Voters Ignorant about Upcoming Women Council Elections

Catherine Akello from Kyebando, a Kampala city suburb wondered what the women councils are and the mandate of the women council committees. She admits to having heard about the women councils in passing but added that she has never felt their relevance in the community.

Audio 4

A number of women in Kampala are ignorant about the forthcoming women's council elections. The National Women Council Act provides for the establishment of women councils in villages, parish or wards, and Sub County, divisions, town councils, counties, and districts.

For one to fully participate in this process, one must register with the electoral commission during the register compilation process. According to the Electoral Commission-EC road map, the exercise shall commence with the compilation of village Women's vote registers from June 10th to 13th, 2022 in all villages across the country. 

Uganda Radio Network-URN talked to a number of women about the forthcoming polls. Catherine Akello from Kyebando, a Kampala city suburb wondered what the women councils are and the mandate of the women council committees. She admits to having heard about the women councils in passing but added that she has never felt their relevance in the community. 

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Suleya Kimbugwe, a female voter from Lubaga Division, said that she has never heard of the women's council elections despite living in an urban area. She thinks there is poor mobilization by the Electoral Commission, which has failed to reach the ordinary person.

She says there has been no civic education by Electoral Commission to voters in her area, arguing that if there had been, her family, neighbors, and friends would be in the know and Indeed Informed her about the process.

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The story is not different for Hellen Birungi, a businesswoman who told URN that she doesn't pay attention to the women's council and knows too little about them.

She says she has lost faith in any Electoral process in Uganda and sees it as a waste of time to participate in any election. Birungi said she has not recieved any information about the elections, adding that even if she did, she wouldn't participate.

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Grace Nakawooya, a woman leader in Nakasero 4 parish, says that several women seem disinterested in the work of women Councils and rarely engage Committee members on any issues as their leaders. 

She told URN that her current membership on women's council Committees is only good for her political career growth but not to attend to the voters.  

Nakawooya thinks that women shun the elections because they are ignorant about the role of the women councils and hence choose to concentrate on their businesses than spend time electing their leaders.

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Olive Namazzi, the Women Lord Councilor for Nakawa A blames the Electoral Commission for failure to conduct enough civic education to popularize the women's council elections.  She explains that when the commission released the roadmap for the elections, it was written in English and published on the Commission's website making it inaccessible to the many less-educated women.

Namazzi argues that the Commission’s failure on its job to conduct civic education is likely to deny many women their right to participate in the political process. She wants the Electoral Commission to invest more in mobilizing the electorate than concentrate on merely delivering the election.

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Charity Ahimbisibwe, the Executive Director of Electoral Laws Institute, says that Civil Society organizations play a big role in mobilizing and sensitizing the public to exercise their right and duty to participate in elections.

She, however, notes that often time, the Electoral Commission delays generating and approving messages to be disseminated by anyone conducting civic education. 

Section 12 subsection one (i) of the Electoral Commission Act gives the Commission the mandate to accredit any nonpartisan individual, group of individuals or an institution or association to carry out voter education subject to guidelines determined by the commission and published in the Gazette.

In 2018, the Commission terminated its relationship with the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), one of the civil society organizations which had been accredited to conduct voter education. 

The Commission Chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama accused CCEDU of conducting itself in a partisan manner. This was after Ahimbisibwe who was then CCEDU's Communications manager referred to the 2018 women's Council elections as a sham.

Charles Mashate, the head of voter education and training at the Electoral Commission, says that the commission is conducting civic education but is often limited by finances. 

He, however, couldn't point to any of the messages running in relation to the women's council elections. According to the National Women’s Council Act, a village women’s council comprises of every woman resident in the village, a parish or ward women’s council consists of all the members of the village women’s committees in the parish or ward while the sub-county, division or town women’s council consisting of all the members of the parish or ward women’s committees in the Sub County, division or town.   

The county women’s council consists of all members of the sub-county, division, or town women’s committees in the county while the district women’s council consists of all members of the county women’s committees in the district and women’s representatives in Parliament. The National Women’s Executive Committee is elected by the members of the lower council.