7/31 – To Woman or Man Up for Leadership: The Case of the Uganda Parliament

July 2020 / Emerging Scholars

Linda Lilia


Linda Lillian

“Embwa ezala embwa” (a dog reproduces a dog) was a response given in a research inquiry regarding women were more ethically apt than men. The response which hinged on women’s performance as legislators received a feedback that indicated a woman being mentored in a patriarchal system would not deliver the much anticipated woman led leadership. Rather that woman would be a duplicate of that system.

Ethically leadership has the agenda to target positive results in terms of the service offered to those being led. It becomes moral when leadership is limited to a subjective patriarchal style handed down from one generation to another. This affects women aspirations for leadership since there approaches may differ from those espoused by the system.

Curry (2000:58) analyses the challenge of women leaders’ leadership performance in the character of Odette. Instead of developing her role separate from men’s ways of leading, Odette did what females were expected to do in case they took on the traditional male role of leadership. She had to act as men and ensured that her feminine predisposition did not surface in inappropriate ways. The reality which the author portrays is one that depicts women leaders as being stripped of womanhood qualities in order to meet the leadership criteria. This study focused at the value of transformative leadership, it is viability and value.

Kavuma (2010:1) points out that although many women were embracing the opportunities being offered, still there road blocks in the traditional patriarchal order, for which men were unshakable custodians. This is a factor, often discussed the socio-cultural perspective rather than the ethical angle that this study endeavored to attain.

Focusing on post 1986 Uganda, Tamale (2003:1) explains the need to recognize the contribution of both the National Resistance Movement leadership and other forces in creating an enabling environment for accelerating women’s progress towards their emancipation goal. She cites globalization pressure from the women’s movement, political expedience and opportunism, arguing that, the vulnerability of gender policies that lack the support of strong political will was evident to most Ugandan women. Her argument was whether under Museveni’s movement or Obote’s pluralist system, the Ugandan state had primarily acted in the interest of self- preservation as a patriarchal institution, with men firmly holding the substantive reins of power and authority. In pursuit of this, the ethical viability of women holding political leadership in a patriarchal arrangement with cosmetic gender mainstreaming, is analysed.

Patriarchal Morality in Leadership

Patriarchal principles derive from paternalism which is more controlling and managed in a hierarchical manner. These moral principles are globally cumulative among the majority of cultures that look up to male supremacy and underestimate women’s contribution.

Among such principles are Kraut and Skultety (2005:101) picturing Aristotle comparing women to slaves and children incapable of running their own or other people’s lives. Aristotle’s argument depicts women as having a faculty of deliberation that has no authority and therefore they need to be ruled for their own safety.

Radical feminists argue that uncritically normative acceptance of the concept of “leaders” as a “good thing” leads to embracing male ideology embedded within the people’s psyche. Yet the world looks different through feminist lenses. The concept of “leadership” is driven by an ideology which underpins that people are “born” with certain characteristics or traits (men, being

more inclined to be “natural” leaders than women, middle-class women more than working class, white women more than black women and so on). In pursuit of this, Bourdeau (2015:200) points out is a general overt and covert claim throughout written history and in most male written epics, narratives, renditions and general literature that women lack leadership qualities needed for the management and leadership of barbaric cultures. He sees this being the cause of the continuing patriarchal denouncing of women as substandard and inferior to the men.

The ethical lenses of women in political leadership are examined within what Bass and Bass (2008:57) write. They quote Freud (1922), who notes that group members act like siblings in developing their ego identification. They form libidinal connection with their leader (Father) by incorporating his image into their superego. This study probed the ethical implications of incorporating women in a patriarchal political system, and the ethical implications surrounding their assimilation into this political system. Going beyond the Freudian argument of group identity and focusing on its implications on individual women’s assimilation into political leadership.

Cockburn (2007:6) defines gender as social power relations. She views both women and men being actively involved in sustaining patriarchal power relations and thus gender hierarchy. In this study the role of both women and men in ensuring representation of women concerns is addressed. The notion of plain women representation by women is revisited to explore the best platforms of guaranteeing substantive women representation.

Hart and Uhr (2008:Ch1) point to the question of whether public leaders should and can afford to, observe ethical standards, if not codes of conduct. To them, this is an old question, tracing back to Greek political philosophies from Plato on Justice and the Philosopher Kings; Aristotle’s

views on a contemplated life leading to good governance and the latter works of Niccolo Machiavelli. This comes out in Lord Acton’s line that ‘great men are always bad men.’ is recognized. This implies that political leadership is caught between moralities and politics, those that are ethical and others unethical. The Prince who lies and kills for the good of the state, is judged as ethically wrong but morally justified. This study questioned the position of the Princesses and their ethical political leadership in order to investigate if there was demarcation between male and female leadership.

Simone de Beauvoir in the Second sex presents existential ethics which deem freedom as universal but with human limitations of shying away from responsibilities to a point of wanting to be an object rather than a human being. Thus members of oppressed groups find it harder to attain freedom since the oppression curbs their ability to act on their freedom and engages them in what society morally prescribes which then limits their choices and constrains their expectations. This unfortunately becomes normal and moral to them – but it is not ethically apt. Women form the clout of the other Simone describe fixated by the patriarchal order when more could be attained if they had a rational choice to make in meeting their leadership expectations.

Ethical Arguments for Woman’ing Up to Lead

Women participating in political leadership like men cause ethical inferences to arise from factors including their visibility, representation and practices. One of Plato’s recommendations for leadership according to Bobonich (2002:8) is the free doctor method. He explains that the ‘Anthenian’ in Plato’s Law, endorses in the founding of Magnesia, he and his fellow legislators follow the free doctor’s method. This method entails caring for the citizens and examining their maladies (diseases). The leader therefore investigates maladies from their beginning and according to nature, communing with the patients, trying learning something from the invalids so that s/he is able to teaches them as well as treat them. The doctor method has attributes of the ethics of cares which is notable a good attribute common in women leadership. Wenniger and Conroy (2001:13) identify the care factor in women’s capability to lead, when they argue

“Because women have learned to recognize danger to themselves, they are well equipped to recognize danger to others especially those younger, gentler or more innocent. Women are makers, shapers, the recipients, becoming both sculptor and sculpture.”

Mizzoni’s (2009:14) speaks of the ethics of care which has much to offer society at large because care is badly needed in the public domain. According to him caring society would reorder its social roles and transform practices. this care component in this study was noted to be common among women however in the same study it is noted that woman are as human as men capable of generating danger and thus require mentorship for transformative leadership skills as well as attitude.

An observation made by Columbus (2006:24) on women’s leadership qualities was central to the investigation in this study. His argument was that, though it may be difficult for women to arrive at leadership positions, there was a mounting awareness of the ‘humanizing’ qualities, which women could bring to leadership after reaching there. Columbus acknowledges a growing body of evidence which show that values and knowledge, the skills to build positive relationships and the ability to create supportive environment which people can thrive; all of which being readily associated with women – as being hallmarks to successful leadership.” The gap in Columbus’s argument which the research aimed to explore was if the humanizing qualities attributed to the women’s ethic of leadership were visible in the quota system opportunity for the women’s political participation in leadership.

O’Connor (2010:125) underlines the high morality of women, less corrupt and more likely to be trusted. This study explored the level of adherence women political leaders have to morality and ethical principles when participating in political leadership. The study could not accept on face value the generalization that women are less corrupt and more likely to be trusted. This triggered the investigation in order to avoid any possible methodological, ideological, conceptual and political ploys leading to pitfalls in practices.

Making effort to bring out the socio-cultural and political disparities between Europe and Africa Baba Jallow (ed, 2014: p.172) notes that in contrast to Western forms of feminism African feminism valorizes motherhood and respect for mother good/maternal politics. Quoting Wells (1998:9) he explains that maternal politics has emerged as a term that describes a prominent feature of women’s roles as mothers catalyse their public political actions. Engin and Nyer (2014:244) embrace Hassim (2006) definition of motherism as a celebration of women as mothers, a link between women’s familial responsibilities and their political work and an emphasis on this aspect of women’s roles cutting across all class and race

The case of Asian women leaders is cited by Deirich and Thompson (2013:15) where they were perceived as weak because of being women, which made them appear less threatening to the ambitious opposition rivals. This perceived quality made them to be chosen to lead in crisis situations where Machiavellian male leadership had been discredited. A search for a virtuous alternative has often portrayed women as the mothers or sisters of a suffering nation, who can cleanse the soiled public realm with private, familial virtue. Their apparent nonpartisanship, self- sacrifice and inexperience emphasize the moral character of their political leadership.

Are Women in Parliament Women Representatives: The Case of Uganda

The following discussion is drawn from feedback given for a PhD study on “Ethics and Women’s Participation in Political Leadership: The Case of the Uganda Parliament.”

The overall response from all the 5 categories of respondents (Women Members of Parliament (WMP), Male Members of Parliament (MMP), Gender Advocates, Media and Academicians) showed WMPs (at 45 percent) acknowledging they had a high inclination to practicing ethical leadership. This showed their confidence in being able to do what was right.

All the 31 women members of parliament interviewed noted that when vying for politics they had ethical considerations such fulfilling given pro-people duties, enforcing accountability and transparency, contributing to women’s advocacy and to equity concerns.

“I kept my catholic and Acholi values that I believe in. I promised to speak for my voters and I have spoken.” Hon. Anywar Beatrice WMP Kitgum District.

I joined politics to prove the proponents of the thinking that, “politics is a dirty games and that all politicians are corrupt and tell lies, wrong.” Hon. Margaret Kiboijana WMP Ibanda District.

However 23 percent of the WMPs said it was what society perceived. This gave the impression that WMPs were not ethical but were masked by what the society morally perceived of women.

Majority of the MMPs interviewed (60 percent) stated that some WMPs where inclined to being ethical but not all. This gave room to scrutinize why this was so and the responses indicated the corrupt state of politics in Uganda, of women were a part of. Often being mentored into leadership by a system that was not ethical. The male parliamentarians, who noted that WMPs were more inclined to ethical principles than themselves, explained that WMPs tended to be

more honest, accountable and were less shrewd than men. However like their fellow respondents ( 40 percent ) who opined that women politicians were equally unethical; they hinted on WMPs being as crafty as men, serving the interests of the ruling political regime and practicing new cultures, which adulterate the good African conduct of women in leadership.

Media respondents from the Parliamentary Press at 55 percent did not agree with the viewpoint that WMPs were more inclined to ethics. They argued that women leaders engaged in moral rather than ethical acts in their behavior. These included remaining silent in parliamentary debates, not advocating for their lead constituents (women) and being part of the political problem rather than the solution in parliament.

Majority of the Gender Advocates (55 percent) pointed out WMPs were incline to ethics. They noted that WMPs had fewer scandals than their male counterparts and were often limited by their cultural as well religious restrictions.

The Academicians at 37 percent argued for WMPs being inclined to be ethical and 36 percent not being inclined to be ethical. The paradox in these responses demonstrated confidence the respondents had in women’s ability to offer quality leadership theoretically, and at the same time the uncertainty they had of the practicality of this.

Through this study it was observed that the general assumption among respondents was both male and female members had equal moral inducements towards unethical behavior as well as good leadership. For instance it was noted, both MMPs and WMPs missed parliamentary sessions and engaged in politically questionable manner. Though there was a stereotype about women being more ethical than men, premised on the moral argument of motherhood. The data collected valuated the individuality of every woman leader and not the general cohort of women.

Respondents delved in attempting to gauge the value of each woman in parliamentary leadership and pointed out few examples of quality performance. It was observed that both women and men in an environment that does not enable ethics are susceptible to unethical conduct and being less inclined to do what is right.

However, the views espoused by respondents did not negate the moral judgements alluding to moral rather than ethical judgements, as Asimwe Jackie Mwesige (2015) explains:

“At the end of the day, even if you are an accomplished woman your space is still judged by how well you’re doing at home. If home is crumbling who is to blame – it is the woman”

Nevertheless, prospects of women making a difference in political leadership remained. As the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (2014:1) Position Paper explains,

“an increase in the number of women in parliament will tend to reduce corruption, if and only if the country in question has reasonably robust systems to uphold democracy and to enforce anti-corruption laws. However, in the absence of such systems, the gender blend of parliament is unlikely to have any impact on the levels of national corruption.”

The confidence in the potential of women being ethical, opined by most respondents gave assurance, that it was not about having the women into leadership alone, but building their leadership capacity to do generate quality. Therefore though not all women in power were to be concerned about women’s issues their presence in leadership remained important. The focus therefore much needed was how to inspire their leadership to champion the ethical good rather than have them the corruptible crowd.

Proponents of the quota system have set precedent arguments for the system by which women’s effectiveness maybe gauged. Based on the findings from the study it is noted that the implementation of women’s enrollment into political leadership has led to women’s presence in leadership being achieved. But the targets for women representation remain more theoretical than practical.

Table 1: Measuring Women’s Effectiveness Using Quota Systems Proponents Arguments1

Proponents ArgumentsDiscussion Point from the Research
1. Quota systems will give women a chance to be represented in parliament and give them a say in decision makingResponses given by all (100%) the respondents concurred with the fact that women’s presence in parliament had given them a chance to be represented. However some in a data range of 33% of the respondents did not agree with the latter proposition of women having a say in decision making.
2. Women are half the society and it is only fair that they occupy half of the parliamentary seats since only women can understand and advocate on behalf of women.All respondents agreed with the need to have women representation in parliament but pointed out flaws like women’s failure to champion women’s issues due to their positioning in political parties, in their constituencies, failure to form cohesion and knowledge gaps. The mean of 37% responses indicated this. Moreover as noted only 112 women where in parliament on the quota representative system, an additional 15 were in parliament on a direct vote contesting with men and 274 seats were occupied by men. This never made was in itself an balance.
3. Politics will make women more confident and build their characterThough the 36 WMPS indicated that their involvement in political leadership had made a difference in their character but a data median taken from responses from all respondents showed they never concurred with the view that women’s confidence had been built noting the knowledge gaps and women being silent in parliament.
4. Quotas are an example of the expanding and proportional representation needed to reach an optimal democratic political systemRespondents (40% MMPs, 67% MPWs, 37% media,55% gender advocates, 22 WMPs, 36% Academicians) cited the shortfall of WMPs falling to loyalist tendencies and thus not forming the necessary force to cause democratic transformation.
5. Jumpstarting the integration of women into politically prominent positions will help change the cultural constraints which have thus far prevented women from accessing the political realm71% of WMPs interviewed and 83% of the MPWs indicated they still faced cultural constraints long after they enrolled into leadership. All other respondents acknowledged this. An indication that though the quota systems enrollment of women into political leadership was achieved the tendency to exclude women political leaders due to cultural constraints still persisted.
6. Quotas are provisional measures to ensure equity since women have a history of discrimination. Quotas therefore constitute an indispensable method of positive affirmative actionA data range of 33% showed responses from the media, MMPs, WMPs, MPWs, gender advocates and academia opining that quotas were meant to give women experience in leadership as a provisional measure to enforce affirmative action. But once in leadership women leaders equally had no desire to neither leave their seats and give other women a chance nor groom other women into leadership.
7. The visibility of women in parliament can serve as a role model for other women and help change the patriarchal construction of women100% of respondents including the WMPs and MMPs noted few role models had emerged from the Uganda parliament, however they cited the urgent need for more women to emerge as role models. Drawing from responses from gender advocates (55%) who envisaged that women trained into patriarchal constructs were no better than their male counterparts and not much would be expected.
8. Women will bring forward issues and concerns which they alone have firsthand knowledge of and experience withAll respondents agreed with the need to have women representation in parliament but pointed out flaws like women’s failure to champion women’s issues due to their positioning in political parties, in their constituencies, failure to form cohesion and knowledge gaps.

One of the core probes underlying this study, was whether women quotas were worth it. From the responses given in this study; women involvement in political leadership was earmarked as worth the effort. This was with regard of having a voice for women issues and a balance gender presence in leadership. Having women in political leadership was envisaged to making their political contribution possible in debates and leadership roles.

However after the warm thoughts of having women in political leadership, in this study responses were reflections on representation and for what. Women leaders ability to represent women was examined in terms of capacity, skills and ethos.

The cultural setbacks, patriarchal impediments and personal weakness which unfortunately overlaps the overall agenda of affirmative action are brought to the centerfold in this study. These as well as having women without the spine to act are concerns the study revisited, seeking answers that would eliminate quantity in women political leadership and breed quality, erase numerical representation and affirm substantive representation for ethical results.

The 2007 – 2008 African Leadership Institute Parliamentary Score Card (2009: x) explains that on average, male MPs do slightly better than female MPs in Parliament. This is true across nearly all of the measures. Moreover, unlike last session, this trend holds true regardless of whether the women were elected as constituency MPs or as district woman representatives. On average, male MPs outperform female MPs by at least 4 percentage points in plenary, committee and constituency. However many individual women did extremely well.

Women leadership is mostly put to test when it comes to competence. A case in mind is a contrast between Hon. Margaret Zziwa who was ousted from the East African Assembly as Speaker and Hon. Rebecca Kadaga who has caused a reflection on whether Uganda is ready for a female president. According to the East Africa Newspaper (March 29 – April 4, 2014: 6) the motion moved by a Kenyan MP and seconded by Burundi and Rwanda MPs gave the ground for Ms. Zziwa removal as misconduct, poor governance, poor leadership skills, abuse of office, disrespect and intimidation of staff and loss of confidence and trust. The MPs also accused her of being poor at time management and having a laisez – faire attitude towards assembly responsibility, which they say, caused delays and postponement of meetings. Ms. Zziwa told the East African Newspaper her censure motion had to do with her gender and not anything she has done. Meanwhile in commemorating the International Women’s Day 2014, Flair Magazine (2014:32) captured people’s view about Hon. Kadaga and an opposition leader Hon. Nandala Mafabi pointed out she was neutral in her decisions and the opposition chief whip in parliament said she was someone who will not say something today then deny it tomorrow.

However still regarding competence, the misperception underlying women representation in leadership still dilutes the ethical essence of such platforms as affirmative action. As indicated by a 2014 publication by women activist organisations titled ‘a Pool of Ugandan Women’s Voices on Constitutional Amendments of 2014’. At the national level, confusion over the woman as opposed to women’s representative and whether they represent women or everybody in the district has never been resolved. Quoting Elizabeth Kharono (2003), they argue that the mandate of the woman district MP versus the county based MPs also persists. A similar position is replicated at the local council level. This fact has disempowered the women representatives who are given similar funds like their counterparts who represent one county or sub-county in the case of local councilors to traverse their electoral area. As a result the women representatives are seen to be less accessible and less effective than their counterparts who represent one electoral area because among others the law has not defined whom the women represent.

It is further argued by Refki,Abbas, Barenzi, Mirembeetal (2014:20) that Affirmative Action is limited in its framing. It is a narrowly defined strategy to allow women access to Parliament only with the expectation that once experienced and “trained,” they will contest directly for “Constituency” seats. It is not designed to improve representation of all women, who have been otherwise underrepresented, by MPs who are best equipped to understand the experiences of women. In the interviews, female MPs point out that Women Representatives, while being conscious of their gender identities and responsibilities as women, recognize that they serve everyone, per the legal mandate. Without a clear designation of their role as providing substantive representation of women, women MPs feel they must actively water down their advocacy and check their gender at the door, for fear of being judged negatively by colleagues as being biased. Hence, the Affirmative Action policy, in its current state, dilutes women’s substantive representation. While descriptive representation normalizes women’s political participation and leadership and dismantles stereotypes, substantive representation is critical so that these laws serve women in Uganda and not merely the elite few. Balanced membership in Parliament, and having representatives who are best equipped to represent women, by virtue of their experiences as women, is critical to the health of the representative democracy, public trust and sense of legitimacy.

First elected under the Parliamentary affirmative action scheme, Ms. Amongi-Ongom later won competitive elections standing against men candidates. She says that the program has contributed to changed perspective on the capacities and skills of women in public office: ‘women are often more concerned with social issues faced by the population, and people recognize that’. However, Ms. Amongi-Ongom considers that the system needs to be reformed. This view was shared by several other respondents who considered that affirmative action provisions might have had the adverse effect of deterring women from running alongside men. As a result, says Ms. Amongi- Ongom, “women are getting stuck in affirmative action seats and the number of women in directly elected seats is decreasing”. She suggests that affirmative action should be a temporary measure designed to allow women to be elected initially, then they should be trained to run for competitive elections, thereby freeing affirmative action seats for newcomers. (Women’s rights in Uganda: gaps between policy and practice, 2012: 23).

This argument is shared in a response given by Hon. Martin Mugabi MP Buzaaya County who points out:

“ these very women have moral authority to again speak about affirmative action where they are failing themselves to give others a chance to come and also get that exposure (Morris Ocol: NTV report 2015).

Hon. Florence Namayanja Bukoto County MP:

“I want those women who stand on the women ticket to have term Limits at least serve for two terms. When you have served two terms I think you have been given enough to stand on a direct ticket,” (Morris Ocol: NTV report 2015).

Some Cases of Participation/Representation in Gender Related Implements

In this study a sample of respondents drawn from WMP interviewed indicated participation as implied in the table below.

Table 50: Sample of WMPs Participation

Name of Member of ParliamentActive ParticipationYears of ParticipationChoice Committee ChairsGender Related Bills Passed
Obura GraceVice Chairperson UWOPA
Children’s Forum
Equal Opportunities
Marriage Bill (not conclusive)
Miria MatembeConstitution Assembly
Representative in the National Resistance Council
Women Representative for Mbarara District
Non responseDrafting Ugandan Constitution
Advocated for policy on defilement
Advocated for policy on gender
Jane AlisemeraWoman Member of Parliament for Bundibugyo District
Chairperson UWOPA
Member Committee on Social Services
Member of forum on Food Security and Population Development
In Parliament 2001-2011Struggle for the fittestLobbied for HIV/AIDS initiatives
Lobbied for food security schemes
Lobbied for gender integration in education
Private members bill
Gender violence bill
Prohibiting human trafficking
Bitamazire NamirembeWomen Representative Mpigi District
Chairperson Social Services Committee
It is about one’s capacityFocused on Education, Gender and Health
Implementing UPE, USE
Advocate for 1.5 for girls at university
Jalia BintuWomen Representative Masinidi District
Chairperson Equal Opportunities Committee
Member Foreign Affairs Committee
Member Trade Committee
Member Human Rights Committee
Committee on Comissions
Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises
Member Committee on Agriculture
2001 – 2016
2014 – 2016
2001 – 2006
2011 – 2016
Choices are made on contest, it’s 50/50Equal opportunities bill
Advocate for sexual offenses bill
Prohibition of female genital mutilation act
Amoding MonicaFemale National Youth Representative
Chairperson Uganda Parliamentary Youth Forum
Current UWOPA Chairperson
Women Representative for Kumi
2011 – 2015
2011 – 2015
It is about protecting ones integrityPublic Finance Act
Children’s Act
Advocate on maternal health, property rights, gender
Tabling of Sexual Offense bill

Further evidence of women’s participation in leadership is demonstrated in a 2013 report published by Daily Monitor newspaper which showed the performance of women in the ninth (9) Parliament based on the number of times they spoke. The Monitor newspaper rated worst performers as those who had never said a word, poor performers as those who spoke less than five times, fairly good as those who spoke five to fifteen times, good performers as those who spoke sixteen to thirty times, very good performers as those who spoke thirty one to fifty times and the best performers as those who spoke more than fifty times.

Those that have spoken 50 times and more:

  • Betty Amongi (Oyam South)
  • Kabakumba Matsiko (Bujenje County)
  • Irene Muloni (Bulambuli)
  • Beatrice Anywar (KitgumDsitrict)
  • Alice Alaso (Serere District)
  • Nankabirwa Ruth (Kiboga District)
  • Mary Karooro Okurut (Bushenyi District)
  • Kamateeka Joova (Mitooma)
  • Franca Judith Akello (Agago District)
  • Jessica Alupo (Katakwi District)
  • Namayanja Rose (Nakaseke District)
  • Margaret Baba diri (Koboko District)
  • Ibi Ekwau (Kaberamaido District)
  • Bintu Jaria (Masindi District)
  • Cecilia OtimOgwal (Dokolo District)
  • Rebecca Kadaga (Kamuli District)Beyond plenary, women also served on Parliamentary Committees with some even as chairs:
  • Sylvia Namabidde (Chairperson Education Committee),
  • Komuhangi Margaret (Chairperson Gender Committee)
  • Benny Mugwanya (Chairperson Defense Committee).

However, according to Kemigisa (2016: p.5) despite the vocalness of some women in Parliament, women participation has not yet broken through the barriers and the men remain with the center stage. The number of women who competed with men fell from 16 in 2006 to 11 in 2011; and of the 129 women MPs, 112 represent districts as a result of affirmative action. What would happen in the absence of the policy? After twenty years of the policy, can an evaluation show substantial progress? While many women had hoped that the Woman MP District seat would be a training ground for more women to enter Parliament (and politics), those that gain the seat find it safer to keep it than to compete with a man even after two or three terms. In the house, they have failed to push for more pro-women legislation, leaving bills like the Marriage and Divorce Bill to collect dust on shelves in the Parliament.

From this study it is deduced that ethical participation is envisaged in the rational input made which ought to yield an ideally productive outcome. Morally it could be entailed in presence. Women representation in leadership thus becomes ethically applicable not just in moral presence, but demonstrated activity that ought to illustrate contribution. for parliament in line with the origin of the French word ‘ parler’ meaning ‘speaking’ one of the key elements of participation is being able to debate and advocate for substantial development and empowerment.

Ethical Pointers to Women Woman’ing Up and Leading Effectively

Periodic public service codes/ leadership code adherence review retreats should be conducted to assess adoption among both WMPs and MMPs; as a yardstick for measuring adherence to the codes as well as to serve as a reminder of what is ethically apt and produce an ethics audit. This should create an ethics alert environment; for as Ethics Resource Centre (2010:1) notes that social scientist assert the vast majority of people act based on the circumstances in their environment and the standards set by their leaders and peers, even if it means compromising their personal moral ideals. “Good” people do bad things if they are put in an environment that does not value values, if pressured to believe that they do not have any choice but to get the job done—whatever it takes.

The call for female politician to act, as role model for all women, regardless of political views or party membership is key. When women like Hon. Matembe and Hon. Kadaga stand out they serve as symbols of women’s capacity to lead and this attracts other women to the political arena as well as builds the populations confidence in women’s ability to lead. WMPs ought to be the champions of the female brand of leadership.

Gender mainstreaming remains an moral application rather than an ethical standard; just symbol in which sex overrides gender hence numerical displays of women and men rather than result activities. It is therefore essential that political parties should make gender mainstreaming a practical initiative ingrained in activities, funding and result targets. Annually political parties ought to disclose their gender competence in terms of active women membership and accomplishments.

Enforcement of gender appreciating regulations becomes an urgent need in setting pace for effective women leadership. For if women are to indeed lead and not be coopted nor corrupted then there is a need to ensure a safe setting that encourages them to compete favorably in the political space.

There should be a rush for equity not necessarily equality. As per the study both men and women have exclusive character according in line with their gender. Biologically they can never be the same but in terms of equity they ought to attain the same human right, respect and entitlements.

MPs directly or indirectly make a social contract with their constituents to protect their rights and to promote their interests. Parliament is a representative institution meant to protect and promote the people. Women ought to be the champions of meeting this contract, sticking to their manifestos. There ought to be transformation from numbers to impact where evidence based leadership eliminates defensiveness and ups the woman’s chances of recognition as the ideal leader.

One of the grey areas identified in WMPs ascent to leadership is in their skills and experience both at personal and group level. Considering the environment in which the WMPs get into politics the demand for capacity building for ethical leadership to emerge. According to Kellow (2010) “political inexperience makes it much harder for women to access existing power structures and know how to influence them”. Skills including resource mobilization, networking, public speaking, campaigning abilities should be availed to the WMPs. Ethics ought to be at the centre of the capacity building.

WMPs ought to actively engage in leadership support groups and form coalitions for political clout. Ndlovu & Mutale (2013:77) argue that civil society organisations in Africa continue to play a vital role in advancing women’s participation in politics and elections. Much of the work focusing on attaching a sense of harmony among women to conquer the impediments they come across has been conducted by national women’s groups in partnership and with technical assistance from international actors. Women’s low perception of themselves makes it difficult for them to challenge men, participating in decision-making structures, and voting for other women.

If legislative and political institutions are strengthened and the political-institutional culture meets women’s needs women can have an even stronger voice in political life. It is important to continue enhance legislative institutions through enabling greater inclusiveness in policy-making processes.

Women in authority can be a turn off both to men and women in their jurisdiction there if there should be effective women representation WMPs engagement with women is paramount. Moving from the elite woman getting into leadership ignorant of the grassroot concern, WMPs need to question both stated and unstated assumptions about what is good for women and what women want, this is best done with having interactive sessions with women in order to be close to what their concerns actually are. Recruiting fellow women into wellness and creating a platform for them to be heard.

Women leaders need to complement fellow women rather than ostracize them. The political ground for women should not be a battleground but a common ground in which gender connectivity and amends are made in harmony. Sisterhood across all women leadership ranks is key to strengthening women leadership. Female politicians need to harmoniously strive in ensuring gender-sensitive legislation and putting women’s issues on the political agenda.

Since men invented the existing ruling system (patriarchy) there is need to engage them directly to be part of the change – male champions for gender issues would remedy WMPs ethical challenges and also add voice to advocacy around women concerns. Therefore a mechanism for recruiting male gender champion among the MMPs is required.

The affirmative action strategy needs to be redesign to suit the women’s leadership aspirations as well as their family aspirations creating a balance between caring and career responsibilities initiatives including caring services (child care), flexible work hours, spousal support groups, transition coaching ought to be provided.

In the interviews conducted and literature reviewed it is apparent that subtle sexual tensions remain a threat in the leadership realm in so far as the execution of gender related duties is concerned. One WMP respondent noted “when you join parliament the men hit on you if you resist them they become your good friend when you fall to them they despise you.” This calls for a level of self-control as well as upholding personal principles of integrity in interpersonal relations.


Women leading ought to have the reality of women steering the vehicle and causing things to move in response to the women they represent as well as other vital concerns such as children’s rights they should be representing. It is moral but unethical to have women leading as shadows while men continue to be the trailblazers. As shadows they appear numerically and seemingly are present but mostly to mimic the existing system. Ethically women have potential to offer substantive leadership if they deliver as women, quality leadership. This is noted to be possible with the enforcement of ethical leadership codes, mentorship, capacity building and building women leadership coalitions that challenge political party boundaries as well as patronage among other initiatives.


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Linda Lilian is a knowledge management specialist dedicated to employing action research and learning, as tools for proactive interventions. She is a team leader of an action research and learning organisation Cause Effect Initiative Limited where she serves to develop transformative knowledge essential to development. She is currently doing her PhD at Makerere University under the Department of Philosophy, with specific interest in adding value to womens  capacity to lead by applying ethics as a major ingredient. She is also qualified in Mass Communication, Political Science, Ethics and Public Managment. 

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