“My dream for the future is to build a home of my own,” muses Sarah, one of Sseko’s employee’s. Due to the extreme gender inequality and cultural traditions in Uganda, it is extremely difficult and rare for women to own land and their own homes. Although it’s not impossible for a woman to own land, the sad truth is that Ugandan women “provide 70-80 % of agricultural labour and 90 % of all labour involving food production in Uganda, yet own just a fraction of the land with figures varying between 7% and 20%.” (referenced from allafrica.com) And worldwide, women own roughly 1% of land. Why the discrepancy?
Ugandan tradition dictates that the property belonging to a man is passed on to the husband’s family after he dies, leaving nothing for the widow and her children. His land, house and ‘property’ including cattle and farmland all fall into the ownership of his family and not to his wife, which is often called ‘property grabbing.’ Beatrice, another of Sseko’s talented and warm hearted employee’s has struggled with this very issue. After losing her husband to AIDS, she was left with three children, no house and little money. Beatrice was forced to leave their rented home and return to the village where she planned to live in her husband’s previous home. What she found however was devastating. Her husband’s family had already sold the home and property, keeping all the profits for themselves. She attempted to rectify the situation and retain ownership of the land, but was unsuccessful due to the fact that culturally she had no rights to the land as a widow. “I was very upset,” she says, “but my heart was strong. I hope to someday have a house of my own.”
If women were allowed the right to own land and given the opportunity as equally provided for men, they would reap bountiful results. Farming and food production, women’s confidence, women’s social status and progress in Uganda would increase substantially. Access to education and improvement in the area of gender equality are two factors greatly contributing to Uganda’s advancement for the state of its citizens as well as its global status.
Jennifer, another asset to Sseko’s team of women, lost her husband to cancer eleven years ago. She was left with six of her own children, as well as two step children, and was forced out of her home. While managing with grace and dignity to raise her children with little to no steady income, Jennifer is thankful that she now has a job providing her with a fair and consistent wage. However, she still struggles with the challenges of renting, and dreams of someday being a homeowner.
Matilda joined Sseko’s team two years ago, uneducated, widowed and struggling to provide for her seven children. For many years Matilda and her children pounded stone in the local rock quarry to survive. She is thrilled about her job at Sseko which allows her to send her children to school, and develop her own education as she learns many new skills. Matilda recounts her home ownership struggles since becoming a widow, but explains that even though she is now a mature woman, she still hopes to own a house in her home village. “I am very old now, and don’t have many years left, but my dream is to go back to the village and build a home.”
Together we can work to bring justice to the women of Uganda and around the world. These women need to believe in themselves and in their goals, and with continuing education and empowerment, we can help them win the fight for gender equality and rights to own land.