Typed the 25th of June at Sankofa.
Today I went out to Ogur Sub-County. Ogur is a small village north of Lira a ways. The road is narrow and bumpy to say the least, and it takes about 40 minutes on a motorcycle. And by the way, travel in Uganda means you get dirty. Just check this handkerchief out- the left side is after the ride there and the right is after the ride back. Nasty.
The reason we were in Ogur was because NACWOLA facilitates community dialogs on different topics. This discussion was about the local council court and whether or not it allowed women to access justice. The room was pretty full and predominantly men (much to Jeoffrey’s dismay). First, we introduced the topic and split the room into groups – those were thought the court was doing its job and those that thought it withheld women’s rights (it’s worth noting that all of the women present were in the latter). One group left to deliberate in another room while one remained. After some chatting and going over points, they reconvened and engaged in a loose version of a debate. Basically, one person from Group A spoke and Group B could respond, and then Group B spoke and Group A could respond. About an hour into it, a guy from Radio Unity began recording using a tape recorder and got a good sum of the debate recorded – it will be played on the radio as part of an informational talk show sort of thing which is pretty cool.
Unfortunately for me, the entire four hours of debate was in Luo, but Stephen explained the gist afterwards, although this is just a smattering of details:
- If a man dies, any land he owns goes to his parents, regardless of the wife. Widows were complaining that not only is this wrong, but that the local court will not hear claims to get the land back.
- Some men argued that women were gaining ground in the public sphere and cited the example of a woman who recently made a power grab and ousted a MP.
- Some argued that women were enjoying a freer justice system, but several on the other side countered that free in rights didn’t matter if it wasn’t affordable financially.
- In the home, many women argued, they were overworked and still denied representation. If something went wrong in the home, it was seen as the woman’s fault since it was in her domain even if it was a result of the man’s decision-making.
- The legality of polygamy in the face of a prohibition on polyandry gained mention.
- In the education system, boys are often given priority at full schools based on the notion that the girls will grow up to work in the house anyways.
- The marriage of a couple’s daughter is arranged completely by the father – from deciding on a dowry to deciding on the right man. The mother has no say in this and some were complaining that courts would not hear motions to have a stake in these decisions.