Uganda has big projects coming up like the oil pipeline projects both of which entail displacement of people from their land
By Sostine Namanya
On October 2- 3, 2018, an important mineral event took place at Serena Hotel in Kampala.
The 7th Annual Conference that ended on October 3, 2018, got underway with this year’s theme of ‘Eastern Africa a mineral Haven: The continents next mining & investment Haven’’. Between October 2nd and 3rd 2018, Ten civil society organisations, the grassroots women’s movement working with the Global alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) in Uganda participated in the 7th Annual Mineral wealth Conference.
Our key message at the event was: What Uganda’s mineral exploitation of her resources means for communities’ rights to water, to food and a clean, healthy and safe environment.
This conference provided an opportunity to share with stakeholders and reflect on the negative trends stemming from the extractive development model especially the exploitation of natural resources that is harmful to women and their communities. GAGGA Partners aimed to add value to this conference by sharing community experiences to show the dangers of the dominant economic systems, structures and narratives that are market-driven by the goal of more substantial returns, resulting in among others land grabbing, unlawful evictions, high industrial emissions, high consumerism at the expense of human rights and balanced natural resources consumption.
These detrimental issues have often threatened local communities and their livelihoods (people who hardly consume the products of these processes), where women, in particular, are most negatively affected.
GAGGA partners showed how the impact of extractive model intersects with other disciplines that impact on women’s rights, such as access and compensation of land, food security, political and social rights. Most of the experiences that were shared showed the disenfranchisement of women as relates to land access, use and ownership. In this regard, women have employed various strategies; community awareness of the prevailing laws regarding land, advocacy for women’s access to communal land where the same is barred or limited and the use of litigation to challenge land grabbing and unfair displacement of people from their land.
Women in grassroots communities grapple with a range of issues from the impacts of evictions, land grabbing and violence against women. The extractive industry in Uganda, have not benefited the communities, primarily where the resources are being extracted. Instead, the communities, where the resources have been prevalent, have experienced increasing levels of poverty, land grabbing, direct and structural violence against women.
The women led grass roots movement being organised by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) that has been pushing back against the extractive model of development have experienced push back by the state and non-state actors which has resulted in the closer of civil society space which continues unabated. The closer of civic space is a result of both deliberate efforts to silence dissenting voices as well as unintentional consequences of global trends such as the rise of fundamentalisms, corporatization, militarization and migration patterns.
This means that there is more and more need for implementation of mineral laws & policies to support the activists who are at the frontline challenging the status quo and demanding for Government accountability in all respect from communities that grapple with the effects of Extractivism.
Some partners submissions showed the increased physical insecurity that Women human rights Defenders grapple with as a result of the resistance to the extractive models. Of crucial significance is the role that customary law and tenure play in both these contexts. In Uganda, more than 50% per cent of land in Uganda is held under the undocumented customary law which restricts women from making productive choices over land usage due to customary restrictions.
The change of land use to cater for increasing infrastructural needs and excavation for mining also further marginalises women out of their land because of their limited rights and voice in land transfer processes. Uganda has big projects coming up like the oil pipeline projects both of which entail displacement of people from their land. Women who rely on the land for food production and income generation have been affected disproportionately by these as any compensation would naturally go to the landowners or leaders of the community who are typically men.
Women face the multiple burdens of being primary caregivers and victims of socio-economic disenfranchisement as the industries hire mostly men and take advantage of women’s labour and caregiving roles.
There is need for leveraging resources for grassroots organising to find a voice and speak to decision makers and catalyse spaces that will facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected by extractives mostly women and children. The 7th annual mineral conference has been such a space where various stakeholders have held meaningful engagements on how to improving sustainable mining.
The mining stakeholders need to place women and communities at the centre of extractive sector and how they are impacted.
Writer is a Gender and Food Security Officer at NAPE.