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Emory University

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Uganda: Development Studies


In general, most societies of the world are patriarchal and as a result women’s participation in politics has historically been minute. To correct this fault, proponents of critical mass representation advocate for explicit quota systems that create special seats for women (e.g. women’s MPs), reserve spots for women or those which mandate the inclusion of women on national party lists. Proponents advocate critical mass with the expectation that female Members of Parliament (MPs) will enhance women’s rights. However, little is known about the actual contribution of female MPs to the enhancement of women’s rights in the countries where critical mass has been applied. Recognizing the importance of this missing knowledge to the on-going debate; the following research seeks to examine the effects of critical mass representation in developing countries through an evaluation of the contribution of female MPs to improved land rights for women in Uganda.

The research is non-experimental and qualitative. The researcher relied on the following methods to gather data: observation, unstructured interviews with the study population and questionnaires. Through observation the researcher was able to examine the working relationship between women in parliament and civil society organizations. Unstructured interviews were beneficial to this research because they gave the researcher flexibility in all interactions with key informants. Questionnaires were necessary to capture the opinions of those key informants who were not available for interviews.

Since the 6th parliament (1996 – 2001) women in Uganda have been represented widely in the Ugandan parliament as the direct result of an affirmative action policy for women. In 2006 their percentage in parliament reached 33.2%, which means that women in Uganda now have a critical mass of at least 30% women in their state legislature. Since the implementation of affirmative action in Uganda the political environment for women has improved and the environment is viewed as being conducive to female participation. Popular reasons for women joining politics in Uganda were: the affirmative action policy, a social responsibility/awareness and community pressure. In the past, female parliamentarians have successfully lobbied for women’s improved land rights through networking with civil society organizations (CSOs) and networking with each other through the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA); and in the 1998 Land Act the government passed a clause requiring spousal consent for the sell or mortgage of family land. However, despite their success women in Uganda’s parliament still face numerous challenges, such as: patriarchal prejudice, inadequate governmental support and the constriction of the political space due to the re-establishment of multi-party democracy.


Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Women's Studies


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