The pygmies (Batwa) is a marginalized ethnic minority group. In the early 1990’s, this ethnic minority group in south-western Uganda, formerly forest dwelling, hunter-gatherers, was officially evicted from their ancestral lands in order to create conservation areas, specifically the Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks and Echuya Central Forest Reserve. The Batwa were never consulted or involved in any of the decision-making processes, and were never compensated. They now live at either sides of the forest and park edges.
As a result of this act, most Batwa became landless (some have been settled on small agricultural plots bought by different civil society organsiations) and today live in extreme poverty and vulnerability. Currently, their livelihoods mainly depend on forest resources and providing casual labour for other tribes. Before COVID - 19, Batwa used to earn a living from tourists through presentation of their traditional dance, music and historical homes, spiritual practices and curves in the forest. All this income has been lost
This vulnerability has put Batwa especially women and girls most at risk for contracting HIV virus. They are engaged in immoral behavior largely alcohol drinking, unprotected sex with other tribes as a way to earn a living. In addition, long hours are spent in the forest collecting forest resources exposing them to cases of defilement and rape.
As the COVID-19 pandemic deepens, economic and social stress coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures have hardly impinged on Batwa’s reproductive health rights and services including HIV/AIDS, making them more inaccessible.
As a grass root-based organization, KIWOCEDU through its corporate social responsibility carried out outreach free HIV voluntary and counselling services and testing for non-communicable diseases for the Batwa. Each beneficiary was supported with maize floor and soap. Out of 11 Batwa settlements with a total population of 3200, only two settlements were reached out.
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