Rose, a 51-year-old mother of five children, welcomed us with a bright smile and a firm handshake to her home in Bukwo. When you meet her, she is bubbly, cheerful and friendly. However, nothing about her demeanor signals the challenges she has faced.
Her life took a sudden twist in 2015 when she lost her husband. Her in-laws abandoned her and her children. They denied her the right to the land left by her husband, which put her in a dire state.
“I had no land where I could till to get food for my children. This made my life with the children very difficult until I decided to go to Kenya. I worked as a maid to earn some money to sustain the children,” recalls a pensive Rose.
However, the funds she received as a maid were insufficient to sustain her and her children, so she returned to Uganda. Still, her economic situation continued to deteriorate. At the same time, part of the land allocated to her was used for road construction. Her in-law kept all the money got from the compensation to himself. This left her distressed.
“I was very worried and could not sleep well at night,” says Rose. She tried to get help from her in-laws but in vain. She contacted the police, but they did not address her issue.
Fortunately, a friend told her about the Kween GBV Shelter run by ActionAid, where she sought help.
“When I arrived at ActionAid GBV shelter, in Kween, I was warmly received. I explained my story and I was given counselling. It was then that I started feeling a ray of hope. I was served with summon letters for mediation which I took to my brother-in-law,” explains Rose.
During the mediation, ActionAid explained to the family about the land rights of women. The meeting was contentious because Rose’s brother-in-law didn't want to disclose the full amount, he had received from UNRA as compensation. But he obliged when he realized that he would face the law.
He requested more time, and later in the presence of the Resident District Commissioner, he handed over her share of the money from Uganda National Roads Authority for compensation. Rose purchased two acres of land and set up a shop. Her life has changed.
“My savings have gone up to 800,000/=," says Rose.
Rose is full of gratitude for the help she received during the mediation.
“I am extremely grateful to AAIU Kween shelter for putting a smile on my face. I pray they live longer so that they can offer help to many other women like me who are suffering outside there,” explains Rose.
By Sisco Cherekut & Andrew Onapito