The outbreak and spread of COVID-19 pandemic has taken aback every individual world over.
In Uganda, the first corona virus case was reported in March 2020 and ever since, government set out strict rules to contain the spread of the virus across the country. Some of the measures include movement restrictions and a ban on gatherings.
Though such measures have incapacitated people socially and economically, the rural communities are becoming strengthened and resilient to the pandemic by coming up with their own community-centered solutions to slow down the spread and mitigate the impacts.
Some of the local partners of National Association Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) say they have been resilient to finding solutions amidst COVID-19.
Rev. Fred Musimenta, the Chairperson of Butimba sustainability Conservation Association in Butimba village in Kikuube district says the lock down and restrictions on access to markets and movements have incapacitated their efforts to earn income and this has dragged people into poverty.
“People have been selling their food to get some money. But now that the gatherings are suspended, the markets are closed and movements restricted; they have nowhere to sell to. They have been forced to sell within at very low prices,” he says.
He adds that, “BUSUCA has also been earning some income through selling tree seedlings and honey to local organisations and other community members. However, the buyers suspended buying since they have no money,”
Musimenta, however, says such challenges have hindered BUSUCA from carrying out their advocacy work and environmental conservation activities.
“We have learnt to live in the new normal, we still hold meetings of small numbers to sensitize people about their land rights and how they should use the COVID-19 lock down to grow more food to ensure food security at households. We have also decided to give out trees freely for people to use this lock down to plant trees to increase the forest cover,” he says.
On community health, Rev. Musimenta says they are living by examples in washing the hands and putting on masks. He says in addition to getting COVID messages on preventive measures from Community Green Radio, they are advising communities to come up with their own solutions other than waiting for the government to come in.
“NAPE gave us a hand washing water tank which we put at the office to teach communities how to wash hands and why we should wash hands. Community Green Radio has also played a big role in raising awareness in COVID prevention and people are putting it into actions. Away from that, we have told people to buy masks, emphasize hand washing using soap to prevent the virus,” he said.
Alice Kazimura, the Director of Kakindo Integrated Women’s Development Agency (KAWIDA) in Buliisa district says COVID lock down and displacements due to floods resulting from rising water levels on Lake Albert have fueled domestic violence.
“These two natural calamities have largely affected fishing which is Buliisa’s main economic activity. As a result people have become to poor and poverty goes along with domestic violence. Because of poverty, many families are breaking up with many women running to road construction workers in the area for money. So far we have 11 families have broken up since he lock down,” she says.
She says KAWIDA has partnered with the district officials and other local community based organisations to sensitize communities on domestic violence which has taken toll in the wake of COVID-19.
“We have sought permission from the Resident District Commissioner to allow us have small meetings of like 30 people to engage them on domestic violence. We are also carrying out radio talk shows in partnership with the district local government and other organisations to sensitize people. Since many people are at home; men, children and wives, sharing responsibilities has become a challenge,” she explains.
For people living in Kijayo camp for the Internally Displaced People, the COVID-19 pandemic has made life complicated since they depend on causal labor for their livelihood and food.
“This pandemic has taught us to understand that it’s only us who must get solutions to our own problems. The people we have been working for have no money. You either work for cheap labour or food. Some of us have decided to hire some pieces land to grow crops. Like me I hired some piece of land and planted cabbages that I have been eating and selling. I sometimes go to my disputed land and get some avocados which I also sell,” says Ms.Hariet Kemirembe, a resident in the IDP camp.
Kemirembe says being in the camp has not stopped people from embracing hand washing as a preventive measure to COVID-19. She says the hand washing water tank received from NAPE has helped them to emphasize hand washing before one accesses the camp.
The communities say the radio has played a big role in spreading messages from credible services like World Health Organisation and Ministry of Health translated in local languages and rising awareness on preventive measures.
As the country continues to fight the spread of COVID-19, the role of communities in responding to COVID-19 pandemic cannot be underestimated especially in designing their own solutions to the needs of communities at grassroots.
It’s disastrous to encroach on rivers, lakes and wetlands as stressed by the Executive Director National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE Mr. Frank Muramuzi
VIDEO: Frank Muramuzi, an environmentalist on the way forward following the rising water levels of Lake Victoria. #NBSMorningBreeze #NBSUpdates #StaySafeUG
Posted by NBS Television on Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Environmentalists from Wakiso district have stormed Gobero Police Post in Kakiri Sub County demanding an explanation why people have continued cultivating in the swamp adjacent to the station despite physical demarcations and numerous warnings from the District Natural Resources department.
Permanent pillars were raised on the boundaries of the 37.6km swamp, which stretches from Kato-Mayanja in Namayumba Sub County via Kakiri to Masuuliita by the Water and Environment Ministry last year under guidance from Wakiso District Natural Resources department to stop residents from cultivating in the swamp.
The section of the swamp at Gobero flooded in May last year sweeping away all crops and destroying people’s property worth millions of shillings, a reason why the pillars had to be raised to restrict encroachment by residents.
The team that was under the Command of Wakiso LC 5 Vice Chairperson Betty Ethal Naluyima and District Natural Resources Officer, Rebecca Sabaganzi was on a fact finding mission to establish the cause of the constant flooding whenever it rains.
The team was shocked to find that the section of the swamp, which faces Gobero Police Post, is under heavy encroachment.
The Wakiso District Natural Resources Officer, Rebecca Sabaganzi, said her department has done all it can to protect the wetland but the law enforcement officers are not bothered to enforce the guidelines to protect it.
She says that while planning for an area, people need to be guided on where to cultivate and construct their residences to protect e essential areas, which can affect nature and lead to disasters.
CREDIT:Uganda Radio Network
November 25 marks the International Day of elimination of violence against women, which begins the 16 world wide activism campaign against gender-based violence that goes up to December 10. The day is observed every year to raise awareness on the fact that women are subject to rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence around the world. Following on from last year, this year’s global theme once again focuses on violence and harassment in the world of work..
As one of the activities to raise awareness campaigns, NAPE organized media interactions with Women human rights Defenders (WHRD’s)in Bunyoro region to share experiences, strategies and struggles in the face of violence against women.
The women expressed concern over the rising over rising cases of gender based- violence that often go unreported fear to speak out, impunity by perpetrators and gender inequality.
Peninah Ruhindi, a woman activist from Kigaaga in Kabaale Sub County in Hoima says the compensation of persons affected by oil developments has triggered violence in the oil-rich region as men want to take control all the compensation money.
Harriet Kemirembe, the chairperson of Kijayo camp of people who were evicted for Sugarcane growing in Kijayo in Kikuube district says many women who have undergone sexual harassment and rape in the camp have suffered in silence due to fear to break their marriages and shame. She says women are instead freeing their homes in the camps due to the psychological torture they undergo. “Women fear to pass through the sugar plantations because they have been raped and sexually harassed by the employees in the sugar factory but they can’t speak. Where do you start from? Even back in the camp, we are sexually harassed by our husbands in the face of our children due tothe nature of the makeshift huts we sleep in. A man wants to have sex with you when the children are listening. It hurts,” she said.
Jenipher Beitwamaswa, from Navigators of Development Association (NAVODA), a community Based Organization in Hoima says efforts to take up legal actions on sexual harassment and rape have become hard because the victims fear to speak out to give evidence.
“There is a case of rape from Kijayo camp that we were following where a man pushed the woman out of the house only to be raped by the sugarcane workers. However, we failed to take it on because the victim has failed to speak out,” she said.
Despite the challenges, women activists who have been empowered by NAPE are coming up together as a collective power to mobilize other women in communities to speak up in the face of violence. They say through their women groups, they talk about the challenges affecting them including gender-based violence and how to find solutions.
Evas Katusiime, a resident of Kakindo in Buliisa says violence is used as a mechanism that suppresses women yet women have equal access to resources, opportunities and services as men. She said women should join groups to be able to stand together to fight the challenges.
“I thank NAPE for empowering us, it has opened our eyes. Gone are the days when women were violated against and remained silent because there is widespread advocacy through trainings and forming groups. I believe together, we can speak up and fight for our rights,” Katusiime said.
WHRD’s urged the government leaders to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace by putting in place and implementing sexual harassment policies by regularly and promoting the policies, translate into relevant community languages. Put in place reporting mechanisms and promote gender equality. Provide regular trainings and information to women workers and activists.
Women human rights defenders like Evas face many risks to protect their rights, so NAPE and its allies will continue standing in solidarity with women in addressing violence through sensitization, amplifying their voice and bring out the untold stories that women and girls face.
Co-written by Precious Naturinda & Namanya Sostine
With some of the characters from Hoima and Buliisa, the documentary, Women Hold Up the Sky tells the story of how women activists affected by mining and other forms of large-scale extractives in Uganda, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are deeply engaged in resistance and active struggle to take back the control of their land, rights, bodies and their lives.
“Now that we are back on the land, nobody should interfere with our rights as women. If they come to evict us again, we will die to the last person standing,” said Lucy Ongiera a community group leader for Rwamutonga women savings group in Hoima district in the film.
It reveals the experience and activism of women in the three African countries but tells a much bigger story of the ongoing exploitation of natural resources and marginalization of poor communities, particularly women.
“The oil companies destroyed our crops, driving through with the tractors, graders, wires and trucks. When they came to pay, I realized the money they brought was not the right amount, so I rejected it. When I complained, they said they don’t care. I went to court to sue them. And the case has been in the high court since 2011, motionless. We are like squirrels against an elephant because the elephant is huge and can run over you and squash you,” said Margaret Kagole, the chairperson of the TulimeHamu Mbibo Zakadde Women’s group in Buliisa, another character in the film.
The film that was done with support from the WoMIN-an, African Gender and Extractives Alliance, in partnership with the National Association of professional Environmentalists (NAPE) The Uganda film launch was attended by women affected by oil developments, women activists, government leaders who pledged to unite together to strongly hold up their struggles on land and their rights in the era of oil development.
“I have heard in the documentary one women saying that her husband was beaten and left unconscious during eviction in Rwamutonga. What if it was my husband, me who has no eyes, who can’t see? How would I have looked for him? Some of these real life stories make us emotional but it’s a lesson for us as women to stand up and fight for our land. We need to come together as women,” said Joy Nalongo Rufunda, the Chairperson of Blind women association.
Margret Kagole from Buliisa said women should not give up in fighting for their rights on land and be organized in groups to be able to have one strong collective voice.
“I thank NAPE for empowering me. I have been empowered to stand up and fight for what belongs to me. Like for my land case that has been in court since 2011, I think the people I am battling with have now feared me. They have started calling me for peace talks but I refused because I have my lawyer. I have heard it in corridors that I will be compensated. This is what we need as women. We hold on, we don’t give up,” Kagole said.
Bernadette Plan, the Secretary for Gender for Hoima District asked women to work hard and hold up to their struggles against the injustices that have come with oil development in the districtwith the sky being the limit.
Catherine Byenkya, the Minister for Health in Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom hailed NAPE for going on ground to bring out the untold stories of women. She asked women to work together as women and build a platform where the voices from the grassroots to national level can be heard.
“Thank you NAPE for loving women. Let’s work together as women to build ourselves. Let’s stand bold and speak up in defending our rights on land,” said Catherine Byenkya.
Sostine Namanya, the Gender and Food Security Officer at NAPE applauded women who took part in the documentary. She said land issues, environmental degradation and climate displacements affect women most and the documentary gives a lesson on what women face in other countries compared to Uganda and how they are taking on their resistance struggles.
She added that ‘’ Women hold up the sky’’ is a character-driven film about African women who are deeply engaged in struggles to take back control of their land, their rights, their bodies and their lives. The film tells us about women’s experiences and their dreams for development.
The film will be used by allies in the global North will use it for training, political education, lobbying and advocacy. The film will also be the centerpiece of a women-led women’s rights African campaign on fossil fuels, energy and climate justice.
The film will cultivate greater awareness of the costs of extractives-driven development, and its gendered costs, amongst civil society organisations and the wider public, and it will be used to advocate and campaign for the needed development alternatives to governments and multilateral bodies, like the African Union and the United Nations.
Find out more about the film here: www.womenholdupthesky.co.za
Story by Ms.Namanya Sostine and Ms. Precious Naturinda
In Mid-June this year, Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) organised public hearings in Kikuube and Hoima districts to get the public views about Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for Kingfisher oil field in Kikuube district.
The ESIA report that was submitted by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) Uganda Ltd to National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) was seeking approval to kick start commercial oil developments in the area.
CNOOC Uganda which was licensed to operate Kingfisher oil field contracted Golder Associates and Eco to conduct ESIA on the development of the oil field.
The public hearings were overwhelmed by public concerns of environmental degradation and threatened community livelihoods by displacements, lack of jobs and failure to get market for locally produced goods.
Locals and leaders asked government and oil companies to improve community livelihoods, enhance environmental protection and community benefits from oil projects.
Kadri Kirungi, the Hoima district Chairperson said that those affected by oil projects are miserable due to lack of financial literacy skills to improve their livelihoods.
“People who were displaced in the land earmarked for the oil refinery received a lot of money for compensation but today they are the poorest in the district,” Mr. Kirungi said.
The district chairperson also asked government and oil companies to give primary consideration for jobs and business to communities hosting oil developments so that they benefit.
“Poverty has hit us despite having these projects. Please change and give us economic benefits,” he said.
Buhaguzi county Member of Parliament, Daniel Muhairwe noted that speculators are grabbing land, which has pushed residents to the wetlands and forests for survival. He asked government to give land titles to customary land owners who are being displaced by speculators who he said are obtaining titles fraudulently.
“If a person’s land is grabbed, he will not fail to encroach on a wetland or forest for survival,” he lamented.
Betty Bagadila, a resident of Kaiso-Tonya in Buseruka Sub County in Hoima district said the report did not address challenges of women such as long distances to fetch water and firewood.
“Natural forest cover is being degraded by the oil developments and even some water sources have been affected. This has a great bearing on women who are responsible for collecting firewood and water. They are already walking long distances for the same. So, how shall we as rural women benefit from the project yet you are not addressing our challenges,” Ms. Bagadila asked.
Others expressed concern that CNOOC Uganda did not outline how it planned to avoid or mitigate the effects of oil spill on Lake Albert, its catchment and other ecosystems.
The Retired Bishop of Bunyoro Kitara Diocese, Reverand Nathan Kyamanya noted, “I expected risk management for unplanned events to be included in this report because it concerns my life. They are telling us that they have it in mind but we want it here because we want to know.”
NEMA Deputy Executive Director, Christine Akello agreed that the oil spill threats are real but she observed that they could be avoided with proper plans.
The Kingfisher ESIA report states that during the development of project, there is a risk of water, soil and air pollution, degradation of vegetation, displacement of people and disturbance of previously unidentified cultural sites.
For four years, Community Green Radio was operating through affiliation with Liberty FM in Hoima. It would broadcast from Thursday to Sunday from 1.00pm to 3.00pm. But this is history! For one year now, the radio is fully operational with its own home, frequency and studios.
At the frequency of 103.9 FM, the radio broadcasts live and clear, daily not only with radios but also online.
This has excited listeners club members who have seen it outgrow affiliation; and had for long demanded for a fully-fledged radio to be able to have enough time to advocate for environmental Conservation and human rights.
Karuhanga Moses, the chairperson of Butimba listeners club says he is happy that the radio broadcasts daily. He says the members now can go on radio anytime to discuss issues affecting their areas; not like those days where they were limited to specific time.
“We are happy that now the members can go on air anytime they wish not like those days when they would have to wait for time between 1.00-3.00 pm. Am happy with National Association of professional Environmentalists (NAPE) for adhering to our demand,” he noted
He adds that, “more voices of local communities will be amplified to actively participate in natural resources management, especially in Bunyoro region which is already fighting with challenges related to oil developments.”
Norah Bahongye, a member of Kigaaga listener’s club says she is happy to listen to her favorite women’s program-Nyinabwenge in evening time when she has retired from her day’s duties on Saturday.
“This radio has changed the lives of many women. We know our rights, we have engaged in planting trees to conserve the environment, and we have income generating activities, it’s good that Nyinabwenge program has been put at a time when many people are at home and are able to listen,” she says.
Last year, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) purchased Radio Kiboga FM which is being rebranded to Community Green Radio. This followed demand from listeners’ club members.
The radio started with 11 listener’s clubs from Hoima, Kikube and Buliisa Oil-rich districts. Currently, more listeners clubs have been created in districts of Kyankwanzi and Buliisa.
The radio has been operating with listener’s clubs for they work as a link between community members and the radio.
As the world commemorates mothers’ day, men have been called up to create an enabling environment for women to enjoy their rights to the maximum.
The call was made by Mr. Patrick Nsubuga, the Kiboga District community development officer, CDO, while appearing on the weekly gender show, Nyinabwenge on Saturday last week.
“Men should stop violating the rights of women especially in regards to forced sex, battering them and denying them food”, Mr. Nsubuga explained.
Mr. Nsubuga said government has put in place various laws that facilitate the enjoyment of rights by women, citing Article 33 of the constitution of Uganda. Article 33 guarantees rights of women to full and equal dignity of the person with men.
Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.
The day is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May. It complements similar celebrations honoring family members, such as Father’s Day, Siblings Day, and Grandparents Day.
The modern Mother’s day began in the United States, at the initiative of Anna Jarvis in the early 20th century.
Uganda’s 2016 police crime report showed that defilement cases alone rose by 34 percent, from 13,118 in 2015 to 17,567 in 2016. Defilement is the act of having sex with girls under 18. Rape cases reported, according to the report, also increased, from 1,419 to 1,572.
A 2015 report by the International Justice Mission indicates that 40% of widows experience actual or attempted property grabbing in their lifetime. More than 30% of widows are victims of property grabbing. In many cases the widows spoke of perpetrators (usually relatives of their deceased husbands) threatening and physically assaulting them and sometimes making attempts on their lives and those of their children.
According to statistics from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), out of 1,594 new rape and 7,618 defilement cases reported in 2015 and 2016, only 57% brought punishment to the perpetrator. Such a low number gives others a sense of impunity, and in so doing exacerbates violence against women.
The police and Ministry of Health—the two leading public institutions in GBV response—spend an estimated UGX 37.7 billion (about $10.4 million) annually dealing with GB.
Community Green radio has been running the gender show since 2014 when the radio started. The show is aimed at uplifting the status of women especially the rural women. The radio has since expanded it coverage to cover more districts including among others Hoima, Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, Buliisa and Kikuube.