The Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) Bill proposed by Parliament has devastating socio-economic and political implications on citizens and particularly the women constituency that WALPE represents. Women’s rights organizations have made great strides towards the reduction of gender based violence, eradication of child marriages, capacitation of women to take up leadership positions, awareness raising on sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) and improving the welfare of various women in marginalized communities, giving them a voice to challenge laws, policies and practices that have repressed them for long. This Bill is a set back to the achievement of democracy, socio-economic development and the realisation of constitutionally guaranteed provisions such as section 17, 56 and 80 that calls for gender equality.
Clause 5 of the Bill which inserts a provision into the Act permitting the PVO Board to deregister organisations “engaging in political activities” is vague. This leaves organisations such as WALPE that are working on improving women political participation across the political divide vulnerable, exposed and or forced to change mandate for fear of being deregistered. Our efforts towards the advancement of gender equality and improvement of women representation in leadership and decision making will be put to waste if the PVO Bill in its current form comes into effect. The WALPE is deeply concerned with the repercussions the bill will have on the women constituency that we represent and call all interested stakeholders including the Government to reconsider the bill for the sake of democracy, empowerment, equality and inclusion.
Here’s why the women constituency should speak against the Bill:
- It exposes the vulnerability of women and marginalized groups and negatively impact on their participation in the political, economic and development processes at both local and national level.
- Limits the freedom of association which pushes women away from participating in politics and development.
- Impacts negatively on the mobilization efforts of women-led CBOs and CSOs that advocate for women rights.
- Instils a culture of fear that also limits women’s participation in leadership and decisionmaking processes.
- There will be an increase in poverty and inequalities as women and women with disabilities are major beneficiaries of CSOs community interventions.
- It reduces awareness on Gender Based Violence as there will no longer be a voice of the voiceless.
- It limits civic participation of young women who have been active in civic and voter education as we approach the 2023 elections.
- Safe Spaces for women will shrink or cease to operate taking the country backwards on efforts made towards reducing, recognising and redistributing unpaid care and domestic work.
- The realisation of section 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution that guarantees gender equality will remain a pipeline dream.