Women Legislators Root for greater Inclusion in Decision Making
Women Legislators have called on Commonwealth Parliaments to open up more space for women participation in governance and in the decision making process. Speaking when they congregated for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentary Conference (CWP) at the on-going 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) at Speke Resort, in Munyonyo, Uganda, the women leaders lamented that across the Commonwealth fraternity, women issues have not been embraced as national issues. The Women leaders who said they have continued to be marginalised in politics, called for more action that will see them attain more positions.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for the women conference, the Speaker of Uganda Parliament the Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga called upon the her fellow Speakers to entrench gender mainstreaming in the administration of Legislatures noting that many Parliaments still embrace Committee leadership that does not reflect a gender balance
"Despite Progress in the increased role of women in governance, many Commonwealth jurisdictions are still challenged with inequality, limited women representation and unequal pay," Speaker Kadaga observed.
She appealed to her colleague women legislators to safeguard the gains made so far with regard to women representation noting that retrogression had been noted in some countries that have been doing fairly well in terms of women representation. She cited Finland, who though not a CPA member, she noted had lost heavily from her previous over 60 percent solid women representation. She further urged legislatures to ensure the implementation of international conventions on gender mainstreaming which the international community has adopted, urging those whose countries are yet to adopt these international instruments,to push for their ratification and domestication.
Speaker Kadaga also challenged fellow women leaders at the top to mentor those joining leadership now, terming it a necessary intervention for women leaders to become effective in the institutions they serve. She recounted her rigorous push for gender parity in House Committee leadership in the Parliament of Uganda, which culminated with the inclusion of a favourable Committee Leadership structure in the Rules of House procedures.
"It is not easy to intimidate women when am on the chair. I also do not approve attendance to conferences and seminars where there is no women representation among those nominated to attend. I also often visit constituencies led by Women to encourage and support their programs" she said.
Nigeria's Hon. Zainab Gimba lamented that though women make up 50 per cent of world's population, they continue to be sidelined in politics."If we have 50 per cent or more of the world's population and yet we are not involved in decision making, we can safely say democracy has not been achieved".
But even as Women rallied for increased representation, the Chairperson of CWP in Uganda, Hon. Syda Namirembe Bbumba was quick to emphasize that they were more interested in getting quality leadership more than increasing the quantity of women leadership in Parliament.
"There is need to emphasise on quality rather than just numbers if we are to make an impact in governance. We need to familiarize ourselves with the subject matter. For instance you shouldn't be the one who is recorded on hansard being called to order for debating out of topic," she advised.
On her part, the global Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Hon. Emilia Lifaka lauded the association for championing for enhanced parliamentart democracy. Hon. Lifaka who is also the Deputy Speaker of the Cameroon National Assembly undertook that gender mainstreaming and inclusive representation would remain a core goal of the association in a bid to promote progressive legislatures.
Adding her voice to the debate, Kenya's specially elected Member, Hon. Dennitah Ghati observed that mentoring was a key strategy if legislatures are to achieve effective women representation. She further noted that there was need for inclusion of women living with disabilities in the governance system to ensure total inclusivity. "Mentoring needs to be sustained to maintain high level standards of leadership. If we are talking about mentoring women, we should also talk about inclusion of women with disabilities," she submitted.
The forum has now endorsed mentorship as among the strategies to encourage women to vie for elective positions.The lawmakers also sanctioned increased capacity building and the establishment of an Alumni and Mentoring Trust Fund to provide resources to CWP Steering Committees to assist in developing and implementing mentoring programmes for sitting women MPs. Women leaders also resolved to recruit some of their male colleagues as Ambassador for increased representation of women in decision making across the governance spectrum.
The conference also stressed the need to push for equal pay for equal work across the Commonwealth, with women leaders asserting that they cannot continue to fight for economic and social rights, yet they make more than half of the world's population and thus the tools to enhance women representation in decision making.
The 2- day CWP forum was held on the sidelines of the on-going week long, 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Kampala, Uganda.The climax of this women lawmakers' forum saw the election of Hon. Shandana Gulzar Khan from Pakistan as the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) who polled 48 votes against 34 for Hon. Tara River of the Cayman Islands. She will serve a 3-year term and replaces Hon. (Dr.) Dato' Noraini Ahmed from the Federal Parliament of Malaysia who was elected at the 62nd CPC held in 2016, in London, UK.
The 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference themed " Adaptation, engagement and evolution of Parliaments in a rapidly changing Commonwealth", has drawn over 500 participants, among them Presiding Officers in Parliaments, legislators, decision makers and Parliamentary staff from 54 countries within the Commonwealth family. The conference is set to be officially opened tomorrow by the Uganda's President, H.E. Yoweri Museveni.
The Speaker of the National Assembly Hon. Justin Muturi who is the Chairperson of CPA Executive Committee (Africa Region), and who also sits at the top body of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, is leading the Kenyan delegation.
He is accompanied by the Leader of Minority in the National Assembly Hon. John Mbadi, CPA Kenya Executive Members Hons. (Dr.) Makali Mulu, Hon. Aramat Lemanken and Hon. Janet Sitienei. Others are Hon. Gladys Wanga, Hon. Dennitah Ghati, Sen. Mohammed Faki and the Clerk of the National Assembly Mr. Michael Sialai.