Saturday, June 22, 2013

A typical day in the field...

It's a hot Thursday in Uganda as Justin and I, along with Max, Thomas, Sandra, and Sunday, a few of the Centre for Reparations and Rehabilitation (CRR) staff, drive to a small village in Ojam District, Minakullu sub-county for an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).  CRR serves communities in 10 sub-counties of 5 districts (2 sub-counties per district) in northern Uganda, providing free legal mediation and representation and psychosocial services to communities.  The ADRs serve to offer access to legal services for individuals who can't afford the time and money it costs to use the formal legal system in Uganda. We drive about an hour and a half on dusty, pot-hole ridden roads, made nearly impassable by the rainy season to reach the village.  After about an hour of hearing the case, with multiple attempts to draw a map of the land under dispute, we decide to walk through the 'bush' (wilderness) to see the property.  So we walk.  And walk.  And walk!  After walking about 3 kilometers (that's nearly two miles) through fields, brush, and tall grass in the heat of the sunny afternoon, and many arguments back and forth among community members, it seems that no one can agree on where the property lines are and therefore what land is under dispute.  This is common in northern Uganda, where civil conflict uprooted entire communities from their homes for long periods of time; who owns which land, how it is inherited according to customary law, and where property lines are has become unclear with the passing of time, memory, and descendants.

Our work with CRR is two-fold: we are doing a program evaluation for the organization as well as a needs-based assessment for a program they intend to start up in August that focuses on addressing sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV). The issue of SGBV is integrally entwined with land disputes, health and access to services, women's right to inheritance as well as the process of reintegration into communities in post-conflict northern Uganda.  CRR has been terrific thus far: they are supportive of our work, helpful in accessing the field and key informants, and a great source of positive energy for us! We are officially kicking off our research this coming week after shadowing the organization for about two weeks now and we can't wait!

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