By Jolly Mbambu
A section of women in Kasese district have called on the Electoral Commission to speed up the process of women council elections to support ongoing efforts for reducing tensions in Rwenzori region.
The current Women Councils and Committees were elected between June to August 2018. The Executive Committee of the National Women’s Council was constituted on 23rd – 24th August 2018.
According to the National Women’s Council Act, the terms of office of the said Councils and Committees is four (4) years, implying their term will end in August 2022.
On 18th February 2022, the Electoral Commission issued a roadmap detailing the various activities to be conducted under the program for elections of Women Council and Committees from the Village to the National Level.
However, before nomination of candidates and polling exercises, the Ministry of Finance informed the Commission that the funds required for conducting the subsequent activities under the electoral roadmap are not yet available.
Consequently, all the remaining activities under the approved program starting with the nomination of candidates, which were earlier scheduled for 27th June – 1st July 2022, were suspended by the Electoral Commission.
“Delayed elections means delayed contribution of women to peace building activities in the region”, says Hon Winnie Kiiza, former Kasese District Woman Member of Parliament.
In an interview with this reporter, Kiiza said that by virtue of being leaders at all levels, women have contributed to the prevalence of peace and therefore it is important that their elections are conducted for them to have unchallenged legal powers and to contribute to peace processes in the region.
Biira Oliva, Woman Council Chairperson for Saluti B Cell, Kanyangeya Ward, Nyamwamba Division in Kasese Municipality doubts if the Electoral Commission will be able to meet the deadline of the beginning of the new term of leadership.
“We were seriously mobilizing our voters to register and update their names in the register but during the process they told us to wait till further notice”, Biira added.
Biira who is seeking re-election on the National Resistance Movement ticket said women councils are key in resolving women-related matters and especially dealing with complaints of domestic violence.
“I have been involved in fighting Gender Based Violence and other violent issues arising at village level. I wonder if I’d still have the mandate to carry out my work in case the elections for women council committees take a lot of time to be conducted”.
Biira hailed government for all the programs meant to empower women adding that empowering women to participate in leadership enables them to confidently participate in peace building processes.
“Women tend to represent broader and more diverse constituencies, ensuring a range of views and interests are represented and peace processes are fully democratized” Biira says.
In peace building processes, Biira says women have been selected to mediate, organize meetings, train and be reached for information among other things.
Paul Bukenya, the EC Spokesperson said the commission is in talks with the ministry of Finance about the issue of funding for the women council elections. He is optimistic that once the issue of finance is resolved, the Electoral Commission was ready to start from where they stopped. However, a big number of women lack information about the process of choosing the women councils. Due to lack of civic education by the Electoral Commission, only a handful of women participate in these elections.