Gender equality -Women’s Rights in Kisoro SW Uganda

Kisoro SW Uganda has been named by both National Geographic amongst the top 10 (ten)places to visit in 2012. With its rolling hills and magical landscape Kisoro is breathtaking. It is home of the might Mountain Gorillas and one of the most densely populated districts in Uganda.  The fact that Kisoro is densely populated has implications for both resources and women’s rights.  The region is a long way from achieving gender equality for women. Gender equality in this instance refers to men and women having the same opportunities, socially politically, economically etc.

The most prized asset in this farming community is, land and women are almost always excluded from land ownership. Land enables women to put down roots in society, have a livelihood, access shelter etc,

If you delve deep into this community you will learn that

  1. there are two cash crops in this community coffee and Irish potatoes ( there are two kinds of potatoes in Uganda – Sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes- this is the variety that most western readers will be familiar with)
  2. the dominance of one cash crop over the other is determined along gender lines
  3. women have very few rights here specifically  property rights

I had a conversation with 3 women from the community and here is what they had to say.

I apologise for the quality of the recording and if you are unable to follow the conversation the main points raised were

  1. women do not own land due to social-cultural structures that reinforce gender inequality
  2. women often work as part of the hired help and unlike the hired help they do not get paid
  3. women have a preference for Irish potatoes as a cash crop over coffee because if they do not get paid they will have food on the table
  4. often the man will handle coffee related cash transactions and the woman has no control over what happens to the money
  5. domestic violence is rife and although authorities get involved things do not work out in the favour of the the abused woman
  6. if a marriage breaks down the woman is expected to leave any children and return to her parents

It was interesting to hear the views of our guide on all of this. He is from Kampala the capital city of Uganda

He told us that as far as he could work out the lack of education put the women of Kisoro at a great disadvantage as it means that they do not fully understand their rights and as such cannot argue/fight for those rights. He further stated that he would never dream of treating his own wife the way these women are treated and that his wife had rights to buy and own property without his permission.

What are your views?

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