UGANET trained Paralegals increase access to Justice
She decided to walk away from a tense family meeting unaware that her nephew had sharpened a machete and was lying in waiting for her. When he pounced on her she tried to run for her dear life, baby on her back, in-law hot on her heels. Sadly she stumbled and fell.
Agnes Atukwasa was being accused of witchcraft and her in-laws were ready to finish her off for good. TheN the machete wielding nephew caught up with her, she said her last prayer and put a hand up to protect her head. It caught the first machete blow.
Her body still bears the scars from that day. She sustained more cuts on the hand, her neck and the back as she struggled to escape. Screaming her lungs out saved her from her attackers. Her one and a half year old baby did not make it. He died later from injuries sustained from that brutal attack.
The crux of the conflict was land. Married into an extended family, Atukwasa had plans to separate their family earning from the rest of the clan. She asked her husband; “how can we harvest coffee from our own plantation and hand it over to your older brother to sell and keep the money?” That did not go down well with her brothers-in-law.
On the fateful day the whole family gathered to check on a sick family member. “They told me that you should not be here. You brought this sickness on us because of your land wrangles,” she recalls. When she walked off to let the tempers cool, she was attacked.
After she recovered from her injuries, the local police advised her take her two remaining children and return to her parents’ home because they could not guarantee her protection. Her husband married a second wife. Years later he died, leaving a will naming his two wives and children. A friend, whom her late husband had entrusted with the will, told her that she was mentioned and her children.
Her brother-in-law denied the will’s existence and refused to divide the property. The two widows decided to team up and confront him. “He told us that there was no land for us. That the land belonged to the children,” she says, yet he was not even taking care of the children.
One evening Atukwasa tuned in to a radio talk-show on radio Ankole F.M. “During the radio talk-show I heard that widows and orphans had a right to inherit property and that if such a right was being denied, there was a free lawyer in Ntungamo that could help,” she narrates. Such radio programs are aired by UGANET to inform and educate the public about inheritance rights of women and girls in the context of HIV.
Atukwasa went to UGANET Ntungamo office to seek assistance after which a meeting was organized with the help of Warren Mugabi a UGANET trained paralegal. Mugabi called the two widows, the LC 1 Chairperson of Katembetembe, where the land is located and their brother’s-in-law for a meeting. “He asked them why they were denying us our land. They told him that we could own the land on paper, but would not access it. He then explained to them the laws on inheritance, the
fact that the land was given to us and our children by our late husband.” says Atukwasa.
Atukwasa’s brother in-law produced the will. It was read and the land was demarcated accordingly allocating the widows and their children their due share. Warren Mugabi, the paralegal received basic legal training from UGANET which he uses to solve problems in his community with the support of UGANET legal officer.
“I call people for meetings and educate them about the rights of women, girls and orphans, particularly those living with or affected by HIV. I also take advantage of public gatherings for instance church and funeral gatherings. I ask and they
usually give me a few minutes to teach,” he adds.