They were voted by their constituents to ably represent their views in Parliament. They are also earning a monthly salary of about Shs20 million. But 49 women legislators have not spoken more than five times on the floor of the House for the last two years.
A Daily Monitor study of the Parliamentary Hansard that keeps track of all the MPs’ contributions to debates also shows that 34 MPs have spoken less than 15 times in the House dominated by the male lawmakers ever since they were elected. There are 134 women MPs in Parliament.
This means that less than 60 women legislators are vocal and can contribute to meaningful House debates. The study focused on the first and second sessions of the current 9th Parliament, which ran from May 2011 to May 2013.
There are 112 district women representatives that were elected on affirmative action majority (75 MPs) of who fall in the category of those that have participated in House debates for less than 15 times. This casts a dark shadow on whether affirmative action, which was brought by the NRM, is relevant in grooming more confident and articulate women into politics. The affirmative action policy introduced by President Museveni’s administration since 1986 has seen a number of women in political leadership.
The study also paid special attention to the legislators’ performance in the newly-instituted committees and five crucial ones - four gender-related, were considered. Other women have also played a leading role in a number of other Parliamentary fora that were not covered by the study.
Those legislators that have never contributed to Parliamentary debates in the period under review are Susan Namaganda, (Bukomansimbi), Nanyondo Birungi (Kalangala), Peace Kusasira, (Mukono) Margaret Makhoha,(Namayingo), Rose Lilly Akello (Kaabong), Joy Arinaitwe Kariisa (Buhweju), and Lindah Timbigamba (Kyenjojo). But when contacted some insisted they had made a contribution and blamed it on the Hansard, saying the publication could have missed out on their contributions.
Ms Kariisa’s failure to make a contribution can be understood since she has been bed-ridden for some time. Those that have spoken less than five times include Ms Proscovia Alengot and Ms Florence Nebanda who are a special case since they are new in the House. Ms Timbigamba said: “I am on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and I have contributed a lot at that level. I pushed for the translation of the constitution into local languages.”
Ms Kusasira claimed she had done “my best especially at the committee level”. “I am being careful with whatever I am doing. I do not just shout for the sake of seeking public attention but I focus on issues,” she added.
Whereas Ms Makhoha said: “In the House I do not comment on everything and some of us are serving our first term in Parliament.” She added: “We are learning how to move motions, contribute to debates and we are from different academic disciplines. You can’t comment on everything yet you must remain relevant. We are also active in constituencies.”
Ms Akello claimed, “Contributing in the committees to me matters more than in the House because that is where much of the work is done”. “Most work is done in committees and since I am a teacher by profession, I talk on issues where I have knowledge but I don’t just shout,” Ms Mwebaze said.
All together there are 383 MPs. Given the big numbers; it is no guarantee that whoever stands to speak is picked. Legislators therefore jostle to catch the eye of the Speaker. Defending why some MPs have remained mute particularly on women’s issues, Ms Alice Alaso (Katakwi), one of the senior legislators and eloquent debater, attributed the problem to inadequate skills development on legislation in relation to gender issues.
“Lack of awareness about gender issues has remained a big issue but also sometimes some MPs just keep quite. They lack the skills to articulate issues,” she said, adding: “The other big problem is trying to toe party positions. It is a few NRM MPs who will for example stand up against party lines yet the opposition legislators debate without being threatened or intimidated”.
Ms Beatrice Anywar, another articulate senior legislator, alluded to the fact that some MPs’ level of education and exposure was low. “Women are loyal by nature and if some matters are considered sensitive during caucus meetings, they don’t want to go against caucus positions,” she said. Fifteen MPs; six of whom are opposition and nine NRM, have exhibited excellent debating skills and emerged among the top cream. These included legislators from direct constituencies such as; Ms Betty Amongi (Oyam South) and Ms Kabakumba Matsiko (Bujenje). Ms Amongi also chairs the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association.
Among the top cream (15) are new women MPs Joova Kamateka and Energy Minister Irene Muloni.
Ministers Ruth Nankabirwa (State for Micro Finance), Ms Mary Karooro (Gender), Ms Rose Namayanja (Information) and Ms Jessica Alupo (Education), according to the study, were ranked among the top 15 despite their busy schedules outside Parliament. Also Opposition legislators remain relevant in Parliament according to the study and majority fall in the category of those that have spoken more than 15 times.
Whereas the Daily Monitor did not access records to track the legislators’ daily attendance, majority women have been consistent in attending to Parliament and committee proceedings. Women legislators heading some committees particularly Ms Benny Namugwanya (Defence), Sylvia Namabidde (Education) and Margaret Komuhangi (Gender) have been exemplary and remained focused despite the pressures and intimidation from their male counterparts.
Under the guidance of Ms Rebecca Kadaga, MPs amended the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure to have 40 per cent women leadership representation on all parliamentary committees. Article 33(5) of the Constitution says women shall have a right to affirmative action for the purpose of redressing the imbalances created by the history, tradition or custom. Also the State shall ensure gender balance and a fair representation of marginalised groups on all constitutional and other bodies. The state shall ensure gender balance and fair representation of marginalised groups.
The Hansard records indicate that majority women paid attention to general national issues affecting their constituencies and not necessarily women issues. Also the Hansard reveals that whereas the controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill was being spearheaded by women, some women legislators out rightly campaigned against it.
Women were, however, consistent in pushing for more funding to the key sectors of health and education. They have for example pushed for a pay raise for teachers and doctors. “What is going on is that the ministry for gender has placed more emphasis on the Domestic Violence Act and the Female Genital Mutilation programme but we want to see more women programmes running. Government is empowering the youth, but such energies should as well be directed to women programmes,” said Ms Komuhangi, the Gender committee chairperson.
Performance of female members of parliament
Worst performers (those who have never said a word
Susan Namaganda (Bukomansimbi)
Nanyondo Birungi (Kalangala)
Peace kusasira (Mukono Woman)
Margaret Makhoha (Namayingo)
Akello Rose Lilly (Kaabong Woman)
Joy Arinaitwe Kariisa (Buhweju Woman--sick)
Lindah Timbigamba(Kyenjojo Woman)
Those that have spoken less than five times (poor)
Annet Okwenye N (Otuke Woman)
Sarah Nyirabashitsi (Kisoro)
Dorothy Nshaija (Kamwenge)
Paula Turyahikayo (Rubabo County)
Brenda Nabukenya (Luweero)
Mary T. Nalubega(workers)
Stella Nyomera Namoe(Napak)
Florence Nebanda (Butaleja Woman)
Ronah Ninsiima (Kabale)
Nekesa Barbara (Busia)
Kase Mubanda (Masaka)
Justine Khainza (Bududa)
Susan Lakot (UPDF)
Betty Mbabazi (Rubirizi)
Sarah Mpabwa (UPDF)
Beatrice Mpairwe (Buliisa)
Dorothy Mpiima (Buikwe)
Agnes Nabirye (Jinja)
Flavia Nabugere (Kaliro)
Auma Juliana (Abim)
Veronica Babirye (Buyende)
Beatrice Barumba L (Kiruhura)
Lydia Chekwel (Kween)
Nantume Egunyu (Buvuma)
Margaret Iriama (Moroto)
Lucy Ajok (Apach women)
Akiror Agness E. (Tourism State Minister)
Proscovia Alengot (Usuk)
Alum Santa (Oyam women)
Amali Caroline O (Amolatar District)
Christine Aporu A (Kumi)
Judith Amoit (Pallisa)
Victoria Businge Rusoke(Kabarole)
Grace Byarugaba I. (Isingiro)
Florence Namayanja (Kalungu)
Sarah Mwebaze (Kibuku Woman)
Between 5 to 15 times (Fairly good)
Kataaha Museveni (Ruhama County)
Kevinah Taaka(Busia Municipality)
Joy Ongom Atim(Lira)
Rose Najjemba M. (Gomba County)
Rukia Nakadama(Mayuge women)
Nakato Kyabangi(Gomba women)
Sarah Nakawunde (Mpigi women)
Connie Nakayende(Mbale women)
Grace Namara (Lyantonde)
Benny Namugwanya (Mubende women)
Ida Nantaba (Kayunga)
Nauwat Rosemary (Amudat women)
Elizabeth Karungi (Kanungu)
Kiiza Winfred (Kasese)
?Ruth Lematia (Maracha)
Robinah Nabbanja (Kibaale women)
Auru Anne(Moyo women)
Mabel Bakeine(Bugangaizi County)
Evelyn Kaabule (Luuka)
Christine Acayo(Nebbi women)
Acheng Joy Ruth(Kole)
Amuge Otengo (Alebtong)
Gertrude Nakabira(Lwengo women)
Between 16 to 30 times (good)
Syda Bbumba (Nakaseke County North)
Kabaale Kwagala (Iganga)
?Kabahenda Flavia (Kyegegwa)
?Oleru Huda(Yumbe women)
Angeline Osegge(Soroti women)
Namabidde Sinabulya (Mityana)
Ssentongo Teopista Nabulya(workers)
Naggayi Nabila (Kampala women)
Ann Nankabirwa (Kiboga women)
Kabasharira Naome (Ntungamo)
Margaret Achila Aleper (Kotido)
Emma Boona (Mbarara)
Grace Freedom Kwiyuchwiny (Zombo)
Margret Kiboijana (Ibanda)
Kyambadde Amelia (Mawokota North)
Namayanja Florence (Bukoto County East)
Ababiku (Adjumani women)
Hellen Asamo (PWD)
Florence Mutyabule (Namutumba)
Hanifa Kawooya (Ssembabule)
Between 31-50 (very good) (11)
Atuku Bigombe (Amuru)
Aol Betty (Gulu women)
Betty Nambooze(Mukono Municipality)
Bako Christine Abia (Arua)
Kasule Justine Lumumba (Bugiri)
Rose Mary Nansubuga Sseninde(Wakiso women)
Harriet Ntabazi (Bundibugyo)
Rosemary Nyakikongoro (Sheema)
Those that have spoken 50 times and above (Excellent)
Betty Amongi (Oyam South)
Kabakumba Matsiko(Bujenje County)
?Irene Muloni Bulambuli)
Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum Woman)
Alice Alaso (Serere Woman)
Nankabirwa Ruth (Kiboga Woman)
Mary Karooro (Bushenyi Woman)
??Franca Judith Akello (Agago)
Jessica Alupo (Katakwi Woman)
Namayanja Rose( Nakaseke Woman)
Margaret Baba diri (Koboko Woman)
Ibi Ekwau (Woman, Kaberamaido)
Bintu Jaria (Masindi women)
Cecilia Otim Ogwal (Dokolo Woman)
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga Kadaga (Kamuli)
Top 10 vocal opposition MPs
Franca Judith Akello
Bako Christine Abia
Sylvia Namabidde (chairperson)
Komuhangi Margaret (chairperson)
Rose Nauwatt (Amudat
Joy Kariisa (inactive-sick).
Peace Kusasira (consistent)
Susan Namaganda (inactive)
Benny Mugwanya (chairperson)
Proscovia Alengot (inactive)