"They didn’t give us any time, they just told us we had to leave"

Before the sudden eviction from her home and land, Esita Turyahebwa was a proud business woman. She earned a modest income through farming to keep herself and her family afloat. They lived a peaceful and happy life amongst a community of friends and neighbours until a violent eviction turned their world upside down. Esita now lives with her husband and seven children in an internal displaced persons camp near Kigyayo in Uganda. There she came across the Womankind partner National Association of Professional Environmentalists’ Community Green Radio which has given her strength and hope.

Esita Turyahebwa, Kigyayo

“My name is Esita. I have 7 children. I have a husband and I’m 40 years old.

Before we were evicted, I was in peace. I had a garden, I was a farmer. My children were well. I grew crops. I was a business woman. I was in a very good position.

We were evicted from our homes and we’ve been struggling to find land to setto settle and to grow our crops. Finding food is a challenge. Taking care of 7 children is a challenge. My main concern is that my children aren’t going to school because there are no schools here. When the eviction happened, they destroyed the schools.

We don’t have access to clean water. When the trucks came to destroy, they contaminated the water. The condition here is not good. We were living in a community. Now, we don’t have well built houses because we’re not sure if we’re going to stay on this land.

The coldness is really hard at night because we don’t have covers. The children often fall sick. Yesterday, it rained and the whole house was flooded. We sleep in a really small house. It’s our 7 children, me and my husband. We sleep really squished together. We don’t have cooking utensils because all of our property was destroyed. The situation is not good. I’m not happy. Hopefully we can get land somewhere else.

They didn’t give us any notice. They just came claiming that the land we were staying on was the neighbour’s land. They didn’t give us any time, they just told us we had to leave. The next day the diggers came and destroyed houses. They were beating us with canes. They threw our stuff out, burning them or threatening us to leave. The entire land where the factory was built, they evicted everyone. Most of the people are here. It was because of the factory that they pushed everyone out of that land.

During the eviction, my husband was beaten really badly and one of my children got a fracture when he was fleeing. Since that happened, my husband has been weak. So I’ve been taking on the responsibilities as a mother and as a father. Because my husband doesn’t have the strength or energy to go and work in the field and do some work. So it’s become my responsibility. This is a big challenge for me at the moment.

The first time I got to know NAPE was through the radio. It was a programme where they were calling people who had faced eviction. They were calling women to go and voice their issues and their experiences on radio. They wanted to know about our problems and have our stories told. After my involvement in NAPE, I’m so happy about the work they’re doing. Listening to the radio gives me strength and hope that things are going to change.

Women here have come together as a collective. We go to the forest to gather papyruses and make mats together as a group. We go and sell them and share the money. That’s how we support each other. I’m very happy and grateful to work with other women. We make plans together. When we get money, we plan how to spend it. We share ideas and try to get solutions to problems in the group. I feel like that has been a very good impact to have, personally, as a woman and as a mother. Because I can always rely on the group to advise me on a way forward and work together to achieve it.

If I’m still alive in the future, I want to get my own land, build my own house so I can live there with my husband and provide a good life for the children. I want to be able to take them to school and live in peace as one big happy family.