06/2015.The power of women in advocating for their land rightsBY CHRISTINE NAKATO, Program Assistant Posted June 2015
Land is the primary input and factor of production which is not consumed but without which no production is possible. It is the resource that has no cost of production and, although its usage can be switched from a less to more profitable one, its supply cannot be increased. The term ‘land’ includes all physical elements in the wealth of a nation bestowed by nature; such as climate, environment, fields, forests, minerals, mountains, lakes, streams, seas, and animals. As an asset, it includes anything (1) on the ground (such as buildings, crops, fences, trees, water), (2) above the ground (air and space rights), and (3) under the ground (mineral rights), down to the center of the Earth. Perhaps the oldest form of collateral, land is still very attractive to lenders because it cannot be destroyed, moved, stolen, or wasted. All a lender needs is the borrower’s clear title to it.
On the other hand, land rights are the rights of indigenous people to land, either individually or collectively. Land and resource-related rights are of fundamental importance to indigenous people for a range of reasons, including: the religious significance of the land, self-determination, identity, and economic factors.
It was between September & October 2014, when PELUM Uganda conducted regional trainings for her members and affiliate farmers on land rights; with the main purpose of creating their awareness on the National Land Policy and its implications on agricultural production and productivity. The consultant did his best to conduct the training at a slow pace, coupled with usage of local languages and other facilitation methodologies. The approaches employed did not only increase members’ level of active participation but also enabled them understand the concept of land and land rights. At the time of the training, many male participants knew about their rights on land except majority females. It was not until the facilitator took participants through the National land policy and the various provisions to which the salient land tenure security issues can be addressed that many women were brought on board. Through verbal testimonies, a participant remarked by ending “from today on, I have gotten to know about my land rights and I am going to engage other fellow women who have become victims of land evictions by their spouses, relatives among others, to advocate for their rights by referring to the various provisions as provided for in the National land policy”
Such testimonies were confirmed relevant during the activity follow up visits to the member organisations and affiliate farmers in March 2015. Women exhibited high degree of determination, enthusiasm and diligence in working towards the attainment of their rights on land and actively engaging other stakeholders like local leaders, men change agents in the similar struggle. The following statement from one of the participants caught my attention and deemed provocative to write about “I remember during the training conducted by PELUM, I shared with fellow participants about my turmoil. I had been divorced for 4 years and I left my husband’s home when I had cultivated a lot of food. On request to have my food harvested so that I feed the children whom I went with, my former husband declined, ending that I had no right at all to have the proceeds from his land. That hurt me lots and I had lived a very miserable life since then. Thanks to the training PELUM gave us where we gained knowledge on land rights especially for women. I used this knowledge to go back to my relatives and engaged them in a discussion regarding the subject matter. At first they did not listen, I was actually chased away. I went the second, third, fourth and fifth time to further engage them. On the fifth time, they accepted to give me some portion in order to cultivate food for my children. They told me to gather at my former husband’s home on 28th March 2015 so that after land demarcation, a certificate of land ownership could be issued to me under the supervision and witness of the clan leaders, Ageo Pheobe, a farmer affiliated to CIDI narrated”.
Readers, there is power in building capacities of all individuals without discrimination to speak for themselves on issues affecting their wellbeing. Had it not been PELUM’s active involvement of women in these trainings, such a lady like Ageo Pheobe would still be living in frustration and agony: what is your role in the realization of this paradigm?