Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Married at 13. Widowed at 25. Land grabbing survivor Julianna's story.

There’s this verse my late Grandmother used to share with me that I’ve still got memorised to this day. “The Lord tears down the proud person’s house. But he keeps the widow’s property safe” Proverbs 15:25. She was a widow, a widow for a very long time. And her property was a constant source of contention (even in a beautiful law abiding country like New Zealand). But on Widows Day earlier this year, I came into contact with IJM and watched this verse come to life.

The International Justice Mission is currently working in Uganda alongside local authorities to defend the rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our world – the widows. For many women in Uganda, the loss of a husband is only the first trauma in a long term ordeal. Widows are often evicted from their homes and physically abused - some even killed by their husband’s family! There, a women’s social status is so inextricably linked to her husbands that she either has no rights or very limited rights to their property and often finds herself financially insecure and dependent on the charity of her husband’s relatives. Worse still, impunity for abuses of the rights of widows is rife, with few perpetrators every successfully brought to justice.

One thing we know about Jesus is that his heart is for the downcast, it’s for the grief stricken, for the excluded, for the invisible, for the widow. And as goes his heart, so goes IJM.

On June 23rd 2016, hundreds of people gathered in Mukono in Central Uganda to celebrate the rights of the widow and the achievements IJM has had thus far in protecting those rights.  A lot of progress has been made and the day was a chance to recognise the extraordinary efforts of the local authorities including the Police, Chief magistrate, RSA, RDC and others.  

The celebration began with an official 90 minute march led by a brass band and fronted by almost 100 government officials. Taking up the rear were hundreds of women, widows, children and men lending their voice and their support to defending the cause of the widow.  The theme of the event read loud and clear across the banners being held by those marching and the keynote speeches that rang out throughout the day. ““No woman should lose her status, livelihood or property when her husband dies. Widows need and deserve our support.”

After the event concluded I met an extraordinary women that brought the reason for the celebration to life. Meet Julianna. 

“My name is Julianna and I am 75 years old. I had an arranged marriage when I was 13 and he was 40 years old. Soon after I had five children to him. When I was 25, my husband went to visit his relatives in Congo. A few months after he left, two of his brothers came to my house to visit me. One of them was dressed in the clothes of my husband and told me that he had died. This land was all we had left. Fortunately, he had made a will that said nothing on this land could be sold, not even a coffee plant – all of it belonged to me and our children.  
Over the years all of my children died of HIV and various sicknesses and they are all buried here. I have one daughter left and four grandchildren. 

One day a young man came on a motorbike. He said he was my grandson and that he wanted a part of this land. He asked me to give him his portion. I had never met this man in my life and so I said no. Over many occasions he threatened me, intimidated me and made threats to my life and my land. He said that because I was a woman, I had no right to this home. I told him that this land is for my grandchildren and I kept insisting that he would not receive anything. One day he came and put all of his things in the kitchen. Another day, he came and started digging a foundation. When I told him to go away he picked up his panga and cut my hand as I blocked my head. I reported him to the police. 

One of my grandchildren later told me about IJM. Soon they came into my life and helped me in so many ways. They helped me go to court (where we won), encouraged me emotionally and gave me a guard to protect my land and house during my court case. They also helped me make a will. One day I hope to give my children and grandchildren this land.  I can sleep in peace now knowing that will happen. “

The perpetrator In Julianna’s case was sentenced to six years in prison. The longest sentence in any property grabbing case IJM has worked on in Uganda. IJM Uganda exists to defend the rights of one of the most vulnerable groups of people - the widow. 
Long may they continue.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Our ridiculously late first update

A Tutapona staff member sits outside one of our offices in Nakivale Refugee Settlement
An update at long last.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How do your favourite clothes brands rank on worker welfare?

Garment Factory
Three years after the deadly garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that shocked the world, global brands are under increasing pressure to improve conditions for the millions of garment workers in developing countries who make the majority of the world's clothing.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

That flight, the first week and election antics...


Having been here a bit over a week, I thought we should get the blog ball rolling. 
Firstly, that flight. We enjoyed a pleasant, restful 40 hour voyage through the skies with our two quiet daughters. As we were getting worried that the trip was coming to an end, fortunately our last short flight was delayed by an hour to give us more time in the 'plush' Nairobi airport departures lounge. We arrived in Uganda at 10am, refreshed and glad we didn’t have to go to bed for another 10 hours or so.  Of course our fellow passengers might have a slightly different version of events. But we made it. And the girls did better than expected. It was their parents who struggled the most. 

Having only been gone for a year, life here feels very familiar. It’s nice to be back! We’ve really enjoyed seeing lots of our friends who are still around from 2014.
We met all the Tutapona staff at a two day training here in Kampala last week.
It was good to catch up with them again and get started with the work. There is a significant, exciting change coming up for Tutapona soon, more on that next time.

Hope has adjusted well overall, she slept in a 'big girls' bed for the first time yesterday and was quite pleased with herself. She regards Eva with some disdain for still being cot-bound.  Her biggest hurdle has been dogs. All of our friends have guard dogs and Hope is terrified by them. The other day she bravely tiptoed past one sleeping dog, only to come across a second further down the path. When she turned around, she discovered the first dog had followed her.  Dogs, dogs everywhere. She let out a scream of a rare quality. Neighbours' doors opened, pigeons flew up from nearby trees and my hearing was permanently damaged.  Despite this setback she is making progress and has even started stroking a dog in our compound.

It’s hotter here than I remembered but we’re getting used to it. All of us except Eva, who is constantly sweating. I think she is designed for cooler climes.

The general elections are a week away. Things seem reasonably calm at the moment. Although, yesterday I was out driving and came to a standstill as a big parade went past. Electioneering seems to consist of groups of young men on motorbikes performing stunts in front of crowds of onlookers blowing vuvuzelas. One guy was standing on the seat of his bike as it rolled down a hill, not touching the handlebars at all. I’m sure he will generate significant numbers of votes for his favourite candidate. Many people are stocking up on household essentials in case there is some unrest after the election result is announced and movement around the city becomes ill advised. 

Over and out.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Back to #ugandababyuganda

In a few weeks we’ll be boarding a plane to Uganda for our third and longest stretch with our two daughters in tow, Hope who is a shade under two and Eva at 3 months. Needless to say we won’t be the most popular passengers on board...

This is not a decision we have come to lightly. It has been fantastic to be living so close to both sides of our family this last year. Hope has been spoiled as the first grandchild on the Buckley side and has loved spending time with her 9 cousins on the Manson side. We’ve just had a brand new baby and life is finally settling down after a tumultuous start to the year. Both of us are so grateful for our lives in New Zealand with very close friends, incredibly satisfying jobs and a lovely home.

A number of interwoven reasons.
In short, we both know our time in Uganda isn’t over yet and God seems to be confirming that.

As many of you know, when we moved to Uganda in early 2010 God surprised us with the gift of a daughter! Hope is now almost two years old and so on a purely practical ‘must –do’ level,  by heading back to Uganda we are hoping to complete the full adoption process and then proceed to applying for New Zealand citizenship for her. It is important to us (and to NZ immigration) to obey the adoption laws of Uganda. This process is a challenging and complex one but we are committed to our daughter and committed to seeing it through.

The other reason we are heading back to Uganda is on a slightly deeper level - to continue our working relationship with Tutapona. In 2014 we both volunteered for Tutapona. After seeing their work first hand we feel very motivated to be involved again – this time in a more formal capacity.


This time we’ll be based in Uganda’s capital city (Kampala) instead of the smaller city of Mbarara where we lived in 2014.

Tim will be working to support and manage Tutapona’s staff as they bring trauma counselling services to refugees at various sites around the country. Helen will be coming off maternity leave and assisting Tutapona with their marketing needs as well as conitnuing to workwith her beloved Tearfund/Compassion as a Communications contractor.


Two years at this stage.
We’ll endeavour to keep you updated through this blog.
Here’s to the best plane ride ever.

Tim, Helen, Hope, Eva