Oil land women seek government attention on land rights abuses

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Women prepare to set off for bicycle race on the way to deliver their petition to Buliisa district authorities.

Women in Buliisa District have used the International Women’s Day commemoration to appeal to the government seeking its commitment to promote the rights of women on land.

In their petition dated March 8, 2021, the women cite delayed compensation for land and crops affected by the oil development related projects and the traditional belief that women do not own land left them insecure on land as key challenges.

The women say this has crippled their efforts to progress socially and economically since most of them are not officially married, thus, living in uncertainty of their future home.

Given the rising land value in Buliisa and the nearing of the Final Investment Decision (FID) making in Uganda’s oil industry, the petitioners want the government to make deliberate action to sensitise women about their land rights and also prevail on the companies involved in displacement of people to have a keen eye on gender issues.

Women from Nwoya, Hoima, Kikuube, Buliisa and Amuru districts dialogue to face the challenges ahead of them at the International Women’s Day in Buliisa District.

According to the petitioners, special women sensitisation meetings should always be arranged for Project Affected Persons (PAPs) to allow them freely speak out their minds contrary to what happens when their husbands, in-laws or brothers are present.

They also want the opening of joint bank accounts for married couples ahead of compensation to always be enforced to safeguard women interests normally suppressed by husbands.

Ms Joyce Mbabazi Kadogoli, the Buliisa district council deputy speaker said their council would not hesitate to take the petition seriously.

After receiving a copy of the petition while at a brief function at Buliisa district headquarters, the Buliisa district woman Member of Parliament, Norah Bigirwa Nyendwoha, said given the anticipated rise in land grabbing and disputes, creative and dynamic legal methods are needed to improve land security for the vulnerable girls and women.

“We have the potential but most men try to undermine us. We are paying school fees for children that some men have failed to do. We are feeding families. Why should we be land users and not land owners?” argued Ms Nyendwoha.

The legislator added that some men pretend to be big planners but decades pass with nothing visible at home.

She, thus, called upon young women to wake up and start fighting for their rights.

Audio: Nyendwoha on petition (English)

Ms Mary Immaculate Atugonza, one of the petitioners from Ngwedo sub-county, asked for more attention on women with disability to live a life free from discrimination.

The Gender and Food Security Officer at the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Sostine Namanya, said since March 2020, the Association has supported 86 women to access justice in relation to land rights in the Albertine region.

She revealed that some cases had been resolved through mediations whereas some need attention of courts of law.

Ms Namanya fears that many young women continue being exposed to great risk of going landless amid food insecurity for many years if the government and other stakeholders do not take serious steps to safeguard the rights of women on land.

Audio: Namanya on legal aid (English)
Women enter Buliisa district headquarters riding bicycles to deliver their petition.

Bicycle racing was the main activity as women moved to the district headquarters – four kilometres from Albert Nile Hotel along Wanseko-Hoima Road across the central Buliisa town council.

The winners were awarded with gifts including farm tools as a gesture of economic empowerment and food security.

Ms Judith Nekesa from Nwoya district said the challenges of Buliisa women are not far different from what they are going through in northern Uganda.

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