According to Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) data on youth participation in parliaments, only 2.2 percent of parliamentarians are under 30, and less than 1 percent are young women. Thus, although 33.8% of the members of parliament in Uganda are female and women’s representation in the Ugandan Cabinet progressed from 28.7% in 2016-2020 to 43% in June 2021, young women continue to be sidelined. The exclusion of young women from effective engagement in political processes such as party politics, the legislature, and public finance management and governance accountability mechanisms undermines their capacity, expertise and agency to make valuable contributions. Young women’s participation in formal politics is especially important, as they are already leading change on various fronts of the Sustainable Development Goals including climate change and gender equality.
In Africa, the gender disparity in political and leadership space is still very wide. According to the 2021 edition of the Inter-Parliamentary Union -UN Women (IPU-UN) in Politics and the Women’s Political Participation Africa Barometer, women’s political representation across the continent is still low. Only 24% of the 12,113 parliamentarians in Africa are women; 25% in the lower houses, 20% in the upper houses of parliament and 21% of councilors in the 19 countries studied. Even at the political structure level which is a pivotal arena of a political party, only 12% of women are represented at political party top leadership positions across the 54 African countries. Moreover the lack of gender and sexual harassment policies to provide direction to the women’s agenda, coupled with the inequitable representation of women within the current leadership structures demonstrates the gaps hindering inclusive political participation and gender equality.
Gender parity in political and leadership space can and must be achieved in Africa. Trends have shown that women’s representation in these spaces lead countries to adopt more stringent policies and develop intergenerational approaches towards ensuring that the implementation of adaptation activities will not exacerbate inequalities and other vulnerabilities. Women and feminist political leadership is key to breaking all forms of biases and achieving a just and equal generation.