25 years after Beijing:Are we ready for the emancipated woman?

The process, strategy and myriad efforts by which women have been striving to attain liberation from gender inequalities as well as achieving equal rights before the law, and set legal standards that promote full gender equality with men seems to be slow. All this is wrapped in what is termed as women emancipation. Hira Saeed (2019) argues that one of the major five Emancipation strategies is placing women as leaders and give them decision making roles to provide them with leadership opportunities and making them a part of decision making. This argument is premised on the view that such women’s placement has potential to propel women achieve empowerment. Whereas this could be effective, one needs to know, whether the other partner in question, is well prepared to give space for women’s free and fair participation in political processes and decision making roles.

In 1994, Uganda became the first African country to have a female Vice president and since then, Uganda has had four women to run for the Uganda’s highest office in 2016 in the land. These include,Miria Obote (2006); Betty Kamya (2011),Faith Maureen Kyalya,and Nancy Kalembe(2021)(Voice of Africa 2021).The increase in women’s public presence has been attributed to the constitutional provision of one third of seats in national and local government through the principle of affirmative action in administrative appointments. Yet the question that is constantly forgotten is the patriarchal societies and their preparedness to support this emancipated and empowered woman. In Uganda, the gender socialisation had prepared the girl child to entirely dominate in the private domain, and her function entirely in the household domain. For a long time, this perceived positionality has been normalised by both men and women in Uganda. No wonder, a study conducted in 2006 by the School of Women and Gender Studies found that the Ugandan’s were not yet ready for a female president. Indeed, while several women have assumed critical offices irrespective of what men and some women still think about women, its seems the readiness for Uganda to have a female president and later on embrace an empowered or emancipated woman is still questionable!  . This mind set has continued to rule the political world, and appears to be the greatest impediment to a healthy gendered competition in political processes.

In their analysis of the 2020 US elections, the Brookings institution 2021 argued that the gender realignment of American politics is the biggest change in party affiliation since the movement by loyal Democratic voters to the GOP in the “solid South,” in the final decades of the twentieth century. This gender realignment continues to gain momentum, fuelled by the misogynistic behaviour of Donald Trump and other leaders of his party who can’t seem to resist attacking powerful, successful Democratic women and, more generally, hindering the full equality of women. It is spreading in almost every state and locality in America as women voters take charge of the country’s future.

Many more likes of former US president do exist, and dominate the greater domain of society. Similarly,  The 2021 presidential and parliamentary elections in Uganda were synonymous with the 2016 general elections, in which Oloka &Ahikire (2017) revealed that women’s presence in decision making in Uganda still falls short of national and international commitments such as the gender balance envisioned by the African Union Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The problem extends beyond leadership positions. As candidates for political office, women take part in particular spaces while avoiding others, and especially take on those provided by the affirmative action Oloka and Ahikire reveal that the 2016 electoral contest showed that women are increasingly not taking part in the open electoral seats which are often viewed as the preserve of men. The same trend has also been demonstrated in the 2021 parliamentary elections for instance, of all the five hundred twenty nine seats in parliament (529), only 10, made it to the spaces presumed as male preserves, the rest of the elected female candidates only made it to the seats provided by the affirmative action. Who then sets the trend? What are the forces behind women’s’ choice to seats? Are men ready to deal or even surrender space to the emancipated woman? Is society ready for an empowered and emancipated woman in political processes? These are questions that we need to keep grappling with.

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