Opinion: What is the gender composition of People Power?



As People Power flexes its muscles for more political space in Uganda, it’s important for us to scrutinise some aspects within the group’s political set-up.

The gender disparities in this case within the group as compared to some other political actors in the country need to be examined.

Just like many other Ugandans, I must brace myself for what could be in the event People Power became the biggest power broker in the country.

Indeed, I am not under any illusion, but I certainly believe, that this group having enjoyed wide media coverage should not be underestimated at all as it pursues its political objectives.

However, this time particularly, I would like the gender dynamics within the group at least to be put under the magnifying glass.

Since People Power, which does not describe itself as a party or a movement or even describe itself in any clear and unequivocal terms, remains abstract as an entity.

The group’s “political agenda” for Ugandans too, remains ambivalent.

However, we have also seen many political forces winning unexpectedly in different countries like in the US as in the case of Donald Trump and most recently in the Ukraine.

No suggestion, it could not happen here in Uganda. It is democracy after all and it works in different ways. That aside, it is not exactly right for People Power to purport, as in the recent past, that People power refers to “the people” since people are not homogenous. Above all, people have different backgrounds and political affiliations.

In fact, what we see in the media especially main stream media or otherwise, are the clear gender disparities within the ranks of People Power as opposed to other major political actors.

Although the group enjoys support from some in the middle classes, its proponents seem to mostly be a group of young angry men not women exhibiting behavioural tendencies marinated in hegemonic masculinity.

These gender disparities are very much part of the status-quo in the socio-cultural fabric of the Ugandan society.

I assume too that some of the anger within the group’s ranks, although not in focus this time, seems to partly relate to absentee fathers or a lesser role played by fathers in the upbringing of some of these young men.

The group may specifically appear to be at conflict with the political status-quo, yet indeed they could be more at conflict with themselves than they are with the political status-quo since they seek some unanswered questions in their lives.

I am not yet convinced if the unsuspecting public should expect anything new from the group since the group as portrayed in the media seems to re-produce, confirm or re-assert the status-quo in relation to the gender dynamics underlying the social fabric of our society.

That notwithstanding, I have personally seen quite a few pictures of some women affiliated to the group whose roles have been passive in nature as opposed to their male counterparts.

In some parties and other political actors like the NRM or FDC, women have been seen to be at the fore front of the running of the party affairs.

In the NRM, the ruling party, for instance, there are women serving in the top organs of the party even though a lot is still needed to achieve full gender parities.

People Power is however, still lagging in terms of appealing to or reflecting the broader spectrum of our society in relation to gender parities.

Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine

No doubt, the group may appeal to the young urban male voter with seemingly little interest in reaching out to the female voter as suggested through the media.

The image of the male political actor projected by the group reflects the same old hegemonic masculinities underlying our society fabric.

Not to mention is the Vulgar, misogynistic and machismo language by a section of its followers in the media directed to those who do not subscribe to their views.

Although some of the language may appeal to some females, most of it is characteristic of the so called “manly” language as the women culturally are socialised into speaking tenderly or behaving “lady-like”.

This certainly has a major effect on how the public perceives the group since what we see in the media is a type of masculinity celebrating aggression and individualistic tendencies.

With the rise of main stream media and internet in the country, the media has now become a major part of our socio-cultural lives. The media undoubtedly now wields a lot of power over we the consumers.

A lot of information, most of which is unfiltered continues to be spread amongst the public, which might have dire consequences for the future of our country.

The situation invokes the necessity to provoke a discussion about what is projected through the media and likewise, the consequences envisaged.

Most of the consumers that partake of some of this information are not cultivated to critically analyse the information provided which becomes problematic in the long-run.

However, the gendered nature of People Power seems to reproduce, confirm or re-assert hegemonic masculinity based on fierce individualism, rivalry domination and violent action “verbal so far” disregarding other political actors.

The group needs to change its gender dynamics just like the major political actors in the country for it to appeal to all Ugandans of different walks of life. As people too, we have different aspirations and we are also politically diverse which should not be overlooked.

The writer is an advocate.

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