Women Members of Parliament, female Ministers, activists, alongside women from different parts of the country gathered in the Uganda Parliament to share, discuss and find solutions to gender-related issues that affect women in Uganda.
While Uganda has had special seats for women since 1989 National Resistance Council elections, the women legislators have mostly shared the space with their male counterparts. This was the first time that the House was occupied by just women for the very first National Women’s Parliament.
It was organised by the Uganda Women Parliamentarian Association (UWOPA) and the women used the platform to several issues: laws passed that directly affect women, land issues and cultural practices like polygamy.
The Delegation of the European Union to Uganda and the West Minister Democracy Foundation, funded the event to enable women leaders from different parts of the country access the platform and share issues.
The women also demanded the passing of the Marriage and Divorce Bill, 2009.
Here are some of the issues discussed.
With the rise in women protesting against land grabbing, this was one of the issues that was bound to come up for discussion.
From Moyo district, one representative called upon Parliament to pass stronger laws to protect the people from the land grabbing. But even more importantly, to ensure that the rural women are aware of the laws.
“Parliament passes laws that are only implemented in the urban areas and not rural areas, we in the village never see these laws take effect.”
The women asked for stronger laws on alcohol, as many shared experiences on how many husbands, friends and children they were losing to alcoholism. They agreed to ask the House to enact a law that prohibits sale of alcohol in polythene bags.
“I know very many young boys who have now access to alcohol. They wake up in the morning to drink the kaveera waragi that costs only UGX 500 and then come back home to demand for food.”
Minister for Trade, Amelia Kyambadde, wants polygamy condemned. She maintains that it is the source of diseases and women suffering.
“We are all victims of polygamy. [However] none of us has talked about polygamy! Why are we silent about polygamy? It is the source of sexually transmitted diseases; source of poverty in our homes,” Ms Kyambadde said.
However, MP Huda Oleru, raising on a point of order, asked the then chairing speaker the minister was aware that Islam as a region accepts polygamy.
She said: “Knowing that the number of women is higher than the number of men, is the honourable minister fair to say we condemn polygamy and leave some women to suffer? Where will they get men?”
The issue of family planning was a common concern for the women.
State Minister for Health, Hon Opendi Sarah asked women in Uganda to know their bodies and also take control so they can avoid unwanted pregnancies.
It was a different parliament; a bigger and more inclusive platform from UWOPA meetings. Whether the discussions will pressurise the passing of laws remains to be seen.