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Launching Project Empaanyi

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I am beginning my fifth month in Uganda and my seventh month with IJM. That is unbelievable. I always envision myself updating this regularly… but have failed in execution. My apologies. I was considering joining in the fun of **Foto February** and posting a picture from my life everyday. I’m a bit behind, but may be able to recover.

I feel I have been negligent on writing much about my work, which makes up a majority of my waking hours. Let’s rectify that!

The IJM-Uganda office is launching a five-year structural transformation project. My office of investigators, lawyers and aftercare workers has been working for the rescue and restoration of victims of property grabbing since 2008 in Mukono District, just northeast of Kampala.  In Uganda our work is solely focused on property grabbing, which is when family or community members forcibly remove widows and orphans (the most vulnerable) from their most valuable possession—their land—usually after the death of a husband or father.

This year we are launching our structural transformation project, called Project Empaanyi. Through five years of casework we clearly see problems in the public justice system and know them well. Now we are considering how we can partner with government offices to make sustainable changes to increase the protection of the most vulnerable in society by an efficient and fair public justice system.

My work this year is to research the administrative functions of these offices and design a book of recommendations to guide our collaborative project. I have been forging introductions, developing relationships, asking questions, and observing in the lands registry, various levels of court, the police, and the administrator general’s office (which handles estate administration, aka: probate).

Yesterday we held a workshop for leaders in our project district, to formally introduce them to IJM, Project Empaanyi, and ask for their collaboration and partnership. I had a fun week planning the logistics. After waiting 1-2 hours to begin, I began calling our invitees asking if we could expect them. Most of them showed–just a little cultural two-hour-late thing!

Next week I am hosting a police consultant and friend of IJM from California. She is volunteering her time and expertise to help us in writing police training curriculum and suggesting recommendations to file management and processes at the police station.

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In other news…

  • power outages are worse than ever.
  • I returned home Monday night to my roommates taming a bizarre fire issue in our kitchen. All is well–really!
  • It is unbearably hot and dusty in my first experience of this “dry season.” 3 months without rain + dirt roads = an orange Natalie.
  • Our favorite English legal fellow and roommate, Ruth, returned from her month leave last night to Mary and I holding welcome home signs at our front gate.

And I miss you and am thankful for you! xoxo