Nazziwa, a 38-year-old mother of two from Wakiso had the misfortune of losing her partner in 2017. Three years later while coming to terms with the devastating loss and putting her life back together, misfortune came knocking again in the form of her brother-in-law. During the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, her brother-in-law Anthony sold off a piece of land in Sseganga- Wakiso. This was land she had acquired for the benefit of her children with proceeds from her late husband’s estate.
The sale was done without her knowledge and even though the land was acquired in her name, Anthony convinced the buyer that she had consented to the sale because she was a relative. Nazziwa only learnt about the sale when she went to inspect the land and received the shock of her life! Nazziwa frantically contacted Anthony, who told her that the decision was agreed upon by her in-laws (her husband’s relatives) on the basis that it was for her children’s well-being. She sought out her in-laws to help her but instead they also supported Anthony’s actions leaving her feeling helpless and alone.
Anthony and his family felt that they had authority over Nazziwa, and that as a widow she had to meekly bow to their decisions.
According to Anthony, Nazziwa was supposed to be grateful for what he had done and he also felt that he did not owe her any explanations regarding his decisions. Feeling sidelined and unfairly treated, Nazziwa was compelled to seek legal support from JCU in March 2021 after attending a JCU outreach. Nazziwa and her in-laws were thereafter invited for an office mediation, where the Paralegal Officer had a discussion with Nazziwa’s in-laws about women’s, and particularly, widow’s property rights. During the fourth mediation, Anthony claimed that he had sold the land for UGX 5.000.000 which Nazziwa contested and he ultimately confessed that it was actually UGX 6.000.000 which he agreed to compensate Nazziwa.
Nazziwa indeed received the UGX 6.000.000 that she would use to buy another piece of land. After the mediation, Anthony also became aware of women’s rights, mentioning that he had been raised to think he could make decisions for his female relatives but during the various mediations, he learned that women have rights and have a say when decisions affecting them are taken. ‘This has been a battle that I thought I would never win. I didn’t ever think those men would respect my decision” said Nazziwa after signing the MoU and receiving her money. For many women in Uganda, property grabbing, especially by in-laws, is a common experience following the loss of a husband. JCU strives to create legal awareness among communities on the rights of widows and to empower and help women like Nazziwa access justice.