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 centrepiece 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
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the president of Uganda has attacked investors encroaching on wetlands and forests accusing them of contributing to climate change at its negative impacts.
While presiding over the 2019 High Level Uganda Responsible Investment Summit and award ceremony that was held at Equatorial Hotel on 22nd November, the president expressed concern over some irresponsible investors who have degraded forests and wetlands thinking they are promoting sustainable development saying he will not tolerate them.
“As I was walking around, I found people degrading forests and wetlands. I will not tolerate them. I am coming for them,” the president said.
He further told the private sector companies that, “it is useless and shallow thinking when you think of going to degrade forests and wetlands and then you want to think about sustainable development.”
At the ceremony that was organised by Public Opinions and Office of the Minister of State for Privatization and Investment, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) won the Uganda Responsible Investment (URI) award as the best environmental protection organization.
The NAPE Executive Director, Frank Muramuzi who was franked by the NAPE team received the award.
Mr. Muramuzi said expressed excitement saying it manifests the achievements that are seen by anybody especially in areas of environment protection and human rights.
“Now that the government can recognize NAPE, it means it has hit its target and goals as an environmental organization,” Muramuzi said.
Rajab Bwengye, the Coordinator of Projects at NAPE said receiving the award means that NAPE has excelled in environmental protection.
He said that all that NAPE wants is constructive engagement with private sectors so that as they produce and manufacture their products and offer their services, they should give the environment the first priority.
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) has been awarded as the best environmental protection organization in Uganda.
NAPE was recognized and appreciated for its contribution towards attainment of Uganda Vision 2040 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SGDs) through promoting and upholding international best practices and standards.
The certificate of award was received by the NAPE Executive Director, Mr. Frank Muramuzi on 22nd November during the 2019 High Level Uganda Responsible Investment Summit and award ceremony that was presided over by Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The ceremony that was held at Equatorial Hotel in Kampala was organized by Public Opinions and Office of the Minister of State for Privatization and Investment.
Addressing the investors, President Museveni expressed concern over massive degradation of wetlands and forests which he said he will not tolerate. He attacked irresponsible investors who have degraded forests and wetlands thinking they are promoting sustainable development yet they are greatly contributing to climate change.
Mr. Muramuzi said the award manifests the visible achievements by the organization especially in areas of environment protection and human rights.
“Now that the government can recognize NAPE, it means it (NAPE) has hit its target and goals as an environmental organization,” Muramuzi said while addressing staff.
Rajab Bwengye, the Coordinator of Projects at NAPE said receiving the award means that NAPE has excelled in environmental protection.
“NAPE has been criticizing big environmental polluters and degraders, manufacturing industries, mining companies, oil companies, companies producing consumer products using chemicals and others. So being awarded as the best environmental organization in the presence of sector players is an indicator that we have done our part to ensure that these private sector companies observe the laws, guidelines and best practices for environmental protection,” Mr. Bwengye said.
Mr. Bwengye added that all that NAPE wants is constructive engagement with private sectors so that as they produce and manufacture their products and offer their services, they should give the environment the first priority.
NAPE was also recognized by Buliisa district local government for being a key partner towards the development of the district. The certificate was handed over to Ms.Sostine Namanya, the NAPE officer in charge of gender and food security by the District Community Development Officer, Bernard Barugahara on 13th November.
NAPE has been at the forefront of campaigns against environmental degradation among which includes campaign to save Mabira Forest, campaign against Bujagali dam and save Bugoma Forest.
In 2007, NAPE disputed the giveaway of around 27 square kilometers of Mabira forest to Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) owned by Mehta Group of Companies for sugarcane plantations. The government in collaboration with SCOUL had proposed to de-gazette this part of the forested land and transfer its ownership to the sugar company. NAPE in conjunction with other civil society groups formed a pressure group codenamed ‘Save Mabira Crusade’ which mobilized Ugandans across the country and beyond to protest the forest de-gazettement plan. The government bowed to pressure and abandoned the plan to de-gazette the forest. However, in 2011, the government again attempted to resurrect the de-gazettement plan but NAPE and other civil society met the president who suggested a joint research between the activists and State House on economic values of the forest which would inform the government on their next step. Since then, the government has kept silent on the Mabira forest issues.
NAPE was also against the construction of Bujagali power dam saying it would not benefit Ugandans and it presented numerous social, economic and environmental problems. However, the Government and World Bank did not listen to the concerns of environmental activists and went ahead to approve the dam project in 2001. Today the dam that was expected to add 250 MW to the national grid is unable to produce 180 MW and electricity demand continues to rise in the country. NAPE warned that Bujagali would not generate the projected megawatts.
In Albertine Region, NAPE has campaigns against Bugoma forest give-away for Sugar cane plantation, campaign on food security and seed sovereignty and protection of sacred natural sites.
In 2006 Oil Palm growing started in Kalangala district. The growing of palm oil in the area came with the destruction of forests by both the company and out growers. Towa forest reserve was encroached on by the company and small scale farmers. Timber cutting and charcoal burning became order of the day in this forest. Many private forests were cleared and replaced by oil palm plantation chief among which were Lwonga, Buguzi, Bweeza, Bwendero, Kizira and Bbeta.
“The clearing of forests for palm oil growing has far reaching adverse effects on the environment and the environment is life”, says Ms. Joan Akiiza, the Legal Officer at National Association of professional Environmentalists, NAPE. NAPE has been working in this area with community members to ensure that palm oil growing does not completely destroy the environment.
David Kureba, the Programme officer in charge of forests at NAPE believes if palm oil growing is not checked, the forest cover in Kalangala might be history. He says the destruction of forests has a direct bearing on the lives of the people in the area.
“Forests are responsible for rain formation and are vital for crop production. This continuous cutting of forests will a cause food crisis here”, explained Mr.Kureba.
The chemicals that are sprayed in palm oil plantations end up in the water sources.
Fire wood has become a challenge since most forests were cut. Women trek considerably long distances looking for firewood.
Food security is at stake since many land owners turned their into palm oil plantations. This has greatly affected food crop growing. Salongo ‘Jim Jim’ Jagenda, a crop farmer explains the gravity of the problem.
“Most people here are now getting food from Kampala and Masaka since there isn’t any land for cultivation here”, explained Mr. Jagenda.
A palm oil growing project has been presented by proponents as source of income. However, environmental degradation concerns and land grabbing continue to dominate discussion in this area.
In May 2013, Friends of the Earth International released a report indicating that the palm oil project was being promoted as a poverty-reducing endeavor, yet it was causing displacement, food insecurity and deforestation.
Government Chief Whip and Member of Parliament for Kiboga District Ruth Nankabirwa Sentamu has again heaped praise for Community Green radio for promoting government programs.
The minister said the free air time the radio has allocated for government programmes has been vital in popularizing various government programmes in Kiboga and other places.
“I can’t stop thanking the management and ownership of this radio for giving government time to talk to citizens. There is a great improvement in the awareness about government programs since you gave government airtime”, said the minister.
Minister Nankabirwa made the remarks in August while appearing on the Community Green radio’s Akatuuti show during the time designated for the Resident District Commissioner, RDC (President’s representative in the district).
The minister called on the masses to support the radio so that it continues to deliver even more.
Community Green radio has, since its inception, been providing space for government officials to share with the listeners on the available government programs. It is through such engagements that the listeners find an opportunity to seek for accountability from public office bearers.
Government officials share vital information in regard to various programmes aimed to uplifting the social welfare of women, youth, elderly and the general public.
Already, the radio has hosted Gender and Social Development minister Janet Mukwaya and other government dignitaries.
Women in Hoima and Kikuube districts have called on government to come up with stringent measures of protecting Bugoma Central Forest Reserve against massive destruction.
The forest is currently threatened by massive encroachment for cultivation, timber cutting, charcoal burning and lumbering. This contributes to about 100,000 hectares of forest cover that Uganda loses every year.
While appearing in Nyinabwenge – Women’s show at Ugandan Community Green Radio in Kiboga district, Beatrice Rukayanga, the National Steering Committee member of Rural Women’s Movement and the Chairperson of Kwataniza women’s group in Hoima said continued destruction and change of use of the forest will affect the climate and water sources. She notes that this will largely affect women since most of them heavily depend on natural resources for their livelihood.
“The forest is important to everyone but most importantly to rural women who are farmers and derive their livelihood from agriculture,” she said.
Rukanyanga notes that continued destruction of the forest when Uganda is heading towards production phase of the oil in the region is uncalled for since it would be crucial in absorbing the toxic gases that will be originating from oil waste.
Mbabazi Aidah, Member of Kaseeta Collaborative Forest Management group says communities adjacent to the forest have for long protected and supported the conservation due to its benefits. She expresses concern that letting it away to encroachers frustrates the conservation efforts by the local communities.
“We have for long taken part in protecting the forest against timber cutters by acting as whistleblowers. We are also taking part in massive tree planting around the forest. We are frustrated by the government officials who offer land titles in the forest and also allow sugarcane growers to frustrate it,” she decried.
Mbabazi said women are already faced with climate change challenges like drought and change of seasons which have affected them economically and further destruction means women will continue to suffer.
The women are calling on government leaders to support the conservation efforts by the local communities and also put up strong measures to conserve it for good.
Rukanyanga said it’s high time women teamed up to fight against climate injustices which are leaving women in untold suffering and force government to take action on protecting the forests.
“ As rural women’s movement we are coming up to fight injustices such climate and land injustices, that’s why we need more women to join us in the struggle,” she noted .
Responding to some of issues raised, Stuart Maniraguha, the Director for Plantation Development in the National Forestry Authority says NFA is already partnering with development partners to restore part of Bugoma forest. He says he supports women organizing to fight against forest destruction; which is one of the core objectives of NFA.
“We are working hard to ensure that the forest is protected. We have already partnered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHR to restore about 100 of the 150 hectares of the degraded forest land,” he said.
The Nyinabwenge show which was held on 17th August was looking at “How Bugoma Forest Giveaway to pave way for sugarcane growing affects women and how women can take part in protecting the forests”.
The show was also being filmed by Thomas Lenta, a journalist from Mongaby Media Services.
Lenta said he was interested in the show due to its unique nature of giving a platform to women express themselves and to talk about the issues affecting them.
Nyinabwenge show that runs every Saturday from 17:00 to 19:00 is a gender program which gives women platform to discuss issues affecting them and also contribute towards development of the society.
In studio of Community Green radio Kiboga sits three women from Lwamata Sub County in Kiboga District. They are members of Lwamata Community Green Radio listeners’ club. They are all smiles as they describe how they slowly formed a listeners club.
“The idea of forming a listeners club arose out of the various educative topics that were being aired on Green radio especially of income generation and livelihood improvement”, narrated Ms.Jannat Kengonzi, the secretary for mobilization of the club.
Ms. Peace Kagogobe, a member of the club has high hopes that the club will transform their lives. “We are certain that we are not going to remain the same. The few exchange visits we have had to Kikuube (Butimba Listeners’ club) and Kihagya in Hoima have already opened our eyes”, explained.
Ms. Ramulah Namiranda said it was a dream come true to appear on radio. She said the radio has brought her to working with other community members on projects that benefit her as a person, her family and the community in general.
“I was introduced to this kind of radio by Ms.Kengonzi. I have never turned since then and I’m eying big things with this kind of interaction”, explained Ms. Namiranda.
The members made the revelation during an air show on “Akatuuti” program on Community Green radio. “Akatuuti” program is a topical daily show that runs every evening for an hour and discusses various topics in spheres of social, political and economic aspects of society. The members had appeared on the radio to share on their experience with working with the radio especially through listeners’ clubs.
Lwamata Listeners’ club is one of the newly formed clubs in Kyankwanzi and Kiboga districts. The radio now has over fifteen clubs in Hoima, Kikuube, Buliisa, Kyankwanzi and Kiboga Districts. Listners’ clubs are listeners’ groups through which listenrs participate in daily radio programming by raising issues that affect their communities, share experience and listen to the radio together.
Listeners of Community Green radio through their listeners clubs have been argued to embrace environmental conservation and the need to preserve indigenous food species. The call was made by the chairperson of Butimba Sustainability Conservation Association, BUSUCA Reverend Fred Musiimenta during a learning tour by members of radio listeners’ clubs from Kiboga and Kyankwanzi organized by National Association of Professional Environmentalists in September this year.
“Many people consider planting Eucalyptus trees as conserving the environment yet they are equally dangerous since they cannot encourage agro forestry. Therefore it should start with us, let’s promote planting of indigenous trees and seeds for continuity and sustainable food supply,” he said.
The members from Kiboga and Kyankwanzi had gone to visit projects undertaken by BUSUCA with a view of replicating them in their communities. BUSUCA has projects in apiary, tree nursery beds and the indigenous seed bank.
Asuman Ssembatya of Nabidondolo listeners’ club in Kyankwanzi believes the lessons picked for Butimba are easy to replicate.
“We shall now focus on implementation. Our tour of this place has been of immense value and we are now going to act. The radio is now starting to be of great value than before”, narrated Mr. Ssembatya.
Ms. Janat Kengonzi of Lwamata Listeners’ club in Kiboga says the tour has inspired her to empower more women to engage in conservation and farming.
“I have seen women do it in Butimba, why not us?, I am going to work with my fellow women to ensure that we do what these people are doing”, she explained .
Community Green Radio works with listeners through the radio listeners clubs to work on different projects of their choice and interest through to cause positive change. The radio offers a platform for rural communities to share experiences and knowledge on how to run sustainable projects that promote environmental conservations.
New members of Community Green Radio listener clubs in Kyankwanzi and kiboga Districts have been enticed to engage in activities that promote environmental conservation and improved livelihoods.
During a meeting between Community Green Radio staff and Listeners from Lwamata, and Nabidondolo villages, the listeners said they are motivated to do more to conserve the environment and change their lives economically.
“Most of us were not aware of the values of conserving the environment and now the radio is opening our eyes to some of these things”, explained Joseph Kisuule a member of Lwamata listeners’ club.
Ms. Janat Kengonzi, the mobilize of Lwamata Listeners’ club says that apart from raising indigenous plant and tree seedlings, as a club they have also established a poultry project that has 15 active members.
“We are more than 15 members and every member has to bring a local breed of chicken to be considered active”, she explained to a Community Green radio reporter.
Asuman Ssembatya from Nabidondolo listeners’ club says the radio has mobilized communities towards working together. He believes working as group will quickly transform communities.
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) through the various Community Green Radio programs encourages communities to engage in schemes that aid Environmental Conservation and activities that improve their household income and conserve the environment.