“You cannot fight when you are alone and so I call on women to come together”

Deodanta Tukamushaba lives near the Kigaaga Oil Refinery which has been subject to many land purchases. This has particularly affected the women in the community, who often work and live off the land, but whose husbands and male relatives can sell on without consultation. Deodanta, as one of the few remaining residents in her area, decided to take matter into her own hands and join a women’s association to defend her land and her rights.

Deodanta

"I encourage women to come together to form groups. When you come together, you learn, share, find solutions. I encourage women to save the environment and the water we drink, fight for the community and the nation. You cannot fight when you are alone and so I call on women to come together.

I have joined a group of women – the Kigaaga Oil Refinery Women’s Development Association. I have been empowered – I used to think that the home belongs to the man, that women were underneath men. [But now I know] I can take decisions in the home and I have a business now. I grow more indigenous crops and plant indigenous trees to protect the environment and for food security.  I know my rights and I sit down with my husband to discuss [issues].

[In the village] There are issues of domestic violence, where men beat their wives and sell women’s crops without their knowledge. They think that women should be in the kitchen most of the time and not go to community meetings. But then men spend all their time at the bar and come home to eat. Men can sell the land without women’s knowledge and do not foresee the issues of food security. Women [will] grade and till the land but one woman cannot do all the work. [This leads to] other challenges, from climate change and women’s safety, as they walk longer distances to collect firewood. Additionally we have the issue of the introduction of “improved seeds” from the government but they are not lasting and they take over indigenous crops like millet, sorghum, cassava and beans.

Many developments are taking place [such as] the oil pipeline and road expansion. They [developers] are taking land, for example, saying that the cassava field is not yours.  They give poor compensation and demolish your houses. I have been personally affected by the pipeline: they came to evaluate my property and would only compensate me for the crops that were long lasting like the trees or coffee – but not for cassava, sorghum or beans.

Speculators become your neighbour so that they can pressure you to sell your small piece of land. For example, speculators buy cattle and start them grazing on your land so that they can say it is theirs. The land near me and around me has been bought and I am worried about my future – that it isn’t bright. We can say no to land sales but the husband may challenge it because he can see only the money in the land. Women can be threatened to be killed by the husband if they say no to the sale. Government officials also come, with lawyers. It has not happened to me but to my neighbours and I am worried that it will happen to me [next].

[Through the group] I advocate for women and advise other women to conserve indigenous plants including fruit trees. I feel so happy because being together with other women strengthens us to have one voice. If you have knowledge, you can share knowledge. I can protect our water resources – I have courage to say to the cattle herders that they should not bring their cattle to drink at my well that is used for drinking water. We have started savings groups as well, to buy household items.  I feel happy that I can pay school fees and provide everything [for my children].

If we are together then the future is bright. I hear more rumours that more oil development is coming and that [they] want more land.  But we will not be like women in other communities, we will fight for our rights, we know we are united and we will push for compensation."