As part of the activities organized to mark the International Women’s Day, the School of Women and Gender Studies held a public dialogue to deliberate on the role of the youth and women in elections.
The event took place at the School premises on 10th March, 2016. Organized under the theme; “A Torch on the 2016 Elections: The Youth ‘Dividend’ and Women’s Engagement”, the dialogue sought to create space for the youth and other stakeholders to draw out key lessons from and for youth engagement from a gender perspective.
The day’s panelists included Assoc. Prof. Josephine Ahikire, Dean, School of Women and Gender Studies; Dr Brenda Bonnabaana, Lecturer and Tourism, Gender & Development Specialist - Makerere University; Ms Sophie Nabukenya, student, Bachelor of Social Sciences, majoring in Gender studies; and Mr Isaac Ahimbisiibwe, student, MA in Gender Studies.
Addressing participants, Assoc. Prof. Ahikire, said the youth and women were a powerful resource in the 2016 general elections but did not put their energy to proper use. “Most of them were seen dancing for candidates. Instead of holding their leaders accountable, many youth were serving as militias and a lot of their energy was channeled to acts of violence,” she said. She however noted that the increasing vulnerability among the youth and women resulting from, among other things, unemployment, could have influenced to course of events in the 2016 elections. She said the female youth were invisible during the elections because the role crafted out for youth is masculine.
Assoc. Prof. Ahikire implored the youth to demand a different kind of participation. She also appealed to government to engage youth in mainstream politics.
Ms Boonabaana argued that the exaggerated role of money in politics frustrated youth and women participation in the 2016 elections. “Some female youth opted to indulge with loaded men to fund their campaigns, a factor that put their lives at stake,” she said. Despite the challenges, Ms Boonabaana urged the youth to actively participate in politics. “The more youth engage in politics, the more opportunities and contribution to the development of their country.”
The participants, mainly youth reiterated the fact that commercialization of politics was increasing sexual exploitation. They also argued that the construction of femininity was depriving women of their power to participate in politics.
Mr Katumba Salim, a former student in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, advised aspiring politicians to always stick to their principles in seeking elective positions to avoid manipulation. He called for term limits on political offices.
The dialogue was moderated by Dr Peace Musiimenta, a Lecturer at the School of Women and Gender Studies.
It was attended by among others a representative from UWONET, academic staff and the former Dean, School of Women and Gender Studies, Dr Consolata Kabonesa.
International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. This year’s campaign theme is “Pledge for Gender Parity”.
See Dr Musiimenta's presentation below