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Zauja can now at least smile amidst pain; because some of her relatives can now visit her.

Introduction: Zauja Mwege formely from Namutumba; Namutumba town council, Eastern Uganda now stays with a sister and a 12 year old daughter in a tiny rented room in Mafubira sub-county Jinja district; is 30 years and has been in great pain for close to two years due to a suspected spleen cancer . Zauja’s ordeal came to the limelight during one of the social responsibility campaigns by a local media house. She was identified as a needy and sickly lady in need of support. Based on this; Jinja hospice visited her and rolled her on palliative care program. She had stroke, could not move with a septic wound, diagnosed with cancer of the spleen that contributed to the stroke.

“I Can live with pain but not with hatred” retorted Zauja when asked to consider re-locating to her village home: Zauja comes from a family that believes in witch craft, so her predicament was interpreted by some relatives as a bad omen and was rejected by the family and left to die. Because Zauja was fined in bed; her relatives took advantage of her ill health and grabbed her later father’s property. She was never consulted and when she leant of it, plus the abuses and discrimination that they had subjected her with; her health situation worsened and she could not even turn in bed. She says she could not imagine that she had been left without any property including the fact that she couldn’t get some money to take care of her from her father’s estate and she was reduced a destitute. The palliative care nurse promised to link her with UGANET lawyer for some legal advice.

Socio-legal Intervention:

As the saying goes- “quite often removing pain and suffering means dealing with the patients social and legal burdens” when the UGANET lawyer was notified and visited Zauja, the citation was vivid.  The lawyer found Zauja in a sorry state and only talked because she was alerted that the promised lawyer had come. The lawyer counselled her, comforted her and assured her that UGANET will try all means to reclaim her rights. She could not believe that there are lawyers that can work for free and she immediately accepted UGANET offer, thanked the team and gave her directions to the relatives’ homes.

UGANET lawyer traced and reached her relatives, negotiated a re-union with Sauja so that she feels loved, accepted and to reduce the psychological torture that she was going through.  Then later the lawyer engaged the relatives on social and economic needs of the patient; family introduced the lawyer to the family heir to commit that they were ready to receive the patient back and help her to settle. The family members agreed to redeem Zauja’s share and to allocate her a home.

The lawyer gave the feedback to Sauja who appreciated though later expressed mixed feelings about the commitment of her relatives to resettle her give the witch craft and other complicated family social conflicts. Nonetheless, she highly appreciated the mediation and could not believe when some of the relatives that were in touch with the lawyer visited her and they had a cordial conversation –where she was informed of the positivity by some relatives to help her out. According to the nurse attached to Zauja, the patient has greatly improved and is responsive to medication. Since she was not ready to re-unit with the family as yet and her landlord (where she is currently staying) was chasing her away due to unpaid rent; hospice mobilized some money for rent and some maintenance as mediations and possibly legal processes go on.

Cathy: UGANET lawyer in a t-shirt on the right; talking to Zauja.

Observations: Though the family re-union and property repossession is half way; the mere fact that different relatives are now visiting her; some calling her on phone to comfort her has contributed a lot towards improvement in her condition.

This is not yet a celebrated scenario but it has provided hope and light to the patient who was swimming in sleepless nights and dilemmas due to non-considerate and discriminative relatives.  UGANET is currently scheduling mediations with the wider family including the heir, to get conclusive commitments especially on formalized processes for the patient to access her property rights. This will be updated.

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