The first ever feminist school in Uganda was held this year in Hoima. During the school, members of the Rural Women’s Movement underlined that land is central to people’s identity, livelihoods and food security. They emphasized that land is central to sustainability – be it cultural, economic or social because it forms the physical basis of sustainability. Therefore, there must be a democratic access to land and land-based resources to ensure sustainability.
The changing patterns of land-use is perhaps the major problem affecting grassroot women across the country. While land has for a long time been a source of conflict and disagreements between small-holder farmers, communities and clans, the recent wave of dispute is caused by land-rush: foreign investors purchasing or leasing land for mining or monoculture for profit. Communities have been disposed, families disconnected and local farming systems destroyed as government and investors prioritize profits over nature and people.
This scenario is a reminiscent of the slavery our great-grand fathers experienced centuries ago. But this is a type of slavery of another kind. While in orthodox slavery people were sacrificed to foreigners, in this new slavery, land is sacrificed and local ownership is lost along with local sovereignty. People have become refugees in their own county. Many communities whose land has been taken over by investors are now living in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) without basic human needs (food, safe water, education, health facility among others, and women and children are bearing the brunt.
Government and political elite within and without who are facilitating the land-rush want everyone to believe it is development. The development that will transform Uganda into a middle-class nation. Recently government even took a notch higher and announced intent to take over people’s land on behalf of business, using the doctrine of Eminent Domain, or Compulsory Purchase legally by changing the land law (Land Act 2010) to allow community land to be sold-out at a give-away priceor nothing at all without their consent. However, under the United Nations human rights system, governments are expected to seek the free prior informed consent of local populations.
Now grassroot women who have been affected, and those whose land has been earmarked for these development models that inflict misery and pain to them and their families are saying “NO” to this development model. Through their Rural Women’s Movement in Uganda, they are building collective power to challenge the status quo and demand for environmental and climate justice. Their experiences are shifting awareness climate change from an abstract phenomenon of global warming and future impacts to a more tangible, multi-layered issue that are bringing together social, environmental and economic struggles at community level.
The rural women are demanding for climate justice. They are demanding that strategies to address the systemic crises of these extractive developments models recognize the disproportionate burden on grass-root women, and the historical responsibility of investors in the level of ecosystems degradation that have contributed to the current problem of climate change which they are experiencing. The rural women are waging a climate justice fight in all dimension of their lives— on food, on energy, on health and livelihoods. The women are defending their rights, their communities and their natural resources. They are asserting people-driven solutions and eco-feminist development alternatives. Eco-feminist alternatives women propose will recognize that if human beings must live well with justice and dignity and in harmony with nature, there will be a fair redistribution of power and wealth, a shift to sustainable systems of resource extraction and production, and a limit to the consumption of resources.
Women are mobilizing because the theory of climate justice builds greater awareness amongst political leaders and the broader public about the interconnectedness of climate change with issues of development and social justice. It ensures that those who are most affected by environmental changes are genuine partners in all efforts and that the gender dimensions are fully recognized, taking into account the particular ways in which women, especially rural women are affected by the phenomenon.
Climate change therefore, is a rights issue and the Rural Women’s Movement affirmes this. Members of the Women’s Movement say that changes in climatic conditions they are experiencing today in their communities is affecting their livelihoods, their health, their bodies, their children and their natural resources. This is why they are building collective women’s power to fight the environmental injustices caused by extractive developments. They believe their victory lies in numbers. They have vowed to stand-up tall and speak-out loudly! They want to be part of decisions regarding development processes in the country.
The women’s feminist school focused on women’s collective power to fight for food sovereignty, for peoples’ rights to sufficient healthy and appropriate food and sustainable food systems – eco-feminist development alternatives that ensures sustainability of natural resources; sustainable climate democratic access to land and land-based resources; the recognition of women’s role and rights in agriculture, fishing systems; farmers’ control of indigenous seed diversity. The feminist school also focused on collective fight to end policies, decisions and measures by governments, elites, institutions and corporations (domestic, regional and global) that increase the vulnerabilities of women and the planet.
At the ended the feminist popular education, Donna Andrew, the facilitator at the school ended with a powerful and inspiring quote here below:
Report compiled by Beety Obbo
Communications & Publications officer - NAPE