CBA volunteers work with Ugandan women and communities to assert rights in region shaped by resource industries

  • December 09, 2019

By Evelyn Palach and Muhammad Zubair

We arrived in Uganda on November 16 to volunteer with the Uganda Law Society (ULS) as Community Research Associates through the Supporting Inclusive Resource Development in East Africa (SIRD) project. In this role, we supported community advocacy initiatives and identified key concerns and priorities faced by community-based women’s groups in Buliisa.

SIRD aims to increase sustainable economic growth for East Africans; in particular, women and vulnerable groups affected by extractive industries. SIRD recognizes that the community-based women’s groups are best placed to understand the challenges of affected women and communities. An emphasis on local representation and local empowerment is at the forefront of these groups' activities in order to most accurately represent lived experiences. Providing relatable examples of empowered women from those same communities taking an active role towards improving conditions for their people was also emphasized.

Buliisa and the neighbouring Hoima Districts are endowed with commercial quantities of oil and gas, which are of national significance. Women’s groups have been tirelessly working towards improving the lives of women and girls in their communities—some having spent over seven years in pursuit of this goal. Using radio, drama, and door-to-door information dissemination, these groups employ a variety of methods to share information on women’s rights within the sphere of extractive sector operations. These include the rights to property, inheritance and economic independence, as well as details about services available for women in the community.

Beginning on November 25, we conducted one-on-one meetings with these women’s groups to discuss the pervasive challenges they face in their work. One key challenge identified through participation in drama-based activities was the hesitation and unwillingness of female audience members to participate in the post-performance Q&A sessions due to the presence of spouses and male relatives. In order to reach SIRD’s goal of increased community participation—particularly among women—we sought to learn from the experiences of the women’s groups, work together to organize activities tailored to most effectively engage women, and facilitate the advancement and protection of their rights related to the extractive industries.

Over the weeks that followed, we took part in gender-sensitive training delivered to pro bono lawyers. These lawyers were selected based on their familiarity with the extractive industries sector and willingness to deliver pro bono services. The training focused on the regulatory frameworks in the extractive industries sector, human rights and gender equality. The pro bono lawyers utilized the training by delivering a legal aid clinic in Buliisa in mid-December. This mobile clinic, which is delivered quarterly, aims to reach remote communities facing legal issues caused by the extractive industries. The CBA team observes the legal clinics in order to identify challenges, as well as opportunities, for improvement and growth in future clinics.

The SIRD project is funded by Global Affairs Canada and implemented by the CBA, in partnership with the Law Society of Kenya, Tanganyika Law Society, the Uganda Law Society and the East Africa Law Society.


Muhammad Zubair and Evelyn Palach (seated at left) documented their experience in Uganda and work with the Uganda Law Society in their Takeover Tuesday of the CBA’s Instagram account on December 3, 2019.