PARLIAMENT. Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has disagreed with her counterpart, Kilak South MP Gilbert Olanya, over the principle of affirmative action that allows political representation for special interest groups.
In two separate press conferences held at Parliament yesterday to mark today’s International Women’s Day, while Ms Kadaga defended the affirmative action policy saying election of special interest groups does not come on a silver-platter, Mr Olanya called for term limits to enable those elected to serve for a specified period of time so that they can create space for others to come on board.
Some women MPs have served on affirmative action ticket for more than two five-year Parliamentary terms and this according to MP Olanya betrays the principle for which affirmative action was introduced.
Not a free ride
While addressing the media on key milestones achieved by Parliament to empower women in the country, Ms Kadaga said affirmative action meant for women empowerment “is not a free ride”.
“I compete in four constituencies, so it is not easy,” Ms Kadaga, who has served on affirmative action ticket since 1996, said.
The Speaker was reacting to public concerns re-echoed by Mr Olanya (FDC) that many women have exploited the programme on affirmative action to block others from benefiting.
Mr Olanya, while addressing journalists with colleagues from the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), suggested that there must be term limits to such positions, so that experienced female MPs can move on and compete for directly elected seats and ring-fence “women positions” for fresh female politicians.
“We should have all the positions so that those ones in the villages can also benefit, even for disabilities and youth,” he said.
He added: “Right now it is becoming meaningless; you are elected as woman MP then you remain there, permanent.”
However, the Speaker said only those who have faced women MP race have the experience of what it means to comb a number of constituencies to become a district representative.
She said she has been able to remain at the helm of Kamuli District because she is also the party chairperson for the district and can ably move to any constituency.
“If I was only in one constituency I would have to ask for permission every time I visit a constituency, for me it is strategic,” Ms Kadaga said.
Achievements of Parliament
Among the key milestones listed as achievements for Parliament in the last two sessions, Ms Kadaga cited the debate on former abductees of the Lord’s Resistance Army; debate on the operationalisation of the specialised women hospital; granting permission to a private member to present the anti-slavery Bill and others.
Ms Kadaga also highlighted the Social Assistance Grant for empowerment as another milestone that has benefited the elderly, most of whom are widowed women.
The Speaker said Parliament will maintain a firm position to defeat the move in which government intends to shift the Youth Livelihood Fund from the Ministry of Gender to State House. “I rejected it, and I told the House to reject it because it is we the leaders that know where our people are,” Ms Kadaga said.
She said Parliament will compel government to present maternal audits from health units in the bid to cure maternal mortality rates in the country.
The Speaker said Parliament has completed its inquiry into sexual harassment in institutions of learning and that the report will soon be tabled for debate.
UWOPA MPs urged the government to ensure adequate resource allocation to priority areas such as agriculture and health which are heavily hinged on women.
The press conference was called by Ms Kamugo Pamella (NRM, Budaka District) who chairs the association.
“We should have increased funding for maternal health, girl child education and agriculture,” she said.
The MP also wants government to implement protective laws for family rights so as to empower the girl child.