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Nothing as Beautiful as Working for Women’s Land Rights

Eunice Nabakwa shapes land rights policy to create meaningful change for the women of Uganda

As part of our April 2022 cohort, Eunice Nabakwa brought her extensive experience in women’s land rights to the class. For the past decade, she has worked with Uganda’s Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, and she has been a Research Fellow at Georgetown University since 2021, focusing specifically on women’s land rights.

We spoke with her recently to learn more about her perspective, inspiration, what keeps her motivated, and how she chose her professional path.

I realized I could make a big contribution by getting into government

While she knew she wanted to be a lawyer since she was young, Eunice describes how she chose this particular path.

When I was young I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer. But of course my perception of being a lawyer, I was thinking of being maybe a judicial officer like a judge, or maybe go to court and start litigating - so that was my vision when I was young. But of course, when I grew up, looking at the communities, how the poor people in the communities really need help, I started growing passion for helping communities. And of course I knew I could help them by going into court to litigate but going through law school and emm…living with the communities…I realized I could make a big contribution by getting into government, getting to influence laws and policies, make sure that I bend – in case there is an opportunity to draft the laws, to draft the policies that can help the communities to secure their rights or maybe claim whatever properties they have. So, realizing that government was the best place for me to do this, I decided to join the Ministry of Lands.

I want to cook the laws

As a lawyer, there are many avenues one might pursue in the field of women’s land rights. For Eunice, working on developing policy was far more interesting than working as a litigator.

I don’t feel like I should go to court to litigate because in court it’s like you wait for the problem to happen and then go to use the laws that are already in place to litigate – no. I want to be in the kitchen. I want to cook the laws and make sure that once these laws are applied we can get an outcome that is favourable for all.

As an individual, you can contribute, you can influence

Eunice continues to be inspired by her work, and gets excited about it when she sees it working for the people in her community.

I am very excited because I see it working and I see the power of…I see how you as an individual, you can contribute, you can influence, you can give these lawyers who are in court – you can give them the laws that you want to be applied. So there is nothing better than that for me.

I look for solutions in the community

Working in this field can sometimes feel overwhelming, particularly when we see how much work still needs to be done. Eunice maintains her positive attitude by engaging with her community.

Once you get involved with working with the communities themselves, you keep going, you keep going like…every day you get to the field you discover new challenges or new good things, and then you are with these people who are actually living the experience. You are talking to them, you are looking for solutions together. They tell you what they want and as a lawyer or as a land administrator you get to sit down and say, “What does the legal framework say? How can we change? How can we do this?” So for me it has been a very, very wonderful experience, I really love my work. I love the work that I do.

There is nothing very beautiful like the work I do

Eunice doesn’t get easily discouraged, and views her work as one of growth and evolution.

For us it’s just like a lady who gets pregnant and goes through the nine months and then sees herself deliver a baby: that’s how the process of land registration is. So you begin the process and finally you see yourself ending the process, so there is nothing very beautiful like the work that I do.

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