A daughter’s right to propertyPublished on Tuesday, 29 April 2014 14:31
Thirteen year-old Barbara Apire lives in Boroboro village, Adekokwok sub-county, in Lira district, Northern Uganda. Barbara’s mother died of Aids-related illnesses when she was 12, leaving her in the care of an aunt. Before she died, Barbara’s mother was running a successful grain business in BoroBoro trading centre, and had managed to acquire some prime property which provided a decent and comfortable living for the family. But soon after her death, relatives grabbed the property, and most of the household belongings, leaving nothing for the girl’s welfare.
“There was a meeting to discuss what had happened to the property. They were saying that they looked after my mother when she was sick. That they were therefore entitled to her property”, explains Barbara. Barbara’s plight is not uncommon. An estimated 1.1 million children have been orphaned by Uganda’s devastating AIDS pandemic. Unlike boys, girls are discriminated by customary laws, that exclude them from inheriting land and property. Barbara is one of the few girls who have been able to successfully fight for the right to their inheritance.
With the help of Sam Olango, a paralegal provided by the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics, and HIV/AIDS (UGANET) members of her clan were convened in a series of meetings to discuss the matter after which the relatives resolved to hand over the mother’s property. “At first the uncle had rejected the clan’s request to bring the property back. But when Sam put him under pressure, he complied and brought the property back,” says William Alyawo, the leader of the clan. Since 2013, UNDP has been working in partnership with UGANET, a civil society group to promote human rights based approaches in the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Uganda. The organisation provides legal and social protection to vulnerable persons particularly women and girls on matters related to property and land rights, and recently successfully spearheaded the civil society effort to campaign against the criminalization of HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
The organization trains paralegals who work directly with communities, including cultural leaders, to tackle various gender related discrimination and rights violations, and especially those that have potential to exacerbate the AIDS pandemic. In addition to successfully arbitrating in property matters, paralegals from the organisation use such meetings and other public gatherings to educate communities about their rights, and how they can obtain legal aid to resolve disputes. “The denial of women’s economic, social and cultural rights contribute enormously to women’s vulnerability to HIV infection”, says Nancy Akello, a legal officer with UGANET who has successfully mediated 30 disputes over the last 2 years.
Akello has achieved success mainly by involving cultural leaders in sensitising and educating communities about human rights and protecting the most vulnerable. “We resolve many cases in village meetings. But when we cannot handle a case, we make referral to higher courts,” she says. Fortunately for Barbara, her property dispute was successfully resolved without appealing to higher authorities. With the money from her mother’s property, she has been able to continue her education at Canon Dr. Lawrence Primary School in Lira, and is looking forward to a brighter future.
Source: UNDP Uganda