Digging for power: Women empowerment and justice amidst extractive industry developments in Uganda

8 March 2019

Kampala, 8 March 2019 – Joining in the celebration of women across the world today, ASF releases its analysis of the progresses and shortcomings in achieving women’s rights in Uganda’s extractive industry context.

Oil and mining industry developments in Uganda are filled with promises of economic and social improvements. Yet, respect for the human rights of local communities amongst economic interests remains far from achieved. As in other similar contexts, numerous violations of the rights of women and increasing gender inequalities are observed. Indeed, while men are more likely to get a greater share of the benefit in terms of employment and income, women are more exposed to the negative consequences – social disruptions, environmental degradation – affecting their sources of income and physical integrity.

In a recent research covering extractive industry hot spots in the Bunyoro and Karamoja regions (oil and mining), ASF investigated how women are able to deal with economic transformations and their impacts. The report highlights how, in environments characterised by patriarchal dynamics, poor law enforcement and high power asymmetries, women manage to take initiatives to answer immediate needs of an economic nature but have limited ability to react when facing other types of injustice, such as gender based violence or violations of their rights to access land, to health and to a clean environment.

Several factors appear to enable or constrain women in their ability to react to, mitigate or adapt to the changes they face due to mineral exploitation. Savings groups, for instance, have proven to be an enabler of action as they offer a basis for collective women initiative in male-dominated public spaces. On the other hand, our findings point that women’s power to take action or redress injustice amidst extractive developments is constrained when they have to rely on external avenues.

Considering Uganda’s imperfect institutional and law-enforcement background, this conclusion is little surprising. Our data shows, however, that the arrival of powerful private actors backed by government elites contributed to further weakening supporting structures such as local governments, community leaders and local conflict-resolution actors. In the increasingly asymmetrical context that resulted from industrial developments, local structures are left ill-equipped to provide adequate support to aggrieved women and communities. Companies and national government actors do not, on the other hand, offer valid solutions to mitigate the negative consequences of their activities – sometimes even using existing institutional weaknesses in their own interest. Eventually, very few avenues exist for women and communities to claim and enforce their rights amidst extractive industry developments.

To address those shortcomings, ASF advocates for a multi-facetted legal empowerment programme, targeting actors across the whole justice spectrum. On the demand side, women and communities affected by industrial developments must be equipped to not only redress the injustices they face, but also take an active role in socio-economic developments and hold their elites accountable. On the supply side, efficient and coordinated justice mechanisms must be made available. Actions range from strengthening the capacities of community-based justice actors to adopting and implementing laws through which powerful extractive industry stakeholders can be held accountable.

>> Download ASF’s report Digging for power: Women empowerment and justice amidst extractive industry developments in the Albertine and Karamoja, Uganda

>> Watch the video

With the support of the Belgian Development Cooperation.
Picture © ASF/Alexia Falisse

Published in Access to justice and development | Business & human rights | News | Uganda | Women's rights

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