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Promoting and protecting Women’s Land rights in Northern Uganda

Participation and Opportunities for Women’s Economic Rights (POWER) was a two-year project(2019-2021) implemented by three partners, NAWAD and the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) based in Uganda and Womankind Worldwide based in the UK with funding from UKAID. The project’s focus was to strengthen eco-feminist movements through four districts of Uganda (Nwoya, Hoima, Buliisa and Amuru)  to actively promote and protect women’s land rights, land ownership and livelihoods and gain access to justice to advocate for policy change.

A land rush erupted in the Amuru district between the West Acholi Cooperative Union and one of Katatyer Parish, Lajago A Village, Layima sub-county due to forceful land evictions. The Union basically does crop farming and grows maize, cotton, sim-sim, sorghum, rice and soya beans on large scale. The Cooperative claims to have acquired a 49 yrs lease on land measuring 2,811.96hectares on 1st January 1984 and says that occupants on the land are squatters. On the other hand, the community claims that the cooperative has been extending boundaries into their ancestral land and involving Uganda People’s Defence Forces(UPDF) to forcefully evict locals off their land without any compensation leaving them landless with no means of livelihood. Several meetings between the aggrieved community people of Katatyer and the local leaders but this has painfully not led anywhere. On the paper are land documents from the West Acholi Cooperative Union which seem to contradict each other showing different acreages and different maps and boundaries of the land. Community Elders are saying that the Union forged land ownership documents by using the names of the deceased persons to fraudulently grad land.

Based on that background NAWAD organized and conducted an advocacy and bicycle caravan campaign in Layima eviction grounds led by women whose land had been grabbed and those that were at risk of losing their land by the Union. The campaign aimed at raising awareness on land rights and unlawful land evictions to improve land security and productivity in the Amuru district. The campaign attracted other people including community leaders, the police, opinion leaders men and land queens from other districts (land queens are community-based land champions/ advocates that were trained with support from the project in advocacy, leadership and communication on women’s land rights. These special women were also trained as community paralegals to support fellow women in reporting and following up on any land cases in their communities. ). The campaign started with a community dialogue that led to the writing of a petition paper on women and the community’s grievances against the West Acholi Cooperative Union. A motorcycle caravan and match to Amuru district headquarters took course after the dialogue with affected women and men holding up placards with messages and singing songs demanding their leaders to break the silence and take action against such unlawful evictions. Messages on the placards read; “STOP WOMEN’S LAND ABUSE, LAND GRABBING MUST STOP, LEADERS WHERE ARE YOU?, ” NO LAND, NO FOOD, NO LIFE, “ to mention, but a few.

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