The year was 2004. Issues to do with women’s rights, especially widows’ rights, were completely at the background.
One year later Woman of Purpose carries out a baseline survey on widows in 3 sub-counties of Pallisa District. The results are shocking:
- 50% of the widows are illiterate.
- 67% work in other people’s gardens for survival.
- 61% survive on less than 5000 Uganda shillings a week–less than two dollars.
- 86% were able to keep property left by their late husbands, but were not able to own it, with only 16% being able to control the property.
This survey gave us a picture of what was happening all over Uganda.
It was the results of this survey that informed the initiation of the Hope for Widows Project, where Woman Of Purpose actively engaged local leaders and mainly the clan and religious leaders to address most of the cultural customs and attitudes. With Funding from Widows Rights International, Community Resource Assistants from different Parishes were hired and trained and the work to change social attitudes began. A minimum of three Sensitisation outreaches per week were carried out. Local leaders’ workshops were held and with cooperation of the local government, several activities were implemented with the view of changing the mindset of the communities.
Woman Of Purpose Centre in Agule – Pallisa became, and continues to be, an advisory center with daily visits by widows, relatives and friends coming to raise issues and seek advice. The first years were challenging. The battle seemed difficult; some men did not want their wives to join the organisation because they felt threatened by the rights that women were beginning to become aware of and embrace.
Several years since we first held our first Sensitisation outreach on women’s and specifically widows rights, we have seen a tremendous change in the attitude of the communities. In some areas we have covered, widows inheritance cases are almost not heard of; cases of widows being denied access to till the land left by their husbands are very few; and the number of communities requesting to be sensitized never ceases.
Today Woman Of Purpose has over 20 Groups of Widows coming together to collectively solve their issues, improve their income and better their homes. Over 200 widows have benefited from the Cow Scheme and 30 together with their children have moved from dilapidated mud and wattle huts to iron roofed houses. An empowered widow is a happy one and has high self esteem.
To Woman Of Purpose and the Communities of Rural Pallisa, it has been a success story to see women/widows begin to be aware of their rights, embrace those rights and enjoy them. The battle continues as we give the widows of our community a voice, and we are grateful to all who made it possible then and now. It must however be noted that this is ‘a drop in the ocean’ and we continue to advocate for widows’ rights to be respected in our Nation. We work together with other Non-Governmental Organisations and continue to raise our voices higher and higher, pleading with our Government to pay attention to this special group of women who are vulnerable, prone to sexual abuse and some of them unaware of legal options.
Update – 2 September 2014 – Training Community Research Assistants
To expand our work, we need funds to train Community Resource Assistants from respective areas. It is cost effective when they work in their own villages because they know the people better and they can reach them any time. Apart from helping them to know their rights, we also help the widows to become economically and socially empowered. So these Assistants also help in monitoring the income generating activities by, for example, teaching the widows how to keep basic records. To keep them motivated, we pay these Assistants equivalent of US $30 per month.
Currently we hope to train ten (10) people for ten days. The total cost, including trainers’ facilitation, comes to U S $1,200.