Source: New Vision A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, remarked Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. This is perhaps the best way to explain the long journey Ugandan women have trekked on the leadership track.
Ten years after independence, the violence that swept Uganda in the wars of the late 1970s (ousting Idi Amin) and early 1980s (NRA guerilla war) greatly affected women and they were denied some of the basic rights. This, some activists believe, was the turning point for women because the hardships strengthened their independence and zeal to work hard and aspire for leadership positions.
In the late 1980s, President Yoweri Museveni’s NRA (now NRM) government pledged to eliminate discrimination against women in official policy and practice. Women like Rhoda Kalema, a former a secretary to the ‘Status of Women’ sub-committee of the Uganda Council of Women participated in the founding of the Uganda Patriotic Movement which later became the NRA/NRM.
Besides, women like Maj. Dorah Kutesa, Capt. Olivia Zizinga, Col. Proscovia Nalweyiso and Janat Mukwaya, played active roles in the guerilla war that brought President Yoweri Museveni to power.
To mark the beginning of women’s participation in decision making at a higher level, President Museveni appointed Joan Kakwenzire to a six-member commission to document abuses by the military after the war.
The government also declared that each district would have a woman representative on the National Resistance Council (now district woman MPs). There are currently 112 woman MPs in addition to those who trounced men in various constituencies in the recent elections. Women are now sitting in 35% of 375 available MP seats, up from the previous parliament’s 30%.
Earlier in 1987, President Museveni appointed Joyce Mpanga as minister for women and development, and she announced the government’s intention to raise women’s wages, increase their access to loans and employment opportunities as well as improve their general livelihood.
By 1989, there were two women serving as ministers and three serving as deputy ministers in the NRM cabinet. Between 1994 and 2003, President Museveni appointed Dr. Specioza Wandira Kazibwe as Uganda’s first female Vice President – the highest ranking position in the hierarchy of Uganda’s leadership. She was also holding the portfolio of the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.
During Dr. Kazibwe’s tenure, she rallied fellow women leaders to push for their rights ranging from political to human rights. But the most salient was the push for improving maternal health. Women civil servants and professionals have also formed organisations like Action for Development, which encourage women to take up leadership positions as a way of developing the country.
Out of the 75 ministers being vetted today, 22 are female; 10 are full cabinet ministers and 12 are ministers of state. The number rose from 16 in the previous cabinet. Women now constitute 28% of the ministers. If the vacant post of Minister of State for East African Affairs is filled by a woman, the percentage will rise to 30%.
But former ethics minister Miria Matembe does not expect much from the new women ministers, saying many of them are new and do not have any the independence and experience to cause change. “They were appointed based on patronage and regime survival. If you operate in a rotten system, you cannot change it, and to me the new female ministers do not offer me hope,” she says. “Young women who come in the cabinet usually disappear into oblivion because they do not know what to do. These young women who come to parliament for the first time need institutional direction before being appointed ministers, otherwise they tend to suffer from superiority complexes when they are made bosses of senior public servants. Most of these women do not know what to do and when you appoint them, you destroy them.”
Matembe is only impressed by Rebecca Kadaga’s assuming of the post of Speaker of Parliament.
“She is a competent and capable woman. I have so much hope in her and I hope she will not disappoint me.”
On the contrary, former Kalangala woman MP Ruth Nvumenta Kavuma says increasing the number of women in cabinet was a big step towards improving women’s welfare in Uganda.
“The health, finance and education ministries will go a long way in improving maternal health since they are headed by women. Maternal health is related to education, and we need the money to finance maternal health services from the finance ministry,” notes Kavuma, a reproductive health activist.
Kavuma says the ministers need to be lobbied, guided and informed if maternal health is to improve. “Some of us who have been in Increasing the number of women ministers is a very good achievement for women and the posts they have been given are key. Besides, the women are competent.” With all stakeholders on board, Kavuma believes a lot of improvement can be realised in the maternal health sector under the leadership of women ministers in the health, finance and education ministries.
A senior civil servant who did not want to be named says women deserve more cabinet posts because they are less corrupt and dependable compared to men. With more women appointed as ministers, the stage is set for them to prove they can cause change using their respective positions, and that will perhaps determine the composition of Uganda’s cabinet in future.
Rose Namayanja Nsereko State minister for Luwero Triangle She is the woman Member of Parliament of Nakaseke. She completed her Bachelors in Social sciences in 1998 and is currently pursuing a degree in law. She started out as a political officer of State House before becoming a Youth MP, Central Region from 2001-2006. She is also a the principal and founder, Target Community College, Wobulenzi.
Betty Bigombe State minister for water She is not new on the political scene but hasn’t been around for some time. Betty Oyella Bigombe was a minister of northern Uganda from 1994-1996. She was at the helm of the peace negotiations to end the insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda since 1994. As of 2005 she played a pivotal role as chief mediator between the LRA and government of Uganda. She has a master’s degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She was elected a minister of parliament in 1986, a post she would hold until 1996. In 1988, President Yoweri Museveni appointed her "Minister of State for Pacification of Northern Uganda, Resident in Gulu. After, she became a senior social scientist with the Post conflict unit at the World Bank and then a consultant to the Bank’s Social Protection and Human Development units. The Bigombe mediation is seen as having laid the groundwork for the 2006–2007 Juba talks. Bigombe is still regularly consulted by both Ugandan officials and LRA representatives on the course of the talks.
Dr. Christine Ondoa Ministry of Health She is not a politician but rather a pastor at Lifeline Ministries in Mbuya. Her appointment came as a surprise not only to the public but to her as well. She is set to become the first female health minister since President Museveni assumed power in 1986. She’s also a consultant paediatrician. She was posted to Mbarara University teaching hospital as director in January 2011. Earlier, she worked at Jinja Regional Referral Hospital as superintendent and senior consultant from August 2009 to 2011. Although Dr. Ondoa had never met the president in person, she believes that the assessment and monitoring of the regional referral hospitals gave her an edge as a favourite for appointment. Before that Ondoa worked at Arua Hospital as a consultant paediatrician as from 2000-2009. Following massive complaints of drug thefts in government hospitals and staff absenteeism, could the president have been spot on, in choosing Dr. Ondoa as health minister? Before she is vetted by parliament, she does not yet have clear visions for the ministry. She went to Moyo Secondary School for A’level. In 1989 she sat at Mount St. Mary’s Namagunga. She then enrolled for Bachelor’s of Medicine from 1989 to 1994. She enrolled to study for Paediatrics from 1997 to 2000.
Mary Karooro Okurut Minister of information and national guidance As a former press secretary to the President, her appointment as a successor to Kabakumba Masiko in the Ministry of Information and National Guidance is the least surprise of the appointments. Before joining politics she was a woman activist. She founded the Uganda Female writers association (FEMRITE) in 1995. In 2001 she led a team of women who vigorously campaigned for the re-election of President Museveni as her weekly columns in the leading daily show her unwavering support. Prior to her appointment in State House, she had served as the commissioner, Education Service Commission (1998-2000). After her stint in State House she stood for election and has been Bushenyi Woman MP since 2002. She is a teacher by profession with a master of arts in literature. From 1981-1994, she was a lecturer at the department of literature at Makerere University.
The New Faces Amelia Kyambadde Minister of trade and industry She is described as a professional and a generally nice person. She served under President Museveni as the principal private secretary for three decades. Her resignation as a long serving principal private secretary to the president raised a lot of curiosity: where was she headed next? Soon after, she announced her entry into politics to represent the north Mawokota north seat in parliament. She beat her opponent Claver Mutuluza of NRM to the seat. She founded the Twezimbe Development Association, a community based organisation formed to spearhead the socio-economic transformation of North Mawokota in Mpigi District. Amelia Kulubya attended Nakasero Primary School in Kampala in the 1960s, Sacred Heart Girls’ Secondary School in Gulu and did a Bachelor’s degree in Business administration.
Maria Kiwanuka Minister of Finance She is one of the major surprises in the new cabinet list released by President Museveni as the minister of finance, planning and economic development. With less than a month to the budget reading, there is much speculation on the personality will take over the reins of the Uganda finance and monetary sector. The appointee, Maria Kiwanuka is the founder and managing director of Radio One/ Radio Two (Akaboozi) and a thread of other businesses. Being a female entrepreneur in the country makes her competent for the position in the eyes of those who know her. Maria Kiwanuka has also served on the Boards of Stanbic Bank Uganda, Aga Khan Foundation and Nkumba University. She graduated with a bachelor of commerce from Makerere University and then started working with Bank of Uganda. Later on, she did an MBA, at the London School of Business and then got a job with World Bank as an economist and financial analyst in the 1980s in East Asia and Southern Africa countries, before returning to Uganda to start her radio stations. She is chairperson of the Uganda Registrations Services Bureau that registers all businesses and organisations in Uganda. She is a member of the Board of Uganda Development Bank, a board member of the Uganda Communications Commission and also a trustee of the MTN Foundation. As minister of finance; she will also serve as an ex-official Member of Parliament. She went to Nakasero Primary School and Gayaza High School for six years. Those who know her describe her as a very principled lady on borders of being a workaholic with a high level of integrity.
Irene Muloni Nafuna , minister of energy Irene Muloni brings a lot of experience as well as organization and hard work to the ministry of energy. It also takes her back to the energy sector she calls “home” where she served for several years before she joined politics. Muloni graduated with a BSc. Electrical Engineering at Makerere University in 1986.She joined the defunct Uganda Electricity Board in 1991 as a Communications Engineer, rose through the ranks to become senior engineer and then to the portfolio of information telecommunication manager. When UEB was restructured in 2001 and split into three bodies of Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd and Uganda Electricity Company Ltd and UMEME, Muloni was taken on as the IT manager of Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd. In October 2001, Muloni was elevated to the rank of manager customer services under the same company. In April 2002, the managing director of Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd left for South Africa for another job and the board of the energy body did not look far for replacement. Irene Muloni was appointed the managing director of Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd, a position she held till last year when she resigned to contest for Bulambuli district Woman Member of Parliament, a new district carved from Sironko. Earlier, she had contested and lost twice against Dr. Beatrice Wabudeya, former presidency minister and Woman Member of Pariliament for Sironko district. In the new Bulambuli district, Muloni stood the surest chance because she brought electricity to the district. Muloni says this appointment takes her back to where she started her career to move policy issues and direct the ministry of energy to produce enough power for the development of the country. “Energy is the engine for development. We need to exploit it to develop infrastructure and increase the level of industrialization. We are working at fulfilling the president’s manifesto to make sure that we generate the 8,000 megawatts of power we have targeted,” she explains She holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Capella University in the USA. She puts energy and mineral development on her top agenda. Irene sat for her primary at Budadiri Girls School in 1973. She sat for her senior four at Gayaza High School in 1977 and her form six at the same school in 1979. She joined Makerere University and graduated with a Bsc. Electrical Engineering in 1986.
Barbara Oundo Nekesa State minister for Karamoja Following the upgrade of the first lady, Mrs Janet Museveni to the position of full minister of Karamoja affairs Nekesa has been appointed the state minister for Karamoja affairs. She is the elected Member of Parliament for Busia District Women’s Representative.
Agnes Egunyu Akiror State Minister for Tourism Agnes Akiror is a Ugandan politician. She will be replacing Simon Lokodo, who was appointed State Minister for Ethics and Integrity in the Office of the Vice President. She was elected to parliament in 2006 as Kumi Woman MP on a Forum for Democratic Change party ticket but contested in the recently concluded elections as an independent and she lost the elections. She is another ex-officio Member of Parliament.
Flavia Munaaba She was appointed state minister for the environment in the Ugandan Cabinet replacing Jessica Eriyo, who was dropped from the Cabinet. She is the director of Public Defender Association (PDAU), an independent human rights organisation providing legal aid to poor people charged with serious criminal offences. On account of being a cabinet minister, Flavia Munaaba is also an ex-officio Member of Parliament.
Justine Kasule State minister for urban planning Justine Lumumba Kasule is a Ugandan politician. She will be replacing Urban Tibamanya, who was dropped from the cabinet. Justine Lumumba Kasule is also the elected Member of Parliament for Bugiri District Women's Representative.
Caroline Okao Amali State minister for microfinance Caroline Amali is the elected women’s representative in Parliament for Amolatar District. She is a travel consultant by profession. She holds a Bachelor of Tourism degree from Makerere University. She was the director of Crown Services from 2002-2006.
Rebecca Otengo Amuge State minister for Northern Uganda She is the Member of Parliament for Alebtong District Women's Representative. Administrator. Born in 1966, Amuge is an administrator by profession. She was vice chairperson for Lira district local government and has been involved in a number of peace building initiatives. She has a bachelor’s degree in of Government Administrations and Development from South Africa.
Sarah Achieng State minister for lands Sarah Opendi Achieng is also the elected woman Member of Parliament for Tororo District.
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