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Findings from the Starting With Women Project in Uganda

Resource Equity and Associates Research Trust – Uganda (ARTU) just wrapped up a pilot project in Karamoja, Uganda, with promising results for women and for communities.

The Starting With Women approach centers women in design and implementation. Its starting point is the belief that women’s land rights can be made more secure through an approach that starts with women. It is a pragmatic, adaptive framework and approach for understanding and taking action to strengthen women’s land tenure security.

From 2018-2019, Resource Equity and ARTU implemented the Starting With Women approach with three mining groups in one district in the Karamoja region in Uganda: the 20-member Seglochoro Marble Mining Association in Katikekile, the 28-member Lopusak Gold Mining Association in Rupa, and the 30-member Nachan Limestone Mining Association in Tapac.

The project began with an inventory of existing miner’s associations, meetings with district leaders, and the recruitment of a community-based facilitator. We conducted a needs assessment with intervention groups and then worked with the groups to co-create a curriculum that responded to those needs and aspirations. The facilitator then conducted weekly sessions with the groups to implement the curriculum from November 2018 until May 2019, when project activities ended with graduation ceremonies for all participants. A comprehensive evaluation including a baseline, midline, and endline was carried out, with some key findings:

  1. Literacy and numeracy increased

By the end of the project, all 21 beneficiaries who had attended school could read and write, and 65 (97.01%) of 67 respondents could count, an increase from 38 (52.05%) who were able to count at the beginning of the project. For miners, these skills are very important. They mean that they can now count how many grams of gold or truckloads of stone they sell and, therefore, calculate how much they are owed from the people they sell to.

  1. Knowledge of land rights increased

At the beginning of the project, only 13 of the 74 respondents said they knew their land rights. This increased to 65 (97.01%) of 67 interviewed beneficiaries by the end of the project. Respondents also changed their perception of land rights, from a narrative dominated by “land belongs to men” to an understanding that women have rights to land, both as wives and as individuals. Participants also learned that land can be protected through having marked boundaries and by having documents such as agreements or titles which can be obtained through processes involving local leaders like the local councils and the area land committee.

Beneficiaries plan to share their knowledge of women’s land rights with elders in their community, because they control the land and, as one respondent noted, “elders should allow women to own land.”

  1. Decision-making has become more inclusive of women

By the end of the project 66 (97.06%) of the 68 beneficiaries felt that the decision making process was inclusive of all members, an increase from the 43 (58.11%) of 74 beneficiaries who felt the decision-making process was inclusive at the beginning of the project. This may have been because of trainings on women’s rights and on public speaking. One woman said, “as women, we can now stand in front of men and talk.”

  1. Savings increased

There was a substantial increase in beneficiaries who identified savings schemes as one of their group’s main activities, from 50 (67.57%) of the 74 beneficiaries at baseline to 66 (97.05%) of the 68 beneficiaries at endline.

People used the knowledge they gained about saving to save at home as well. One respondent said, “we want to use the knowledge by buying a savings box for a family to start savings in it because we have knowledge on management.”

  1. Formal registration of the groups has provided benefits

At the start of the project, all three associations were unregistered, community-based organizations that had been initiated by past, unrelated projects. We prioritized ensuring the groups were registered with the Moroto District local government, by helping them write constitutions, connect with the government office, and pay the fees.

Registering gives the groups formal status, which helps them access government projects, connect with non-profits, and negotiate with companies. The Nachan Women’s Group said that their formal status helped them secure mining equipment from the company they work for, Tororo Cement Company, and resulted in a partnership with the Human Rights Network – Uganda (HURINET) to teach the local communities on their land rights. The Seglochoro Mining Association used their formal status to get bee keeping equipment from the local government. The Lopusak Association went on to register with the Uganda Cooperative Alliance, enabling it to have a stronger operational presence and leverage opportunities.

We are excited by these initial results. We previously implemented the SWW approach in another area in Uganda, focused specifically on land rights. We plan to build on this work, using the approach in different contexts to advance women’s rights to land and resources, and hope that others will use this toolkit as well!

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