost-efficient broadcast airtime. UCC should also suspend the ban on megaphone community radios commonly known as ‘bizindalo’ to enable those with less financial muscle to access the electorate.
The essence of democracy calls for active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life, protection of the human rights of all citizens and a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens. Most women aspiring candidates are not ICT savvy nor do they have the financial power to facilitate payment of broadcast media airtime and internet data costs.
Leave No Woman Behind!
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