Source: East African Business Week
Civil society organizations have challenged Government and corporate companies participating in the exploration of Oil in the Albertine Graben in the Bunyoro Region to bring women on board as a way of promoting transparency when it comes to the issue of compensating for peoples land where the Oil wells are.

Mrs. Sheillar Kyomugisha the head of Gender and Community support at the National Association of Professional Environmentalist{NAPE} told East African Business Week that although Women contribute much to Uganda's economy their participation in debates on issues of national development remains minimal.

Attempts to bring them on board are scanty at best and as a result, women's voices on pertinent issues of national development are almost unheard. Because the rural women in the oil region have not been participating in the oil debates and discussions, their issues such as compensation have not been prioritized.

"The emerging oil industry is advancing but the need to involve women in the developments in the industry has not been addressed by both government and the corporate. Platforms on oil issues have been dominated by men, yet when exploitation of oil begins it is women and their children who will bear most of the costs and risks of the industry," she explained.

Kyomugisha added although the country has good policies, laws and regulations, its application has not comprehensively taken gender issues seriously.

Where there are provisions in the policies and laws for gender, such provisions are not specific on how the different gender-differentiated stakeholders will get involved in oil activities or benefit from the resource.

Kyomugisha's comments come at a time when the National Association of Professional Environmentalists have concluded community tours in the oil district of Hoima where they met Women to discuss the effects of oil on their livelihood.

"Women in the oil region are already suffering the negative effects of low participation and absence of their voice," noted Kyomugisha.

For example, in areas such as Nguedo in Buliisa (through which oil pipelines are set to pass) and Kabaale (where the oil refinery will be constructed), people's land is being grabbed and their crops destroyed without adequate compensation according to Kyomugisha.

Kyomugisha says the situation is likely to worsen as more oil wells are drilled. Women are being affected most because they are the ones responsible for providing food, water and energy and their capacity to do so is decreasing by the day.

"It is the role of women to fetch firewood, and water. In case of an oil spill, it is the women to suffer. Pollution of the environment, for example a lake or a forest, will increase the hours women will devote to fetching clean water, gathering firewood's for domestic use and water products such as fish which are crucial for food supplements" she said .

She stresses that besides, environmental degradation, Oil wells deprive the women of their source of medicinal plants and reduce economic activities such as trade in fish among others. Also, the fact that rural women have very few chances of being absorbed by oil companies, they suffer extreme impoverishment because rural women in most local communities are less educated and therefore have no technical skills. Thus the need for these companies to come up with projects that will enable Women earn a living.

When asked whether the discovery of Oil in the District of Hoima has changed the peoples livelihood Kyomugisha noted that local communities are now experiencing high levels of poverty since many have been displaced to give space to Oil related activities at the expense of local community income generating activities like fishing and Farming among other activities

She further noted that unless Government comes up with new modalities on how to share oil risks, costs, challenges and benefits are equally shared by all stakeholders the country will experience a high level of income inequality.

"Unless this is done, the income and benefit gap between those in the oil industry and the rural poor, especially women, will widen possibly culminate into rampant inequality, injustice, violence of all forms, absolute poverty, impoverishment and malnourishment, to mention but a few," she warned.

Women contribute 80% of all labour in the agricultural sector. They are also responsible for around 80% of the food production and continue to contribute 60% labour and logistics in cash crop production but the issues around oil may hinder their potential to exploit their chances in exploiting their potential especially in Agriculture. 

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