Women’s seats candidates rue new campaign format

Women parliamentary hopefuls already appear to have constrained hopes even before launching their campaigns, claiming they lack financial means to traverse all the designated venues for rallies.
Voters wait to cast their ballot during a past election exercise. Women candidates say they have no money to canvass rallies.  The New Times/ File.
Voters wait to cast their ballot during a past election exercise. Women candidates say they have no money to canvass rallies. The New Times/ File.

Women parliamentary hopefuls already appear to have constrained hopes even before launching their campaigns, claiming they lack financial means to traverse all the designated venues for rallies.

This follows changes in campaign format, especially for those seeking the vote as women representatives, to increase their contact with constituents.

The changes by the National Electoral Commission means Women’s candidates will now have to traverse several venues in every district. Previously, they only had a single rally.

The campaigns for all parliamentary candidates start today, with the women candidates among the 410 vying for seats setting out to appeal to the electorate.

Speaking at a meeting, last week, the women said there is need of financial support if they are to genuinely compete in the campaigns, especially transport facilities, an exercise they suggest will be very costly, given the number of sites to reach.

The meeting was organised by Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe, a local NGO that advocates for women’s and children’s rights, in a forum that was dubbed, “Women Can Do It”.

This meeting was organised to chart ways of driving morale  for the candidates, especially first-time contestants, to overcome fear and be confident during the campaigns.

“It would be good if we had financial support for transport otherwise we will have challenges,” said Beatha Mukagatsinzi, a candidate who is also in charge of social affairs in Nyagihanga Sector, Ngoma District.

Campaigns in the category of women will send every candidate to three or four sites in each district of their respective provinces or the City of Kigali where they will take time to tell voters what they should expect from them.

Vestine Cyurinyana, a candidate from Rubavu District, said this time the system has changed. In the past elections, she said, women only campaigned at one venue; the district.

“This time, the campaign looks special; in the past, candidates had to meet the voters at district level, but we now have to go to different venues within in the district. We have many rallies to address; ours is almost similar to political parties’ campaign,” said Cyurinyana.

Women representatives, just like their peers from the other special interest categories (the youth and people with disabilities), will be voted through a college system. They will be elected by women councils right from the cell to the provincial level.

The venues that were indicated for candidates combines three to four sectors in each district.

There are five designated constituencies for women representatives, including the City of Kigali and each of the four provinces. Five candidates will battle it out for two seats in Kigali, 30 will vie for the six seats up for grabs in the Southern Province, while the other three constituencies have 21 women each for the six seats in the Western and Eastern provinces, and four seats in the north.

The number of the seats per constituency is proportional to the population resident in each region.

Eying government support

Although these women say they submitted their candidature well aware of the financial implications, the new system makes it hard and costly for them, they argue.

Most of them said they are expecting the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion and the National Women Council to support them in any way.

But the council says it has no such plans or the means to fund it.

“We don’t have budget for that; we are only helping candidates to understand the campaign so that they take it as something important. We are also sensitising other women to participate in the elections, but we are not supporting candidates financially,” said Christine Tuyisenge, the executive secretary of National Women Council.

The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, however, said “something” is in pipeline but officials contacted could not give specifics.

The Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Henriette Umulisa, said they are still in negotiations with partners but nothing can be promised for now.

Cost-sharing

Some women said they have joined efforts to hire cars that will be taking them to the campaign venues so that they can share the cost.

This was an arrangement the National Women Council suggested during the meeting. The council urged tolerance for one another during the campaigns.

The council even encouraged the incumbents who are seeking re-election to help their colleagues get to the campaign sites.

Meanwhile, when contacted, authorities in the camp for persons with disabilities said they had no financial problems to mull over for now.

“For the women, I also believe a support is needed, but we do not need it; our campaign will take place the same day of election and electorate will converge in Kigali,” said Gastone Rusiha, the president of National Council for Persons Living with Disabilities.

“The National Electoral Commission will only ensure transport for Electoral College and help those who require sign language to get the message and they have already agreed to do that,” said Rusiha, himself one of the candidates vying for the single slot, added.

More than 100 women candidates were nominated to vie for the 20 seats for Women’s representatives in Parliament. Election for Women’s representatives will be held on September 18, a day after those for candidates for the youth and the disabled.

 

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