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By Betty Obbo & Sostine Namanya

The National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) joined the rest of the world to celebrate the national Women’s Day in style. NAPE’s activities to mark this widely celebrated day included holding a media interaction meeting, facilitating a local women’s drama group from Kaiso Tonya, and launching a Women-lead Participatory Action Oriented Research on the negative impacts of the extractive industry on rural women.

NAPE commissioned a Women-lead Action Research in 2015 with an aim of deepening the understanding of the link between mining and women’s rights, environmental degradation, climate change, food security and women’s health among others. The Mining industry in Uganda is rapidly growing. In Uganda mining is done on both large scale and small-scale (artisanal), and the minerals mined at small-scale include gold mining areas of Mubende in Western Uganda and Karamoja region, salt mining on Katwe salt Lake among others. This sector employs a vast majority of semi-illiterate and illiterate workforce many of whom are women. The Mining industry in Uganda is rapidly growing especially with the discovery of vast oil and gas deposits in the Albertine Graben.

Presence of crude oil and gas was first documented in Uganda by Wayland in 1925. The first commercial oil well was discovered in 2006 by Hardman and Tullow Oil Companies and since then, a number of oil wells have been drilled in the Albertine Graben by UK based Tullow, French Com­pany Total and Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC). Each of these oil companies signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ugandan government to develop the hydrocarbon resource in the region.

As Uganda started a number of oil development activities, significant negative impacts staterted showing up among communities, some are ranked resinous. And in all this, women are the most affected. The key findings of the Women-lead Action-Oriented research on impacts of oil development on Women included accelerating land grabbing, food insecurity through community displacements, animal human conflicts, increased population that has in turn increased pressure and carrying capacity of key ecosystems, increased prostitution, increased degra­dation of life supporting ecosystems, accelerated rights abuse, abuse of community access rights to ecosys­tem resources , introduction of inappropriate food technology to meet the increasing food needs, reduced opportunities for barter trade, water pollution among many others.

The research proposed the following recommendations to Government, Oil Companies, The Bunyoro Kingdom and the rural women.

To Government:

  • Government should fully resettle and compen­sate displaced communities using current com­pensation rates.
  • Respect communities’ indigenous food varieties and should support communities to protect their food and food rights.
  • Promote and implement prior informed consent so that communities are agreeable to the value of their properties including the timings.
  • Bring oil affected women on board in decision-making fora so that they contribute to develop­ment processes, understand their implication and challenges and jointly lay strategies of addressing the challenges.
  • Gender balance in compensation ensuring that both men and women equally benefit from com­pensation and this should be documented in pol­icy and implemented as well.
  • Conduct comprehensive EIAs on development projects and organize timely Public hearings so that communities give their positions on such projects
  • Compel Private Sector companies to commit their corporate social responsibility on those things that benefit the communities they operate in.
  • Compel private sector Developers to address the ecological and social foot prints of their invest­ment operations in Uganda.
  • Name and publish what companies pay and what you receive from companies.
  • Deny operational license to those companies that do not adhere to provisions of the environmental laws of Uganda
  • Compel the National Environmental manage­ment Authority (NEMA) not to approve stage managed EIAs

To the Oil Companies

  • Support improving girls and women and youth`s welfare programmes in Corporate Social Respon­sibility in consultation with the affected commu­nities especially women leaders.
  • Carry out EIAs and organize public hearings
  • Respect human and environmental rights.
  • Recommendations to Bunyoro Kingdom
  • Monitor non compliance of mining activities with environmental and human rights standards and requirements in the kingdom.

To Bunyoro Kingdom

  • Monitor non compliance of mining activities with environmental and human rights standards and requirements in the kingdom.
  • Advocate for stronger transparency, corporate accountability on land, food and women’s rights.
  • Advocate for stronger transparency, corporate accountability on land, food and women’s rights.

To CSOs

  • Sensitize communities on rights of women – women empowerment so that there is an appreci­ation of women`s role and be clearly understood as very important partners in development.
  • Support Media activities to expose oil impacts on vulnerable groups (women) so that they are am­plified and known to a wide range of stakehold­ers.
  • Promote more initiatives on enhancing women`s rights, for example community trainings and ex­posures, livelihood alternatives, talk shows on women`s role in development, among others.
  • Reach out to communities for awareness on land rights, and food sovereignty so that they become aware and protect these rights. This can be in form of trainings, food festivals, fares among others
  • Promote indigenous food varieties; CSOs should support campaigns on promoting indigenous va­rieties and community food production systems and should support farmer communities to in­fluence/challenge unfavorable policies on food. CSOs should support community to establish living seed banks and indigenous seed exchange exercises.
  • De-campaign promotion of GMOs in Bunyoro sub region
  • Amplify voices of marginalized communities.
  • Name and shame violators of environmental and community rights.

To Communities /women

  • Women should speak out and report to relevant authorities any form of violation of their rightsShould reject Genetically Modified Organisms and champion campaigns on promoting and pro­tecting their indigenous varieties of seed, plants and animals
  • Champion for women`s rights over food and land in a more practical manner.
  • Use the community Green