Women feed the nation, but due to cultural and conservative laws, they are denied land ownership, which is at the heart of food production.
Ms Lucia Namuganga lost her husband to HIV/Aids a couple of years ago. Before a month elapsed, in-laws chased her away from their land, accusing her of infecting their son with the virus. Confused and frustrated, she went back to her parents' home with five children thinking that she would be able to till part of their land and fend for herself and the five orphans.
Unfortunately, her elder brother who inherited the land after the death of the parents told her never to tamper with the land. He instead directed her to go back to her late husband's home yet none of her in-laws wanted to see her again. Namuganga tried to explain to her brother how she had been chased away as she pleaded with him to allow her stay, but it fell on deaf ears.
When Namuganga insisted that she had a right to use her father's land, the brother allegedly attempted to stab her. She took off with her children and went to seek refuge at a neighbour's home for two weeks. It was from here that a women's group in Kalangala where she stays at the moment advised her to go to court and today, the matter is being handled by court.
The story of Namuganga is similar to that of the two sisters who have been denied access to their father's land by their own brother. Ms Teddy Nakiganda and Rosemary Nakatanda both residents of Ssese in Kalangala District say that their brother, Joseph Bayiga assaulted them when they insisted on sharing their parents' land. "One time, he brought surveyors to demarcate and fence off all the land. When my sister and I forced ourselves into his fenced land, he beat me so badly. I was rushed to the hospital and he was arrested," she says. "The case is now before court but up to day, he continues to attack us. He has demolished our houses and whenever we grow our crops, he sprays them with poison and they wither," Nakiganda adds.
The three women gave their testimonies during the launch of the Hunger Free Woman Campaign in the district by Actionaid Uganda on October 7. The journey of the Hunger Free Woman Campaign which was flagged off in Kalangala on October, 7 travelled to Masindi, Lira, Kumi and ended in Tororo where the celebrations to mark this year's World Food Day were held on October 16. The campaign was a response to the current global food crisis manifested by increasing food prices for many staple food crops and the increasing number of people who are going hungry.
It focuses on three policy issues that came out of the hunger assessments that were undertaken by Actionaid International Uganda in 2007. The key issues include, access to land by women, market access for small-scale farmers, and access to inputs like seeds. The stories of these women reflect how culture still denies women access to land despite being the major producers. Women most of whom constitute the majority of the subsistence farmers hold the key to ending hunger.
Women's ownership and access to land in Uganda is still very low yet they grow between 70-80 per cent of the food crops in Uganda and are responsible for the household food security. According to the charter on Women's Rights to Land and Livelihoods which was handed over by members of Actionaid International Uganda to the third Deputy Prime Minster during this year's World Food Day, women in Uganda own less than eight per cent of the land.
A recent study by Actionaid on food security in Kalangala indicated that 11.5 per cent of respondents interviewed said they owned titled land and less than one per cent of these were women.
With fish stocks falling on Lake Victoria, many fish dependent communities may not have adequate resources to meet the food needs of the family. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which Uganda ratified in 1985 recognised that rural women face discrimination in access to water, land, seeds, credit, and at the same time, they have a crucial role in ensuring their families' livelihoods.
Article 14 of the Convention obligates states to adopt all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas and enforce their rights to have equal treatment in land reform and resettlement plans and enjoy appropriate means of livelihoods.
The comprehensive food security and vulnerability analysis carried out by the World Food Programme in 2005 indicated that five per cent of the rural households in Uganda are food insecure, 13 per cent are highly vulnerable and 19 are moderately vulnerable.
According to the 2002 Census Report, about 88 per cent of Ugandans live in the rural areas and only 12 per cent live in urban areas. Such irregularities in the production chain undermines the country's production potential and limits efforts at poverty eradication.
The Country Director of Action aid Uganda, Mr Charles Busingye says food security is important in the achievement of Millennium Development Goals including improving outcomes in education, health, natural resource management, and poverty eradication
Mr Busingye says that in Uganda, the proportion of the population unable to meet the recommended food caloric intake increased from 58.7 per cent in 1999 to 68.5 per cent in 2006. He adds that three in every 10 people lack food while six in every 10 people eat but they don't get satisfied.
Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that about eight million Ugandans are hungry. Globally, there are 854 million hungry people. Kumi Resident District Commissioner, Mr William Kaija says greedy men who deny women access to and control over land are responsible for the increasing food insecurity in the country. "Greedy men who have clang on primitive cultural beliefs continue to grab land from women especially widows because they believe that owning land is a preserve of men," Mr Kaija says.
He says cultural leaders should start convincing their subjects to change their attitudes towards land ownership among women. Although the government is trying to eradicate poverty through the implementation of programmes such as Poverty Eradication Action Plan, Naads and Bonna Bagaggawale among others, the inequalities between women and men in different spheres of life may continue to keep women in poverty.