The right to political participation under international law, is deemed to be the basis for the realization and protection of other human rights. It gives citizens of a given society whether primitive or civilized to have the authority and power to define the destiny and management of the affairs of the society. The international legal framework under the core-human rights treaties and in particular Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights defines State obligations to ensure genuine enjoyment of the right without any discrimination.
In Africa, the African Union has been clear since its establishment on the right of political participation understanding well that it is vital for each countries’ independence and economic sustainability. As such, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good governance of 2007 declared affirmatively under Article 2 that the principles of democracy, human rights and rule of law are fundamental principles of sustainable peace in the region and member states should adhere to ensure and promote free and fair political processes including the independence of the judiciary.
However, despite the existing legal framework including the national constitutions of many of the African countries, women have not yet fully given the opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their day to day lives. Countries like Uganda for example, despite the available data that the NRM government has increased the direct participation of women in the parliament and cabinet, there is less evidence that such numbers have influenced change and purely represented the ideas of women in their constituencies. There are questions related to whether such women representatives have the power to express their views and take decisions in their capacity without being coerced. Further, despite the national and international efforts for development, women in Uganda and especially those in rural areas are still prone to extreme poverty and violence which is a clear sign of a gender that is still denied the right to define their existence in society.
Should economic empowerment be considered vital if we want to have effective political participation of women?