Week 6: Mid-Term Changes at the SAFE Program

Approaching mid-term evaluations, the SAFE Program staff have been diligently working to gather information and update grantee profiles in anticipation of review by the home office. Also, the SAFE Program website is undergoing a significant facelift, becoming more user friendly and will include recent stories and events submitted by the staff and grantees. The SAFE Program undertakes so many activities and trainings but the website previously didn’t reflect that.

For example, on July 9, 2015, I attended the Women’s Manifesto Launch at Makerere University in Kampala on behalf of SAFE. Created and introduced prior to every election cycle, the 2016-2021 Women’s Manifesto focuses on five critical areas necessary for the achievement of gender equality in Uganda, one of which was identified as women’s land and property rights, directly relevant to SAFE’s program objectives. The Executive Director of the Uganda Women’s Network, Ms. Rita Lakor, one of the speakers at the event, stated that those who control the land and its resources gain and control social and political power. 

In Uganda, women own only 27% of registered land but comprise 70% of the individuals involved in agriculture. Yet, women control less than 20% of the agricultural output. Further, a large majority of households (80.5%) involved in subsistence farming are female-headed. However, plots managed by women produce 17% less than plots managed by men or jointly-managed plots. The dichotomy of statistical evidence related to women’s presence in the agricultural sector and their associated lack of control or reduced efficacy over the output raises significant concerns when thinking of Ms. Lakor’s statement. Without equal land and property rights, women will continue to have reduced representation at the decision-making table. 

The 2016-2021 Women’s Manifesto acknowledges this worrying issue by demanding that the political parties make equal inheritance and ownership of land by women and girls a reality. The Manifesto asks for the establishment of a land fund to enable women to own and control land. Only by protecting women’s land rights can their productivity increase, in turn improving the health and wellbeing of their families. 

Many of the gender issues discussed at the Women’s Manifesto Launch, specifically that of political representation, were issues that also would be heard at a similar event in the United States. Although I know many of these issues are shared across and among cultures, to sit in a presentation in Uganda and feel that you could be in the United States functions as a clear reminder of how connected the world is, both in terms of the problems as well as the successes. It’s important to collaborate and work together to solve shared issues, rather than think one way or the other is the best, most effective solution. We can always learn something new from one another. 

With only three weeks left of work with the SAFE Program, I am trying to do as much as I can with the staff. Next week, I will travel to Gulu in the north of Uganda for another Conflict Monitor Training. I am also working on a report centered on eviction and compensation schemes tied to land grabbing and land transactions in the context of the oil and gas industry. 

I also recently finished a report analyzing a proposed bill regulating non-governmental organizations in Uganda. Although the bill currently sits before Uganda’s parliamentary committee on defense and internal affairs, there is significant concern regarding the effects should it pass. It allows the government to impose their own policy directives upon non-governmental organizations as well as oversee their programming and operational decisions. Further, the Board charged with overseeing non-governmental organizations would have the ability to revoke non-governmental organizations’ permits to operate should they determine it is in “the public interest to do so.” What that “public interest” entails is not specified. While Uganda isn’t the most open country for nongovernmental organizations, the proposed bill greatly increases government overregulation. 

I’ve enjoyed the chance to do a bit of statutory analysis as I spent two years working in the South Carolina legislature before beginning law school. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading a piece of proposed legislation and trying to look beyond the plain language on the paper and foresee how it would work in practice. It’s been an incredibly enjoyable experience and I’m looking forward to continue working on the analysis of legal frameworks with respect to the oil and gas report.