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Following a recent pilot project that looked to address issues facing women in Uganda, we touched base with the community of women from Bumaena Village in Mbale to hear how the project has impacted their lives. The results are transformational, and we are really pleased to share their first-hand testimonials below.
In Uganda and around the world, unequal distribution of power, resources and responsibilities has resulted in women and girls being excluded from political, economic and social spheres.
Thanks to Welsh Government / Hub Cymru Africa funding, Size of Wales co-designed a one-year pilot project with partners: Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise, International Tree Foundation, Masaka District Landcare Chapter Leadership and the surrounding communities. The aim was to integrate gender into agriculture-related climate activities and policy and enable rural women to become agents of change. A gender assessment provided a clear pathway to support women within these communities.
In summary, the project carried out the following initiatives:
44 men and women were trained to raise awareness of gender issues in their community, to challenge gender roles and share the benefits of tree growing. Now, women are more respected by their husbands and relationships are more harmonious.
“Before the gender project, people didn’t know the use of trees. Even if they saw trees, they didn’t know the use of trees. Now they’ve been trained they know that trees are so useful to them to change the climate. Women weren’t able to able to make decisions and only men could make decisions. Now women can also make decisions at all levels from family level to community level we can also make decisions. Men didn’t know that it was vital to work as a family together, with children and their wives together. Women went to the garden, washed, did the cooking alone, whilst the man was waiting at the table to eat the food. Now men are helping in the gardens, helping their wives and also children so we are changing gender roles. Children are also involved in decision making as they are the young generation to come. Children also involved in planting and caring for trees. After us, the older people, the young people will come and continue with the project, planting trees and changing the climate.”
“Now as a woman I am very happy because I can speak. Before, I was very shy and I couldn’t do anything and I thought I couldn’t do anything as a woman. But now, I’m free and I’m very happy that this gender project has helped me and my family and even the whole community because are now planting trees and know what to do as woman and also men.
We now live in a good environment and women and men are trained to do good things, and care for their children.”
40 women were trained on leadership, decision making and confidence. These women went on to collectively train an additional 664 women. Now, some women want to stand for local elections and have their voices heard.
“We have the confidence to speak as a woman. Before we were very shy. We couldn’t speak in public. But now we have the confidence to speak in public and we can address issues of gender, divorce, domestic violence and now we can really speak.
The gender project has trained us in leadership training and to have confidence to stand as a woman and advocate and address issues that women go through. I would like to stand as a leader of women, first at the village level and then go to parish level and sub county level. And perhaps I may get chance to get to the district level. And by doing so, I feel that I can advocate for women and children, especially girls. Women and girls suffer a lot. I have to advocate and train them to change their mindsets. People have the wrong mindset that women can’t possess land, don’t have access to property. They are despised, disrespected, and abused. I want to speak about that, and make people understand that a man and a woman are the same and they have to enjoy and have freedom in making decisions.”
These initiatives have created numerous streams of income and better financial literacy. Women were supported with seed funding, training and items and equipment such as seedlings, bee keeping equipment, kitchen garden starter kits, sustainable land management practices so the women could develop their own businesses and initiatives. Women’s livelihoods and food security has further improved thanks to training for stronger Village Savings and Loans Associations. 19 savings associations received financial literacy training, management, record keeping and loans recovery.
“I have gotten knowledge, like through the savings groups where I have gotten this cow. I know how to plant vegetables, dig trenches, making stoves and so on. The thing that made me the most happy is the cow because I dreamt of having it. I thought how will I get one? But I thank God. On 30th March, thanks to the savings groups, I bought my cow and now I feel more relaxed, I feel good. So, I have achieved many things through the savings groups.
A cow has helped me improve my hope, and that with time I can buy some land as me, a woman. With time maybe in one or 2 years, I can earn enough money to get land. In the past it was difficult for women to buy land on their own. But because I now have learnt about my rights and I have gotten knowledge I know how to get money and do everything. I am not depending on this cow only, I also have my business, making liquid soap. I got that money from the savings groups. I am a business-woman. I am a powerful woman.”
“Through the gender project we received seed fund support to boost our savings. We can get loans to invest in our small businesses and boost our savings. We’ve opened up small scale businesses. Some have bought cows for milk, and really this is so wonderful. We also had a chance to have an exchange visit. In January / February, we went to Kapchuebut to see how savings group is doing and how they used the seed fund. They received a fund a while ago and we heard success stories. We learnt how they are using sustainable land management practices and how their land is getting more fertile because of this. We also implemented what we learnt, making trenches in our gardens to make the soil fertile again. We are planting trees in the gardens, the shade and leaves add nutrients to the soil. Before that, our soil had gone completely. We couldn’t harvest, we didn’t have enough harvest.”
An amazing outcome to come from the above initiatives is that women can now buy land in their names. Before the project, not only was this not a common practice, they were not allowed.
“I have been able to also buy land through the saving groups and we continue to learn.“
“Before we didn’t know how to use our savings but now we’ve been trained. Me as a woman I’ve bought my land which I’m now planting trees on, on my own. They are mine and my husband knows that they are mine. I am free. I am happy for that.”
The community and tree nurseries have been upgraded and rainwater harvesting tanks have been installed. Easier access to clean water means the women face less violence at home. Before they had to walk 4 hours to collect water and often faced domestic violence at home because husbands complained about the length of time they were gone.
“I am so grateful for this work together with the community. Thank you for loving us. I appreciate you for bringing us the nursery. Thank you for the bringing us water. Before, as mamas, we walked long distances to get water with our children on our back. That water wasn’t so clean because we kept it in a jerry can for two days.
But now, even if it’s 7pm, we can get water. Before if a visitor came and there was no water, I was ashamed. It was far. We as mamas, we won’t have conflicts now in our home because it only takes us a few minutes to reach the well. “
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