Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rights Restored: Lives Improved

As I sit at my desk and read about the case of Mrs. T. E. and her family in Bundibugyo, Uganda, I am amazed that lives so far away can be so impacted by the work of Global Rights.

Let me back up a little.  A year ago, our Uganda Country Director, Donald Rukare, formally launched our paralegal training in Bundibugyo, one of the most remote and under-resourced regions of Uganda.

Global Rights began its capacity building there because the people of Bundibugyo had almost no access to legal or paralegal services. After doing an assessment and consulting with the community, local residents told us that violence against women, sexual abuse and neglect of children, and disputes related to land ownership including women’s access to property ownership as the most pressing human rights concerns.

In response, Global Rights designed a targeted pilot paralegal training program for three local partner organizations. We trained fifteen representatives of our partners using a manual Don specifically developed for Bundibugyo.  In turn, our partners – with our technical and financial support – trained 42 volunteers who now provide paralegal services in communities in three of the fifteen sub-counties in the District.

Now comes the story of Mrs. T. E. 

Last summer, Mrs. T. E. approached one of our partners, Child Concern Initiative (CCIO) for help related to a land dispute with her former husband.  Mrs. T. E. learned about CCIO’s paralegal services from a radio program in which our partners explained the types of legal problems with which they provide help, including those related to land.

CCIO Paralegals
When meeting with a CCIO paralegal, Mrs. T. E. explained that her former husband had sold all of the family’s land held in customary ownership, leaving her children without any means by which to make a living. To resolve this problem, the paralegal convened a meeting of Ms. T. E., her former husband, the buyer, and the Local Council. During the meeting, CCIO’s paralegal provided information about land rights and property ownership and answered questions.

As a result of the meeting, the sale was cancelled and the land was returned to Mrs. T. E and her children.  Now they can continue to farm and will not be dispossessed of land that is rightfully theirs.

This is just one example of how we work to make sure those who are the most poor and marginalized can have access to justice.  Our goal is to build human rights capacity – like that of CCIO – and leave behind a culture that benefits from, supports and defends rights for future generations in their communities. 


Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

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