From violence to peace: Land advocacy project brings fundamental change
The communities in northern Uganda’s Kole and Dokolo Districts have been deeply disturbed by decades of war and resettlement. The high demand for land has become so contentious that people have been killed in land disputes. And past attempts to resolve the issues have often failed as the underlying poor community relations have not been addressed.
Thanks to generous funding from the Baring and Ellerman Foundations we have been able work through partners TAO-Uganda and FAPAD (Facilitation for Peace and Development) to bring about the needed fundamental change. So much so that one male household head said:
“I have learnt a lot about women’s land rights from my wife. Now my entire family recognises and respects women’s land rights.”
Our three year project, running until 2016, has taken a multi-phased approach to changing attitudes, as outlined in the TAO Annual Report 2014. We have worked with a wide range of community and cultural leaders, empowered women advocates, trained Community Legal Aid Providers (CLAPs) and conducted extensive awareness raising. Opio John, a clan leader from Lwala village Tetugo Parish testified to the change:
“We now recognise and work to promote land rights not only in the cultural context but also the statutory context. I also initiate individual visits to families that do not recognise women’s land rights and sensitise them.”
In addition, the project mediates individual land disputes:
240 cases resolved through mediation between project start in 2013 and late 2015, with 29 pending and 23 referred.
Although not yet finished, the project’s success in increasing understanding of women’s land rights, across the community, has already achieved much.
Increased access to land, for sustainable farming and other income-generation:
Thanks to greater community awareness of land rights, around 1,625 widows have already gained access to their rightful land. Through the simple act of planting along land boundaries, land ownership is much better respected. By having written agreements, women are now making income from renting out their land. Many are now acquiring land titles – which allows them to access loans and so start up businesses.
Less gender-based violence:
Gender-based violence has been a major problem in this area. Alga Ekwan, one of the 60 women advocates trained by this project says:
“TAO-Uganda has been the best project in handling not only land matters but also empowering our capacities on gender issues, so cases of gender-based violence have reduced….
“We help them to appreciate the value of staying peacefully without violence. Also, we help those whose rights have been violated to access justice through mediation. And if this fails, we use the referral arrangements. We also help them to form social groups within their communities because [if you go to the police your husband will come back the next day and the violence will continue].”
Bribery for case hearings reduced:
There had been a high incidence of local council officials being bribed to achieve the desired case outcome. Thanks to the project’s tailored training of a range of community leaders, they have much better leadership skills for handling cases and appreciate the effectness of mediation.
Greater leadership roles for women:
To enable women to secure their land rights this project has built women’s skills and confidence to participate in decision-making. As a result, the project’s benefits go beyond land rights. For example, women are being equipped with the skills and courage to take on leadership roles in groups, such as Village Savings and Loan Associations and even local councils.
Orphans and vulnerable children benefit:
Improved gender relations, greater income, raised awareness of rights and an environment of unity and cooperation have combined to have highly beneficial impacts on the orphans and other vulnerable children in these communities. More are going to school, food security and health have improved, children learn how to relate well to each other and they can grow up in an environment of security and well-being.
The project is due to be completed in 2016.