“Power is never given on a silver platter, power is fought for and captured. As women leaders, be ready to fight for and claim your space in the corridors of power”. These remarks were made by Solome Nakawesi, an international consultant who was the lead facilitator for FOWODE’s Effective Legislative Engagement training of newly elected women Members of Parliament.
Uganda has seen an increase in the participation of women in national politics. For instance, currently, women hold 43% of the cabinet positions compared 28% in 2011. However, this increase has not been translated to an improvement in service delivery and gender responsive planning and budgeting. This has been attributed to a number of reasons such as the uneven field where women are more at a disadvantage financially, they are sexually harassed and often times bullied into ‘second-class’ seats.
As an organization invested in leadership building for women, FOWODE is contributing towards changing this narrative by ensuring that the women leaders sent to Parliament are equipped with skills to effectively legislate and utilize their position of power to influence gender responsive policy making and budgeting.
On Friday 15th October, FOWODE rolled out its first cohort of Effective Legislative Engagement. The 3-day training was organized in partnership with UNNGOFF and with support from USAID. It was held at Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe.
During the 3-day residential training the leaders were equipped with all round skills. Discussed topics included Journey of Finding Oneself, Gender and Disrupting Power, Transformative Feminist Leadership, Effective Legislation and Autonomy and Agency financial management.
Leonard Okello, the CEO Uhuru Institute, informed the Parliamentarians that “Parliament is a place with bullies, so as a woman leader you have to be very intentional.” He added, “When women lead effectively, we will see a change in the prioritization of issues of women”
Monica Amoding, a former Member of Parliament, cautioned the newly elected Parliamentarians to watch their finances. She stressed the need for them to start saving money for their next campaigns, while at the same time saving for their time post Parliament.
Other facilitators such as Joan Mugenzi, a life coach highlighted the importance of self-discovery. She urged them to understand their personalities to be effective legislators. Nakawesi added; “Any leader who is not aware of themselves can’t be an effective leader.”
Perry Aritua, the executive director for Women Democracy Network, urged the women Parliamentarians to take advantage of the women’s movement. She noted that it was important for them to align themselves with knowledgeable people, such that when they appear before the floor of Parliament or in the media they are armed with facts. Joyce Bagala, woman Member of Parliament Mityana, advised that women leaders stop shying away from media appearances.
The women Parliamentarians also shared about different strategies that they use to ensure that services are reaching their constituents without necessarily picking money from their pockets. For instance, Kasanda woman Member of Parliament- Flavia Nabagabe tipped her colleagues on the use of corporate companies to donate basic goods such as soap to constituencies. She shared about an experience where the constituents kept demanding for one of their oldest schools to be repainted. “I wrote a proposal to a painting company requesting them to paint the school. Luckily, the proposal was approved and the school was repainted,” she narrated, adding that acts such as these go along way in ensuring that constituents feel the MP’s presence.
Another Member noted that her strategy is to find out when National Medical Stores will be delivering drugs in her constituency. Once she finds this information out, she then goes on radio stations and starts announcing the availability of drugs. And this has worked wonders for her in her constituency.