Members of Lawyers Against Poverty voted to enhance the capacity of Oxfam’s to support women in Uganda to claim their rights to land and live free from violence.
In Uganda, women’s efforts to escape poverty are blocked by discrimination and inequality. Women routinely face violence and abuse and are denied opportunities to make decisions. Practices such as child marriages, female genital mutilation, and gender-based violence are common. Survivors of violence are often reluctant to obtain justice due to ridicule and hostility from their communities, as well as state inaction in seeking redress. Women are also denied access to land, which limits their ability to access loans, grow food, or earn an income. This holds back the efforts of women, their families, and communities to escape poverty. Ultimately, everyone suffers from the double discrimination of poverty and sexism women face.
Support from Lawyers Against Poverty
The project enabled women to take on leadership positions and work to secure their basic human rights. Women were supported to understand and take part in the day-to-day decision-making processes affecting their lives, and demand that the government protect their rights to own land and live lives free from violence.
Community activists trained through the project supported women to obtain justice for violence and land rights violations. For example, in Kotido district, a 45-year-old widow’s land was sold to another person by her brother-in-law. When she received an eviction notice, she approached activists trained by the project. They alerted the police, and the woman regained her land.
People in positions of responsibility, such as police officers and clan leaders, also pledged support for women’s human rights, and have taken actions to protect women’s rights in their communities.
Impact – Emma’s Story
Emma has just been re-elected as Kaabong district councillor. Emma’s leadership is characterised by the fact that she herself has faced many of the problems the women she represents have grappled with. She uses her personal experience to inspire and help other women to surmount their challenges.
“I faced a fierce battle with my in-laws when my husband died following a terrible accident. The in-laws moved swiftly, before his body could become cold, to snatch whatever he had left behind. They started with our seven cows and 27 goats and moved to grab the land too. These people wanted to take everything, with no plans to support my children. I reported the matter to the district land board. The police spoke to my brothers-in-law, and settled the matter. The land is in my name now. My brothers-in-law kept the cows and goats.”
“When I first declared my intention to contest as a district councillor, I was met with stiff resistance with some men angrily asking me why I was contesting for ‘seats of men’. This year, Oxfam reached men and women with messages on the importance of supporting women leaders. The project provided training and formed a network of women leaders. I gained knowledge and skills which boosted my confidence during my re-election campaign. I have used my knowledge to win the hearts of the men and women who voted for me when I challenged more than five men to win my seat.”
“Through the project, women leaders held community discussions on the problems women face. As a member of the network of women leaders, I spoke out against violence against women and advocated for women’s land rights. Because communities saw me speak out passionately condemning these abuses and supporting survivors experiencing abuse, they believed I could continue to be a good leader.”
Many women now seek Emma out in her capacity as a district councillor. Emma recalls a particularly challenging case of rape. Emma dragged the man to the police, and later found he was HIV positive. She advised the woman to come for testing every three months and supported her to start taking medication. The man was eventually imprisoned. Emma has also organised Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLAs), which give women the opportunity to save money and take out loans at low interest rates.
“Borrowing money has given women leverage. In the election, an unprecedented number of women borrowed money to finance their campaigns. Most Local Council chairperson positions are now held by women. This is a sign of great things to come.”