When women come together, we gain the strength to speak out and our voices are heard

Patience and her family were forcefully evicted from their home and land. Her husband tragically died during the eviction. With her six children, Patience now lives in a temporary hut in an Internal Displacement camp. With support from Womankind partner, National Association of Professional Environmentalist, Patience is a member of a Listeners Club, coming together with other women affected by forced evictions to make their voices heard.

Patience standing outside her temporary home in an internal displacement camp, Uganda

 “I was born in Kigyayo and it was always my home. My mother and father were buried there. I didn’t go to school. I grew up in misery and my parents died when I was 10 years old. We were so poor, we couldn’t afford anything, not even food.

After my parents died, it was hard for us. We were always trying to find food. I feel so bad that I wasn’t given a chance in life. When a woman is educated, it helps her so much. I can’t write, I can’t even read sign posts. I can’t read the medicine packets for my children.

When I got married at 18, I was happy. Life had taken a turn for the better. After getting married, life was better. I no longer had to struggle by myself and we had land to grow food. But after he died, when I was 25, life became even harder than before.

One morning, men turned up and started evicting people forcefully. We were at home and we heard screams. We didn’t know anything. We didn’t know what was happening at first. When they came to my home, they forced us to leave. They took our goats, cows, chickens and our whole home. They burned down our house.

My husband died during the eviction. I was in shock. It will never leave me. I am left with my six children. After we came to the internal displacement camp, the Chairman of the camp had a small piece of land so we could have somewhere to stay. I spent the night with my children outside. We slept outside on the floor for more than a week.

I was so upset, life was the worst it had ever been. We were suffering so badly. My children were not okay, they grew thin. We had no food at all. Even now, we struggle to get food. I have to go and do some hard labour every day to feed my children. But it is never enough. They miss their father so much. We all do.

I feel angry - we don’t even benefit from the sugar, all we have is suffering.  Life is not good at all in the camp. We are living in bad conditions. We are getting malaria. We sleep with no doors and mosquitos come in. We have diarrhoea because of bad conditions and bad food. We have access to water but we have to walk for more than 30 minutes to get it. It is the women who have to walk. The route is muddy, slippery and bushy. I don’t feel safe walking alone but I have no choice, there is nothing I can do.

There is a great lack of food. There is also theft in the camp because so many people have nothing. I live in fear for me and my children. I get malaria on and off and when I fall sick, I can’t work and can’t earn money needed for school fees. It is the reality of life in the camp. Out of six of my children, four can go to school. I have one son who I can’t send but he is school age, I can’t afford to send him to school. I feel so bad, I want him to get the education I didn’t.

We’ve never had justice. We went to court but it came to nothing. We have not received one shilling of compensation. We reported the eviction to the Chairman of the camp and it was put in a civil case for land, but we were not called to court.

I got involved in the listening club as other women told me about it. I am not able to afford a radio but I go to other women’s huts to listen. I feel good about it because it is rare to be in a Listeners Club. As a woman, I feel empowered as the Listeners Club helps me and gives me a lot of information to help solve my problems and provides the opportunity to talk about my suffering. NAPE has helped through advocacy and has helped me to be strong. I now feel positive because I know, even after all this suffering, I can have a future. In the group, we all talk about what happened and we are spreading awareness.

We often meet once a month and plan ahead to talk about our issues. We have also formed a circle to raise some money so we can train in some income generating activities. I have been in the Listeners Club for two and a half years - I joined five months after arriving at the camp. I’ve seen a change in the women as we advise each other. We dig in a group and earn money together. We support each other. We raise our voices together in the camp.

It is important that NAPE is supporting women because we are vulnerable in the camp and need to be empowered. We would have nothing if we didn’t have the Listeners Club.

We need to be helped and we need to move out of the camp. I miss my husband every day. When he was around, we weren’t suffering and when we were sick he would help us. The Chairman gave us a piece of land to bury to him which brought us some peace. Now we are suffering and with no one to help us, except the group. Sometimes I think about dying to end my suffering but the children keep me going. When I look at them, I am comforted.

The Listeners Club helps us to improve our lives, our health and our income - we are stronger together and can get more done. When women come together, we gain the strength to speak out and our voices are heard."

*Name has been changed to protect identity 

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