Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Promise of Paralegals - Promoting Women's Property Rights in Urban Uganda

Christine’s troubles began with the death of her husband in a tragic motor accident in 2010. Closely after the funeral she found herself forced to open up the doors to her home in a Kampala suburb. Clan members had decided it should be searched. But the persons entering were no ordinary raiders, not even strangers – they were her step-children.  And they were looking for a land title. 

In Uganda – and throughout the world – gender inequality limits women’s rights to ownership and inheritance of productive resources such as land and housing. Women’s lack of access to, use of and control over land, housing and other properties not only constitutes a rights’ violation, but also limits economic development – of women, communities and entire nations. 

The barriers to the realization of women’s property rights typically include a gap between statutory law protecting women’s property rights, and customary law favoring men’s ownership and patrilineal inheritance, as well as discriminatory cultural norms and practices. As a result, women are often neither aware of, nor able to claim and enforce their rights to property. 

Illustratively, statutory law in Uganda does provide for the equal property rights of women. In fact, the Constitution of Uganda (1995) – the supreme law of the country – is often referred to as one of the most comprehensive and gender sensitive constitutions in sub-Saharan Africa (Tamale 1999). In its totality, it provides for the equality of women and men in all spheres of life, including in marriage in which context the issue of property rights of women is assessed; it prohibits discrimination of all forms and promotes the protection of women’s rights (Mulumba 2006).

Furthermore, Article 33 (6) states that “laws, cultures, customs or traditions which are against the dignity, welfare or interest of women or which undermine their status, are prohibited by this Constitution”. And yet, the gulf to actual practice remains wide.

Studies reveal a persisting gender gap in terms of property and asset ownership between women and men in Uganda. Women generally own less land and housing than men, and the assets owned are of lower quality (ICRW 2011). Much of this gap is commonly ascribed to the dual legal system recognizing both customary and statutory law. Although in theory, statutory law should prevail over customary law, in reality customary law and practice often takes precedence – mainly due to a combination of lack of knowledge of statutory law, and the persisting view that statutory law opposes and contradicts customary law and practices.

Shaped by society’s patriarchal norms, these laws and practices gives priority to men’s ownership of land, housing and property, while women are relegated to “secondary” rights; access to and use of properties and assets though their husbands, fathers, brothers or other male relatives (ICRW 2011). This rights violation – manifested through, for example, disinheritance and land grabbing, leaves women in a highly vulnerable position in society and prevents economic development and independence.

Christine, as a result of the stress and pressure she faced; being threatened with eviction from her matrimonial home and land, suffered from depression and eventually stopped eating. Luckily she had foreseen the dangers of the situation she was in. The land title was already placed with a catholic nun for safekeeping.

Christine (L) and fellow members of Our Lady of Charity women's group
Rights promotion through paralegal trainings
Christine is a member of Our Lady of Charity Women’s Group – one of six groups receiving trainings in paralegal skills under the project ‘Promoting Urban Poor Women’s Housing and Property Rights’. Implemented by SSA: UHSNET and funded by UN Women, the project aims at empowering urban poor women to access, use and control property and adequate housing for economic development.

Through the paralegal trainings, women are empowered with knowledge on statutory law and human rights, and provided with skills of mediation and advocacy in order to spot and handle instances of injustices within their communities regarding land, housing and property. Community watchdogs are formed.

By Increasing rights awareness and understanding among the women’s groups, as well as developing capacity to promote and protect their own and other’s property rights, the trainings aim to bridge the gender gap in terms of asset ownership and allow for women’s human and economic development.

Having attended the paralegal training, Christine changed her perception of her own situation. “After being trained in paralegal skills”, she says, “I was enlightened on my rights to inheritance of my late husband’s properties, as I was legally married to him in church”. The Chairperson of the group – an experienced community watchdog and paralegal – facilitated her contact with SSA: UHSNET, which in turn connected her to Uganda Land Alliance (ULA).

“A lawyer from Uganda Land Alliance helped me through the family court division to acquire my rightful share of the properties, including land and other properties currently being sold and the dividends divided among the five step children and me”, she says.

The trainings indicated good results at an early stage, implying positive impacts on the beneficiaries and their surrounding communities. For that reason, SSA: UHSNET initiated a process to document testimonies of the effects of the activity – in order to consolidate lessons learned and to provide a foundation for information sharing and dissemination of a ‘good’ practice. The gathered testimonies revealed a number of positive effects in relation to the objective of promoting and protecting women’s property rights.

As a result of increased legal knowledge, several beneficiaries were able to formalize and secure legal tenure to land and property already in their (informal) possession – thus reducing the risks of land grabbing. Others, like Christine, have been able to dispute ongoing rights violations, claim their rightful possessions and secure lawful entitlements to land and housing.

Agatha, community watchdog and secretary of SWID women's group
The impact of community watchdogs
Some have taken on the role of fully fledged community watchdogs. One of them is Agatha – a member of SWID women’s group in Jinja. Her modesty is lined with a subtle sense of confidence as she narrates a case she has recently handled. Her voice is soft, words informed.

The story is about a woman, originally from Northern Uganda but owning land in Walukuba District near Jinja, upon which she has resided for 56 years. When she in 2011 went blind, a neighbor decided to grab part of her land. The Town Clerk, unfortunately, sided against her – allegedly due to tribal bias (the woman not being of Busoga origin). “The markstone”, says Agatha, “has already been changed”.

“So we came and talked to her as paralegals”, she continues. “We had all the documents; we went up to the IGs office and delivered a letter, which they still haven’t replied to. But they say they will, that they will come and see the land”.  

Agatha became a community watchdog and paralegal several years ago after having attended several paralegal trainings, one of which was provided by SSA: UHSNET. She is experienced; radiates devotion and community engagement. 

But it wasn’t always like that. “Before I used to not even care about documents concerning land, I used to think it’s the man’s job to have those documents, I used to not even care if my name was on the documents”, she says. With the paralegal trainings, however, things changed:

“The paralegal training helped me to know more about law and policies in Uganda. Many of us in the group, we are the ones who know now; we are educating others in the community, about human rights, about women’s rights. Many women are suffering”, says Agatha. 

She has handled numerous cases, ranging from land disputes and domestic quarrels to rape cases and child abuse charges. And she is convinced of the good of her and her colleagues work:

“The community is benefiting because when we intervene, we show them what to do and where to go, especially women; they don’t know. They sit back and say if my property is grabbed, if I go to the police, they will ask me for money. Then we say; we can go with you. So they benefit by getting courage from us.”

While the trainings have surely impacted the lives of the beneficiaries to the better, the documentation process also revealed the long way still ahead. Ignorance and lack of women’s rights awareness among local authorities, as well as the lack of engagement with men on gender issues are two examples of obstacles paramount to deal with. These are important lessons for the shaping of the development agenda of the future. 

At the African Union Heads of States’ Summit in Addis Ababa, January 30-31, the spotlight was on the “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.” “There can be no sustainable progress without progress for women”, said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “They are the change agents of the future”. 

As evidenced by many of the documented testimonies, change is indeed possible. 

According to Agatha, as soon as she was selected as a watchdog she felt she had to do it – to help the community – and that she “should do it always, without delay”. 

“Because when you delay, things go bad,” she adds.

Let’s take her word for it – a change agent of the present.   
The above testimonies are excerpts from the documentation of the effects of the paralegal trainings under the project “Promoting Urban Poor Women’s Housing and Property Rights”. The full report will be published in March 2015.    

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Promoting Urban Poor Women's Housing and Property rights in Uganda

The project is aimed at empowering urban poor Women groups in central and eastern Uganda urban communities to access property and adequate housing for economic development. The project targets the districts of Kampala and Jinja. This is being achieved through three main strategies which include:
1.       Training and Capacity development for women groups;
2.       Lobbying and advocacy;
3.    Fostering networks and Coalition towards promotion of women’s property and housing rights for economic empowerment.

Through these strategies the project is empowering women with skills in property and housing development, paralegal skills for women to actualize their rights to property and fostering partnerships and coalitions towards promotion of women’s property and housing rights for economic empowerment. 
The project also links the urban poor women groups to key stakeholders to ensure synergy in support of women rights to property as a means to better their economic status. 
The project also intends to develop resource tools that will guide sensitization and awareness of communities on benefits of asset development for women. The project aims to institute sustainable services that can be scaled up to other areas within the districts and subsequently to other districts and regions of Uganda.

The secondary focus for the project is Promoting Entrepreneurship and guaranteeing social protection for urban poor women. 
The logic behind this project is that by increasing access to property there will be increased businesses which translate into promotion of entrepreneurship.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Promoting Eco-friendly Technologies in Informal Settlements in Uganda (PECTIS)

This intervention is aimed at supporting community led initiatives to provide environmentally sustainable sanitation. This is through the use of various approaches as detailed below.

The first approach of this project is the use of Interlocking Soil Stabilized Brick making machines (ISSB) as an affordable and environmentally friendly technology, for construction of essential infrastructure; e.g. toilets and solid waste collection points.

The project takes on a “Learning by Doing” approach in which community participation plays a crucial role in the choice of sites, equipment, structures, and methodology.
In addition, students of ‘built environment/architecture’ will assist communities in construction design, sitting, and construction. This enables a learning culture that goes beyond the theoretical model of teaching and incorporates a ‘hands on’ approach.

The project provides skills and awareness creation to the communities in entrepreneurship, cooperatives, and management structures for sustainability. This project aims to help youth to have income generating activities and boost the economic status of this area.

Finally this project has increased awareness of the communities on the importance of environmental sustainability and the impact of their activities on the wetland. This is through environmental campaigns carried out through the area, spear headed by the local authorities.

More information is available at


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Decent Living; Improving the lives of people living in slums. A collaborative project of SSA

This project promotes decent living within slum communities through integration and promotion of housing and water, sanitation and hygiene good practices. The project aims at improving the lives of people living in slums in Kampala through improved housing, water and sanitation.

The project objective is to improve the living conditions and contribute to a dignified life for people living in the slums of Kampala City by ensuring decent and safe housing as well as access to safe water and sanitation. The projects targets areas include; Busega, Mutundwe (Rubaga Division), Kibuye and Ggaba (Makindye Division) as well as limited activities with the groups in Central Division.
·         It will bring equitable and sustainable access; to shelter for 180 people, to water (6300), sanitation (10 000) and hygiene (37 000) for a total of 53 300 people.
·         It  will bring vocational business skills training for 90 selected women and youths that will be trained in WASH/housing related business initiatives, for example solid waste management and managing communal toilets viably.
·         It will strengthen partnerships and coalitions engaging and influencing housing and WASH related policies programs and practices.
·         It will enhance civic engagement of Government and urban private sector in coordination, integration financing, and good governance for sustainable and equitable WASH and housing service delivery.
·         It will strengthen organizational and management capacity of participating institutions and target community groups.

This is being achieved through the following strategies in place; partnerships, capacity building, lobbying and advocacy, mainstreaming, HRBA, service delivery/ construction of facilities and information sharing.
As a result the project will lead to; increased access to safe, healthy and decent housing and improved access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene for slum dwellers in Kampala, strengthened partnerships and coalitions influencing housing and WASH related policies programs and practices and enhanced good governance for sustainable and equitable WASH and housing service delivery.
This project is funded by We Effect and WaterAid. More information on these partners can be found at: and

More information at

Promoting Housing Rights Awareness in Uganda’s Informal Settlements; a project by SSA: UHSNET

This project aims at an empowered network engaging in policies programmes and practices for the sustainable improvement of Uganda’s informal settlements in Uganda/ East Africa. 
The project is funded by We Effect (formerly Swedish Cooperative Center) as part of their Housing Programme titled: "The Right to Adequate Housing in East Africa". More on we effect at:

The purpose of the project is to raise awareness and conscious actions to the improved living conditions in informal settlements. 
The project is empowering communities with awareness to improve their situations and make a difference in their housing. 
The project aims to demonstrate to government that the support of communities that have recognized their roles and are willing to work under a self help approach is sustainable and desirable for all. 
The project will ensure the promotion of sustainable community approaches that can be replicated in different areas of Uganda and that can address specifically the issues of the informal settlements in the ten (10) districts that will be engaged in the project.

This project is a right based project that aims at lobbying government to honor its obligations to communities specifically the informal settlements. This will be done through increased awareness and demanding for accountability in the housing sector and advocating for the right to adequate human settlements for all in Uganda. 

Some of the key issues of the project include:
·         Engagement with government and key duty bearers to advocate towards change in policy and legislation as a network
·         Engagement with communities to identify relevant modes of interventions that are sustainable
·         Building capacity of members and stakeholders to engage in effective advocacy, and housing interventions
·         Facilitated knowledge management to provide a clear direction and information for housing in Uganda.

The direction of the project emphasizes the advocacy and capacity building past successes to better serve the target population of the network. 

The project also seeks to maintain and develop regional partnerships that can increase cross border advocacy towards the housing agenda.


The Housing Situation in Uganda

·         National Population is estimated at 37 Million people with a growth averaging 3.5% per year
·         It was estimated (2012) that Uganda has about 6.82 million households living in 6.2 million housing units with an average household size of 5.0 persons.
·         The national occupancy density is estimated at 1.1 household per housing unit, giving a total backlog of 710,000 housing units. 
·         There is also a backlog of about 900,000 housing units as a result of sub-standard houses and structures which were never meant for human habitation. Out of a total backlog of 1.6 million housing units, about 210,000 units are in urban areas while 1.395 million units are in rural areas.
·         The annual need for new housing for the entire country is estimated at 200,000 (two hundred housing units) of which 135,000 are rural and 65,000 in urban areas resulting from the population growth of 3.5% national and 5% urbanization.
·         The construction rate of reasonably good houses is estimated at 40,000 housing units in the rural areas and 20,000 in urban areas. 

Thursday, 12 September 2013


SSA: UHSNET is implementing a three year program of Decent Living - improving the lives of people living in slums in Kampala through improved housing, water and Sanitation. The project will work towards creating improved living conditions, health and a more decent life for people living in slums of Kampala. The project will contribute to a number of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) including increased access to safe, healthy and decent housing and improved access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene for slum dwellers in Kampala. The projects targets Busega, (Rubaga Division) and Katwe (Makindye Division).
SSA: UHSNET is currently seeking for suitable candidates to fill the following positions:

V1: Communications Officer
Position Purpose
To lead planning, implementation ,monitoring and evaluation and market the SSA programmes /projects for the attainment of the organization goal in line with the communication and advocacy strategies.
Key Job responsibilities:-
 Implement SSA communication and the advocacy strategies in line with the strategic plan and the department mission.
 Manage the network monitoring and evaluation system through maintaining an interactive engagement with the staff, partners and the stakeholders.
 Develop the overall framework and logical models for SSA programmes/projects and comprehensive plans covering time lines for annual reviews, participatory impact assessments and process monitoring.
 Manage and maintain SSA web site and the organization library in line with the communication strategy
 Facilitate research and documentation studies on housing and cross cutting issues and share best practices that can be replicated by the stakeholders at different levels.
 Support the SSA efforts in conducting monitoring and evaluation interventions and communicate effectively the results to the partners and other stakeholders in line with the communication strategy
 Build the capacity of the staff and the partners to undertake monitoring and evaluation activities in the targeted areas of operation in line with the developed monitoring system
 Guide the process of identify key performance indicators and parameters for monitoring project performance and comparing them to the SSA staff set targets for better results.
 Support the staff to effectively use the SSA M& E information management system in reporting progress of the implemented projects in line with the department’s guidelines.
 Preparing periodic narrative progress reports and shares them with the immediate supervisors, partners and stakeholders in line with the communication strategy.
 Represent SSA in relevant meetings and events and prepare feedback reports to be shared with the supervisors in line with the organization communication strategy.
 Promote the work and visibility of SSA to the partners and stakeholders through using appropriate media outlets and respond to requests and shared issues from the network members
Qualifications and Experience:
 A bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication or Journalism and any other related field.
 Two years working experience, specifically in monitoring and evaluation, communication, documentation.
Other attributes
 Knowledge of web design, operation and maintenance
 Excellent writing, editing and communications skills.
 Good Interpersonal and administrative skills
 High level of integrity
 Knowledge of commonly used communication and computer or publishing packages
 Demonstrated organizational, networking/influencing, planning and problem-solving abilities.

V2: Project Assistant: Decent Living
Position Purpose
To support the project in mobilizing, setting up, and engaging with the communities through the entire project
Key Job responsibilities:-
 Take part in the implementation of the developed framework /plan for strategic partnerships and network with key actors /stakeholders to enhance their participation in the project tasks and projects in line with the organizational mission.
 Planning, mobilizing and training/sensitizing communities in assigned programme issues/ topics in line with the programme objectives and strategic plan.
 Be part of the implementing team of the viable linkages for advocacy standardization and up – scaling of SSA work with partners, government, NGO’s and communities.
Shelter and Settlements Alternatives: Uganda Human Settlements Network (SSA: UHSNET)
 Identify funding opportunities for the project and develop proposals for donor funding in line with the programme objectives.
 Take part in the research and documentation initiatives, identify possible advocacy issues and present finding to the Programme Officer for adoption in line with the programme objectives.
 Identify learning aspects, sensitization and training needs of the communities, design and implement action plans based on the identified needs of the different communities.
 Prepare monthly and quarterly progress reports for the project implemented activities based on the provided reporting guidelines and share with the programme officer.
 Work closely with the programme officer to ensure proper implementation of the project to realize the SSA objectives and goal in a cost effective and sustainable manner as stipulated in the programme documents.
Qualifications and Experience:
 A bachelor’s Degree in Human Settlements, Housing, Urban Planning, or Development Studies.
 Two (2) years’ experience in community development work or construction supervision.
 Demonstrated experience in facilitating learning, resource mobilization, and efficient documentation.
 Experience in construction site management is an added advantage
Other attributes
 An innovative and result oriented person.
 Strong interpersonal and team building skills
 Demonstrated negotiation and problem-solving abilities.
 Self-directed and taking the initiative
 High Integrity and managing Accountability
 Excellent written and verbal communication skills.

V3: Accounts & Administration Assistant
Position Purpose
To provide financial support services for maintaining sound financial controls and production of timely and accurate financial information in line with the department strategy.
Key Job responsibilities:-
 Prepare receipts for all funds received in the SSA coffers in line with the financial manual.
 Maintain fixed assets register and a proper filing and storage system of receipts, payment vouchers and other financial related documents in line with the department guidelines.
 Requisition, administer, control and replenish petty cash as per the SSA financial procedures and systems.
 Ensure that all vouchers have supporting documents, are well kept and secured in a filling and safe system.
 Ensure insurance cover for all the assets is up to date; all assets are securely kept
 Preparing periodic reconciliations of financial statements and carrying out monthly bank reconciliations
 Compiling accountability returns, verifying and retiring advances ledger
 Posting financial transactions, cash books and subsidiary ledgers to the general ledger and updating the books of accounts.
 Preparing payment vouchers for all cash payments
 Handling full clerical duties that involve inputting approved invoices or payment requests into the payment system.
 Assist management in implementing network resources policies-human, financial, assets, office equipment, stores etc
 Any other duties as may be assigned from time to time by the ED and the supervisor or department head
Qualifications and Experience:
 A diploma in accounting; financial management; Business studies; Administration or pre-professional accounting qualification (ATC or CAT)
 Three (3) years relevant work experience
Other attributes
 Knowledge of accounting packages like quick books, Navision etc
 Demonstrated knowledge of financial management
 A team player with good communication and interpersonal skills.
 High Integrity and managing Accountability.

V4: Driver
Position Purpose: Carry out the operational and preventive maintenance of SSA vehicles for administrative and operational functions to facilitate delivery of services to SSA partners in line with the department mission.
Key Job responsibilities:-
 Maintain vehicles under ones responsibility in road worthy conditions and in good mechanical conditions to reduce on the rate of wear and tear for an effective length of service in line with national requirements.
 Transport staff and authorized persons to a required destination and back in accordance with SSA transport guidelines and the road safety Act.
 Deliver good and items to destination following laid down procedures
 Reporting mechanical break downs and performing minor repairs resulting from the break downs
 Operate and pack vehicles with maximum security of supplies to minimize losses to SSA property while in transit according to the traffic regulations.
 Make payments for road licenses and third party & account for costs incurred in line with the SSA financial manual regulations
 Account for funds spent on driving operations and maintaining trip movement records in line with SSA accounting procedures
 Maintain the cleanness of the vehicles and the image of SSA to the public in line with the organizational requirements and the national safety guidelines.
 Identify staff safety, maintain AC and operation needs and identify resource persons to facilitate this process
 Keep the vehicles log books updated with the travel information and keep it safely in secure places
 Making routine reports and updates regarding the conditions of the vehicles.
 Any other duties as may be assigned from time to time by the supervisor.
Qualifications and Experience:
 An O level Academic certificate.
 Five (5) years of driving experience.
 A valid driving permit covering at least classes C and E in the old system or classes B,CM and DL in the new system
 Possession of class A in the new system will be an added advantage
 Knowledge of and proficiency in written and spoken English.
 Certificate in Defensive driving will be an added advantage
 A basic administrative and transport management course will be an add advantage.
Other attributes
 A Team player, flexible and ability to follow up on requests.
 Demonstrated Office / organizational skill.
 A high sense of order and concern for cleanliness
 Excellent customer care skills
 High level of integrity
 Ability to handle and manage multiple tasks under pressure
 Excellent time management skills
 Self-directed and taking the initiative

Qualified candidates should submit their applications (CV and supporting documents), 3 references, and contact telephone number /e-mail addresses to or not later than Tuesday 17th September 2013 Hand delivered applications will also be received at the address below:
Executive Director,
Shelter & Settlements Alternatives: Uganda Human Settlements Network
(SSA: UHSNET) Plot 2140, Old Kiira Road, Bukoto;
P.O. Box 27445, Kampala, Uganda Email: or