In Nebbi, Uganda, if a woman becomes widowed, she will often face land grab challenges from her husband’s relatives. This is because only men are viewed as rightful land-owners here, even though the law in Uganda says otherwise. I recently met a lady called Anyiese, 67, from Nebbi, who lost her land to her in-laws, after her husband died in 2012.
Without her land or an income, Anyiese could not provide for her sons, both of whom have severe learning disabilities, and two of her grandchildren that she lives with. But thanks to support through child sponsorship, ActionAid has helped her win back her land and earn an income so that she can care for her family and support her grandchildren through school.
Losing land and livelihood
“My in-laws blamed me for my husband’s death and the fact that my sons have learning disabilities,” explains Anyiese. “They claimed my husband’s land as theirs and were violent towards me until I agreed to leave it.”
Without her husband’s acres, Anyiese managed to get a small stall at her local market but only sold one basin of fish and vegetables, making just 20,000 Ugandan Shillings (£3.70) a month.
"I couldn’t afford enough food for my family to eat and we sometimes went to bed hungry," says Anyiese. "On top of this, twice a month I had to travel 100km to buy my sons’ medicines and getting transport for this was very expensive."
"Life was so hard at that time and so I reported the case to the Gender Based Violence (GBV) shelter," she explains. The GBV shelter in Nebbi was set up by ActionAid and is supported through our child sponsorship scheme. Here, ActionAid provided Anyiese with counselling and organised a meeting for her and her in-laws.
Building a brighter future
At the meeting, an ActionAid representative explained to Anyiese’s relatives that if the case went to court, there was a high chance that they would lose. “Eventually my in-laws agreed to give my land back,” says Anyiese. “This made me so happy!
“At first, I was concerned about how I would manage the land all alone but then ActionAid invited me and four other women from the GBV shelter to take part in some training on how to manage a business effectively."
At this workshop, the women were also taught how to form and run their own village savings and loan association. Thanks to the support of our child sponsors, ActionAid was then able to provide Anyiese’s women’s group with 1,000,000 Ugandan Shillings (£186) to set up a savings scheme.
Life as a business woman
Anyiese borrowed 300,000 Ugandan Shillings (£56) from the savings fund and used it to buy rice and beans. “As well as selling my produce at the market, I also managed to sell it in the local teachers’ and nurses’ quarters,” said Anyiese. “After two weeks, I had sold all my produce and so I re-stocked.
"Now, I sell three bags of beans and two sacks of fish per month. I also sell charcoal and altogether, I earn 400,000 Ugandan Shillings (£75) a month."
“I am so happy that I can now provide my family with all the food and medicines they need,” says Anyiese. “I can even afford school materials for them and next year, I hope to build a two-bedroom house for us to live in. I never thought this would be possible – thank you ActionAid!”
Anyiese is a member of four women’s groups in Nebbi that, thanks to child sponsorship, ActionAid has set up and provided with start-up funding which means they can start their own savings schemes. The 120 members of these groups are involved in various income-generating projects including fish trading and hairdressing businesses, which enable the women to cover their household needs.
None of this would have been possible without the support of our child sponsors. If you already sponsor a child – thank you for making such big developments like this possible. Why not tell your friends and family what it means to you by sharing this blog?
If you aren't yet a child sponsor but have been inspired by Anyiese’s story then please consider sponsoring a child with ActionAid. It's such an amazing and really rewarding thing to do.
Photos: Richard Adima/ActionAid