Women's organisations in Uganda have voiced mixed reactions to Vice President's Specioza Wandira Kazibwe decision to resign from her post.
Kazibwe, a medical doctor by profession, reportedly wrote to President Yoweri Museveni asking to be relieved of her position in order to pursue a PhD at the Harvard School of Medicine in the US.
A presidential spokesperson confirmed Kazibwe's resignation, but told IRIN that the president had not yet appointed a replacement. Kazibwe was appointed after Museveni came to power in 1986.
However some Ugandan women argue that although her appointment as vice president raised the profile of women in politics, she failed to use her position to positively influence key policies in favour of women.
Jackie Asiime-Mwesige, coordinator of the Uganda Women's Network, told IRIN that Kazibwe's position as vice president had been "mere tokenism" and had nothing to do with advancing women's rights. "We did not work closely enough with her. She even made statements that eventually pulled the struggle down," she said.
One particular source of frustration for Ugandan gender activists was Kazibwe's firm stand against the passing in parliament of a bill aimed at enhancing women's land rights.
The bill had sought to make women equal partners in ownership of their husbands' land, to prevent situations where the man's relatives remove widows and their children from the land once the husband has died.
Sharon Lamwaka, who works for the Kampala-based Akina Mama wa Afrika [Kiswahili for Women of Africa], an international women's organisation, argued that Kazibwe's position against women's land inheritance rights was a sign she had not been interested in women's progress.
"How can a vice president say such things. We elite women are not fighting for ourselves. We are fighting for poor women in the villages who are too poor to buy their own land," Lamwaka told IRIN.
However, Kazibwe's admission last year that she quit her marriage because of physical abuse from her spouse, earned her praises from gender activists who said it had helped raise the profile of domestic violence, a major problem for many Ugandan women.
Kazibwe was also famous for her powerful feminist statements, such as urging women to take self defence lessons against violent spouses or urging them to work hard and not wait for their spouses to "spoon feed" them.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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