Civil liberties under threat on the streets and online in Uganda

Since 2011, Uganda has been the scene of protests against corruption, poor health care, education, unemployment and alleged nepotism in the current ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government. As a result, opposition parties and civic groups have since 2011 planned rallies that have been actively blocked by the police under what they call the “preventive arrest” of protest leaders. Several activist groups have however continued to demonstrate in the capital Kampala and have often been faced with obstacles including beatings, harassment, arrests, use of live ammunition and tear gas canisters among others.
Tuesday 6th August saw the passing of a very contentious bill by the Ugandan 9th Parliament, the Public Order Management Bill. The bill was passed despite criticism from opposition members of Parliament, religious leaders, activists, human rights groups and some members of the public.
According to clause 8 of the bill, police have discretionary powers to reject or grant permission to a gathering, including the use of force to break up gatherings held without prior authorization. This clearly infringes on civil liberties and the sanctity of the constitution which guarantees these rights.

The Public Order Bill was initially proposed and tabled in 2009 and just like today, it sought to regulate public gatherings and empower the inspector general of police to regulate the conduct of meetings. Despite the heated debate in and outside Parliament it was finally passed on Tuesday. Prior to its passing, one of the young opposition lawmakers Hon. Odongo Otto, in an apparent bid to delay voting on the bill, tore up a roster of lawmakerswho were for the bill as the deputy speaker Hon. Jacob Olanyah looked on. For many, this was an act of courage and he was praised for representing and fighting for the rights of the people he serves.


As a youth activist, together with other young people in Uganda, I have on several occasions organized tweetups (physical meetings of people who tweet) at public coffee shops to discuss some of the issues affecting our country and what role we can play. These issues range from politics to governance, fundraising and youth unemployment. With the passing of this bill, we might never be able to discuss issues that affect us directly as young people.  Many have resorted to using the Internet to share, question, engage, blog and tweet their thoughts because they are afraid of what may befall them should they take to the streets after the passing of the bill. These virtual meetings are also under threat as the government’s communications regulator is planning to monitor and regulate the use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

This poses a threat to Uganda, a country with the youngest population in the world and the highest rate of youth unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa. It is thus extremely important that youth activists seek to promote responsible and effective youth leadership to build positive attitudes towards education, knowledge sharing and entrepreneurship, human rights and tolerance Uganda, to contribute towards lowering the number of youth involved in criminal activity and increasing youth resilience in the face of violence and poverty. Such a bill only hinders our progress.

Uganda’s President Museveni, took over power undemocratically in 1986, when many of the current youth population were not yet born. (Museveni was later elected in 1996).  While Museveni may be a villain for many Ugandans today, he is still praised as a hero by the older generation in Uganda for ushering in peace in 1986 after the said tyrannical rules of former presidents Idi Amin Dada and Milton Obote. I cannot ignore the fact that there are mixed reactions towards the bill because the real cause of this action is to manage public order in the country. Many of the critics do not say much about that. There are many ‘non-players’ in these gatherings including school children, business people and youth who are constantly victims of uncouth police action. The manner in which the bill was passed and the fact that so much power is given to the police to regulate the conduct of meetings is bizarre. Perhaps what Uganda needs is proper dialogue and not imposed bills that infringe on the rights of her citizens.

The cause(s) of these political riots, demonstrations and gatherings must be addressed by the Ugandan Government if positive change is to be achieved and the youth must be at the forefront of these dialogues.

Follow what Ugandans on Twitter are writing about the bill using the hashtag #POMB

Read Same article here on One Young World Website

Freedom of expression crackdown in Uganda, why Social Media is not helpful.

Over the past one week, I have closely followed the story about the
recent media crackdown of one of Uganda’s leading independent newspapers TheDaily Monitor , RedPepper a tabloid and a couple of radio stations. I have, on daily
basis streamed local news via NTV Uganda ,
followed the social media buzz and read blogs from some of Uganda Journalist like Charles Onyango Obbo and Angelo Izama regarding the media besiege of 20th May 2013 in Kampala Uganda.
With many personalized African regimes, where you easily get thrown in
jail for publishing news that holds the government accountable, there is no
doubt that good journalists become an endangered species. Main stream
Journalist have become an easily target and have been victims of media crackdowns
with so many being thrown in jail and threatened or have their licenses
withdrawn by the communications regulator Like Rosebell Kagumire a Journalist and blogger shares.
 

 Snap shot of tweets about the Besiege on 20/5/13
Because of such risks, the advent of social media has shaped and continues to shape the
experience of news because, it not only enables real time reporting but also creates millions of witnesses to hold Governments accountable. We all witnessed
its impact during the Arab spring and how the narrative about Kenya is Changing
though an online movement on Twitter dubbed #KOT [Kenyans on twitter] who will not waste any chance
to correct  international media like CNN for wrongly broadcasting news about the various situations in Kenya. All
these have been very successful but the same approach has failed to yield
anything tangible in Uganda yet a reasonable number of Ugandan use social
media.
The obvious reasons will be attributed to issues of numbers; how
many people use social media in Uganda,what social media platforms are used, if any, what they are used for, if there are rules governing usage? Etc. While I personally agree that big numbers are essential for advocacy, they do not always guarantee positive impact. But for those
who use social media (which is quite a reasonable number) how is their online activism and advocacy
shaping and or impacting on the media freedom debate in Uganda? 

This is why I think social media is/has not been helpful in Uganda

  1. For
    many of us, action has become what we think. We have chosen to use social
    media as platforms to express our grievances and only stop at that, and
    then leave it for few ‘brave’ ones to act. And unfortunately, only few
    brave people have acted. This is why I think that, social media has not
    been an effective tool in advocating for positive social change or
    creating positive impact in instances where the government has silenced
    citizens who question its mandate, those who express their opinion freely
    and those who threaten its existence in one way or another through freedom
    of expression. 

  1. We
    advocate for connectivity without pushing for freedom yet at the back of
    our minds, we know that this cannot work. In many places worldwide, ordinary people
    have been tortured and continue to be toured because of censorship. Without
    freedom, many Ugandans are hesitant to participate in sensitive issues
    that jeopardize their existence, so they choose to follow the “bandwagon” effect and
    share information randomly without good coordination such that at the end of it all,
    no one is responsible for the online buzz and therefore one is to blame
    or held accountable because somehow everyone is responsible.
  1. When
    you look at a list of Ugandans on twitter
    you will notice that these are elite and mainly urban dwellers that have
    jobs to protect and fear to get on the wrong side of government. You will
    hardly find members of parliament, the police, ministers and other
    legislators with personal accounts that they manage and use to engage.
    For online campaigns to be successful in real life, there must be a
    leader, someone to guide the discussion and move it forward, someone to
    keep the interest strong right from the start to the end, to keep the
    online communities of practice focused and not easily swayed away by other
    “breaking news” a common trend on social media platform and above all someone
    ready to take up the biggest part of responsibility and willing to be
    accountable. We do not have many of such people in Uganda when it comes to sensitive
    issues that that are linked to or involve the government.
  1. The
    communication regulator, Uganda communication Commission (UCC) claims to recognize the fundamental importance of ICTs in all policies
    for development and says that it creates the conditions for the fullest
    participation by all sections of the population, yet the same regulator is
    quick to shut down radio stations and threaten to block social media
    websites when citizens use the internet to question issues of governance
    like it currently is with freedom of expression. In 2011, UCC,
    through Internet service providers attempted to block social media websites twitter and face book during the presidential elections and Walk to work riots. Major telecoms in Uganda
    were also accused of violating customer privacy because they were censoring SMS messages with key words like Egypt, Mubarak during the Arab
    spring. These actions by the country’s communications regulator raise suspicion among online internet users making them worry about their
    privacy thereby hindering online activism that could later on become physical
    activism.
    Aljazeera’s Malcom Webb (R) runs away from a teargas Canister during the journalist demo in Kampala, Uganda on 28/5/13: Photo by Isaac Kisamani 
    Like Chris Obore an
    investigative Journalist with the Daily Monitor recently said during the
    2013 Internet freedom Forum in Sweden , that “Until internet begins to determine politics in my Government, it
    will still remain useless for so many”. It is true that very little advantage can be taken of the opportunities
    social media provides if the policies needed to provide citizens with meaning
    and purpose are not conducive. And because we still have a small online
    community in Uganda, the newspapers and radio stations are effective ways
    of accessing relevant and timely information by the populace. We need our journalists to be protected because they are society watch dogs. Threatening them and beating
    them affects us all. We need to be informed so that we can question and hold
    our government accountable because we are all stakeholders. Journalists surely deserve better.

Samsung solar powered Mobile Health Centre(s) in Africa

2013 theme: “Journey of Wonders”

I was privileged to attend the 4th
Samsung Africa Forum that took place in Cape Town from 12th -17th
March 2013. It was indeed a “journey of Wonders” that truly reflected this
year’s theme.  A few years ago, not so
much was known about Samsung products, but today, they have become a household
name as seen from many of their products like the Galaxy phones, Televisions,
Fridges, cameras and washing machines among others. With a total of over 200
Journalists and bloggers from all over the African continent in attendance, the
forum recognized the role played by media in reaching out to their clientele
and informing the public about their products and services.  According to Mr. KK Park the CEO of Samsung
Electronics Africa, “Samsung’s Key
concern has been, and will continue to be, how to develop the technology to
resolve all the difficulties that African People can face”
He adds that
Samsung’s presence in Africa is about bringing Samsung’s Smart world to the
continent, creating a smarter eco-system for Africa with a purpose to
contribute to the society because business exists to make a contribution to
human society and if the contribution is recognized, the business grows and so
do the profits, revenue and brand reputation.
Changing
the Face of Africa’s remote Areas with Mobile Health Centres
The Mobile Health Centre Truck
When someone reads “Mobile Health”, the first
thought is a mobile phone being used to share information about health in
Africa like it has always been the norm. Samsung has a different approach to
Mobile health. It has set itself a goal to reach one million people by 2015 through
a solar powered mobile health Centre on the back of a track fitted with medical
supplies and qualified medical staff.
As part of its broader cooperate social
responsibility goal, it aims at positively impacting the lives of five million
people in Africa by 2015.  According to the World Bank , more than 60% of people in sub- saharan Africa live in rural
areas,
and people often lack time and resources to reach clinics, particularly if they
are sick.
The centre, essentially a solar powered shipping
container, contains equipment that allows for a range of medical services to be
performed and these include dental services, screening, radiology and ophthalmology.
 Some of the medical partners in this
project include World Vision, Doctors without boarders ,South African
Department of health and Aspen Phamaceuticals.  
Innovative
Technology can transform Lives in Africa
It is evident that across Africa, the populace faces
many challenges such as poor health facilities, poor social infrastructure,
energy shortage especially electricity and limited access to education
facilities yet Africa has been blessed with plenty of natural resources such as
sunshine.  Samsung’s innovation of the solar
powered mobile health centre is of great relevance to a continent where
millions of people are not yet online and the investment in such innovative
technology from such business companies needs to be embraced and replicated
allover the continent. Because of the many challenges in  Africa, it seems to be a fantacy rather than
a reality  to promote a larger use
of  mobile health centres like these, but
Samsung is definitely changing this. For so long, Africa has lacked the
imagination to learn the many ways technology can transform lives and not just
transform bank balances of the few companies that control the Technology.  Samsung Africa is determined to transform the
lives of many as a way of giving back to the community that supports them.

Note: These mobile Health Centres are in South Africa

Follow @SamsungSA
#AfricaForum #samsung on Twitter for more details!

The Girls Who Code in Kampala

In a city like Kampala, It’s not common that you find a group of over 50 girls seated in one room in the name of programming. Not because they are
unable to, but because there exists a stereotype that programming is something
for the male gender. This rare occurance came true during the  just
concluded very first Rails Girls event held in Kampala Uganda that took place at the Outbox Hub on the 18th and 19th of Jan 2013, with a total of about 75 girls in attendance.These were both students and working class ladies. Organised by Thoughtworks Uganda a global IT
consultancy, the 1 days event saw many young tech enthusiastic girls around Kampala mainly members of  GirlGeeksKampala, who are passionate about programming come together to write code. The main focus was
ruby on Rails. It was a free event open to both novice and advanced programmers and was taking place in many major cities around the world. While speaking to Kathy Gettelfinger a Principal with
ThoughtWorks, She said that “bringing more women into the industry will create
better software”

Demistifying
society’s belief that WOMEN cannot program

Many
people still believe that girls or woman cannot reason technically worse still
program. This stereotype and belief has been attributed to the few numbers of
girls studying computer science, Artificial intelligence, software engineering
and any other technical related courses at high institutions of learning. The ways in which boys and girls are
socialized in Uganda right from Childhood, coupled with societal stereotypes
plays a key role in what children choose study in future. For instance as children,
boys are introduced to technology at a very tender age through the nature of
toys they are given eg, video games like WII, toy guns and many more
electronics, whereas majority girls are introduced to dolls and less tech
related toys.  The confidence of the boy
child is then built to interface easily with technology while that of the girl
has to be built as she grows up. This is just one example but several others exist. However,
over the past few years, this belief no longer ‘holds water’ as many girls just
like boys have continued to prove that they too can mentally achieve what their
male counterparts can in areas of Technology, engineering, medicine and other
science related fields which were once a province of the male gender.
A cross Section of Girls coding. Photo/Thoughtworks Uganda
What’s the progress in Uganda?

Where
as it’s true that there has been a lot of progress in trying to bridge the
gender digital divide in Uganda, it is so unfortunate that this progress is
mainly evident in Urban Uganda, Kampala to be more specific. The same is not
true for many rural girl children who continue to live by stereotypes and
societal perception. Over all in educations, the gender gap is being bridged. A
good example is the statistics for the upcoming 62nd Graduation of Makerere University, the biggest in Uganda and one of the best and popular in Africa.  with 53.3% of total graduates being male and 46.7% being female http://news.mak.ac.ug/documents/62ndgrad/Makerere-62nd-Graduation-Statistics.pdf.
A lot of effort is being put to bridge the gender digital divide in Uganda by
organisations and associations like GirGeekKampala, WOUGNET and WITU.  Girls and women must be encouraged to take up
tech courses and to use these skills and make a profession out of them if the
gender digital divide is too be bridged.

For more details of what transpired globally, please visit http://railsgirls.com/ 
For More Pictures; Please got to Thoughtworks Facebook Page

IRONY OF GENDER BASED VIOLENCE: STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN

“Gender
based violence affects both Women and Men, for every bullet that shoots a man,
kills a woman’s child ”

This is the time of the year when the entire
world pays attention to Gender based violence. 
We are back at the 16 days of Activism against gender based violence, an
annual international campaign dedicated to ending gender based violence. It
originated from the first Woman’s Global Leadership institute coordinated by
the center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Stakeholders selected the
start and end dates of the campaign to be November 25th
–International Day against violence against women, and December 10th
–International Human rights Day. The international theme for this year is “From peace in the Home to peace in the
world: Let’s Challenge militarism and end violence against women”

Experience
of a man being violated

On Saturday 24th November 2012, as
I came from the local market in my neighborhood, I heard a woman scream loudly while
pointing her fingers at a man and making utterances in one of the local
languages (Luganda) commonly spoken in central Uganda that “Gwe mbwa gwe, kik
kyolinawo?” [Translated as ‘You dog, what
do you have to show
?’]. I tried to pretend as this was totally non of my
business but could not help stop by when a group of people gathered to watch
and listen to her hurling insults at the man, who I later on discovered (Through
whispers from those who knew both) that the man in question was her husband.

They were a married couple and even had
children. The woman went ahead to scream at the top of her voice how fed-up she
was and how she very much wanted a divorce not caring about who watched and or listened.
She accused the man of so many nasty things as the gathered crowd watched and
listened ready to judge. Of course I was one of the self appointed judges
because I was part of the crowd.  But
deep down, I wanted to be as fair as possible in my judgment.  Amidst all this, I was so surprised by the
man’s reaction. He did not utter a single word despite the bitter words that
his wife was hurling at him.  When she
saw and heard no reaction from her husband and heard the reaction from the gathered
crowd that she was the problem, she decided to keep quiet. Once she was silent,
the man then said to her that, ‘All the people gathered here, that you think are
sympathizing with you, are here to listen and laugh at us, we can sort this out
privately.’

A man who looks frustrated and  a drug abuser in Kisenyi Slums of Kampala: Photo by Edward Echwalu. See Link to full blog
When I heard what the man said, I did not
know what to feel or think. I started wondering whether the woman’s reaction
was the effect of “The battered woman
syndrome
” or she was genuinely having a problem with her husband, whatever
the case was, I never got an opportunity of finding out the truth.

This is just one of thousands of abuses that
men suffer but choose to remain silent about because of the societal
expectations of a man.  A man, right from
childhood has been socialized to act strong even when overwhelmed with emotions
to an extent that even when they are violated and abused, because of the
socio-cultural beliefs, they do not speak out and conceal this emotional stress
which in most cases is passed on to their wives and children through physical
violence like beating.
In Africa, particularly Uganda, many women
are the custodian’s of culture and values and because of the gender roles, the
women aho are closer to the children instill certain values in the boy child
which values cannot easily change when he matures. For instance making utterances
like “Boys take care of themselves”, “Boys don’t cry”, “The kitchen is not a
place for boys”
etc.  While many
women might do this sub-cousciously, the impact of such statements is usually
great and negative in future when these boys grow up and turn out to be men.  We need to treat children as CHILDREN regardless
of their sex if we want to see change and live in a violent free society.

Gender
Issues  and the Society

Society assigns girls and boys, men and women
different roles, attributes, opportunities, privileges and rights that in the
end create the social differences between men and women. Gender does not
refer to women,
but to the socio-cultural perception and differentiation of
the roles, attributes and responsibilities of women and men.
Gender issues arise from the different
treatment of individuals or groups of people on the basis of social
expectations about women and men. This can mean gender discrimination in
family, workplace, oppression or subordination. The gender gaps resulting from
these practices become the `gender issues’. Gender issues also arise when
gender roles involve unequal burdens of work and unequal distribution of
resources.  Gender issues can cut across
all sectors and social settings.

Why do women
violate Fellow Women? And how come little is talked about it?

As the whole world is focusing on Gender
based violence (GBV), many people think that this effort to end GBV is meant
for only women. Gender based violence is broad and it looks at Women, men and Children.
While it’s true that woman have in most cases been victims and men
perpetuators, it is also true that very many women have also been perpetuators
not only to men but also to fellow women. However, there is very little focus is
on women who violate fellow women.
Photo by Echwalu Edward: Child bride
Today, many mothers-in-law have become nightmares
to their daughters-in-law. They want to command these daughters-in-law and
teach them how to treat their ‘sons’ in a way they think is right. At any
opportune moment, they easily hurl insults to their daughters-in-law and blame
them fro anything wrong that happens to their son(s). They have become
nightmares to many families of young women. Some have ended up divorcing or
separating while others women have asked their sons “to get married to their
mothers”.  This is rearly mentioned when
looking at GBV.
Because of the changes in gender roles and
the fact that women no longer sit at home to entirely depend on a man as the bread
winner, Modern families have resorted to hiring young girls to help out with
house chores. According to so many news outlets, these young girls are not only
mistreated but also under paid. In most cases, the young girls (Also known as
Housemaids or house Girls) are usually school dropouts or those who have never
been to school yet under aged.  They are
usually the last to go to bed late in the night and the first to a rise to a
day of hectic manual work.
At some places of work led by women, there
exists a sense of jealous and insecurity among the older and younger
Women.  For women in managerial
positions, they want to assert their authority and they never want to be
challenged especially by young women. They treat positive criticism as an
insult and they are willing to do anything to frustrate anyone’s efforts who tries
to challenge them. In extreme cases, one could easily loose a job. The good news is that education and urbanization are delivering
real independence to women to reject violence.

Some mothers have forced their daughters to get married to
wealthy men against their will. They threaten them, saying that if they do not
do as they say, the daughters will never get their blessings in their
marriages. This is emotional violence because as the girl grows up, she is
forced to court or related with only ‘Wealthy’ men regardless of how she feels
about them until she gets one that her mother approves.

Several other examples exist such as women in Polygamous
marriages who fight one another, women who are competing for a man’s attention,
female teachers in school who envy younger female students, Women who own
brothels in parts of the world especially Asia etc.
I must admit that a lot of these are attributed to the
resistance by patriarchy as an idea to change. The cultural structures that
exist in which these women are raised contribute a lot to how they behave and
respond in different situations. My appeal is that as we talk about ending
gender based violence, Let’s not turn our backs to the fact that there are
women who are violated by fellow women and desperately need someone to listen
to their cry. Men can be both perpetuators and victims and so can women.

What other circumstances do you know of where women are violent to fellow women and or to men? 

Too Young to be a mother: End Child Marriages

On
19th Sept 2012, one of the local Televisions in Uganda (NTV) broadcast
a story of a 12 year child mother who gave birth in Gweri sub-county Soroti  a district Eastern Uganda.  The young girl whose names have been withheld was
quoted to have said “I didn’t expect to get pregnant but I love my baby”.  This case is one of the few of hundreds cases
of defilement which take place in Uganda. Circumstances surrounding her pregnancy
are still unclear but Police officer Florence Adong who is responsible for
Children and Family protections said she was going to move like a lunatic in
Soroti to make sure Justice Previals. On 11th Oct 2012, the world
will focus on the International day of the GirlChild whose theme is “Too Young to wed: End Child Marriages and
Teenage pregnancies”

 
According to the UDHS 2006, one of every four
pregnancies occurs in a teenager. By 15 years of age, 24% of girls and 10% of
boys are sexually active (debut 16.6 for girls and 18.1 for boys). Yet only 11%
of sexually active young people are using contraception. Uganda also continues
to have one of the highest birth rates in Africa and one of the fastest growing
populations in the world.  This no doubt poses new challenges – more so in
areas such as education and health care delivery given the youthful population
of  – 70% under the age of 24, 56% under 15 years. The  2011 Uganda Demographic Health survey report
also states that 1.6% of girls have given birth with
a first Child by the age 15 while 24% of the girls aged between 15 and 19 are
already mothers or pregnant with the first child. And the
Ugandan Annual Crime and Road Safety report 2011 assets that a total of 7,690
cases of defilement were reported in 2011. Of the 7,690 caese reported to
police, only 3836 suspects were arrested and taken to court. This implies that over
45% of defilement cases are dropped and do not make it to court.

In Uganda 6,000 women die every year from
pregnancy related complications. Many more women suffer long-lasting illnesses
or disabilities caused by complications during pregnancy or childbirth, such as
obstetric fistula, infertility and depression. 
Reviews of the progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
indicate that the development goal lagging the most behind is the one on
maternal health – MDG 5. This is the goal that aims to reduce maternal deaths
and ensure universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
The
leading causes of death of maternal deaths are over-bleeding while giving
childbirth, infections, high blood pressure, and prolonged labour. Some women
die because of unsafe abortions while they are trying to get rid of unwanted
pregnancies. 

Photo by Echwalu Edward
While
attending the first ever African Youth Forum that took place from 17th
to 19th July 2010 in Uganda ahead of African Union summit whose
focus was on reducing maternal, infant and Child deaths, the youth called for
action on a number of issues one of which was child marriages.  Some of the qustions asked were; 

·        
Why
are young girls getting pregnant?
·        
Why
do young Mothers die more than old mothers?
·          Why are the young boys/men getting them
pregnant and not taking responsibility?
·        
Why
do so many lose their lives when pregnant or giving birth?
·        
Why
is the issue a young person’s issue?
·        
 Why do/don’t young girls abort?
·        
Why
don’t teachers teach about maternal health but continue to harass them?
·        
Why
does the community make them vulnerable?
       If you cannot
understand WHY, you cannot take the right decision
.
      We all have a
role to play in Ending Child Marriages
      Now is the time
to act. With the current heated discussion on allocating more funds to the
health sectore we hope for  increase in
political will, financial commitment and action from everyone, the number of younf
girls getting pregnant will drastically reduce. UNFPA Uganda believes that, no
woman should risk her life while giving birth as as part of this year’s
international day of the Girlchild, UNFPA is organizing a couple of events to
create awareness about ending child marriages and giving each and every girl an
opportunity to take charge of their reproductive health because everyone
counts. UNFPA believes in delivering a
world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every
young person’s potential is fulfilled.
Each one of us has a big role to play
in ending child marriages within our families and communities. 
   
   Read Similar stories about Child marriages in Uganda 
  1.  EchwaluPhotography: Child Marriages through the lense

When unemployment among the youth still exists amidst opportunities

A report that was recently released by the International Labor Organization on youth unemployment indicated that almost 13% of the young worldwide
are out of work, and their situation is unlikely to improve for four years. This
report comes in at a time when Africa is experiencing lots of changes and
revolutions that are the master mind of young unemployed youth most of whom are
educated, idle but lack decent jobs and are therefore desperate to work.
“The youth unemployment crisis can be beaten
but only if job creation for young people becomes a key priority in
policy making and private sector investment picks up significantly,” says
ILO executive director, Jose Manuel Salazar
pointed out.
Poverty is pervasive on the African continent, a palpable legacy of colonialism’s
economic exploitation and a direct consequence of neo-colonialist as well,
conflict and poor governance coupled with corruption being contributing factors
as well in many African countries. Uganda, one of the African Countries, is reported to have the youngest
population as well as the highest youth unemployment in the world according to
the World Bank report on Africa. The importance of these numbers highlights the fact
that in order to achieve meaningful development, programmes and projects need
to be youth oriented. While the number of educated youth continues to grow
worldwide, there is insufficient knowledge about the use of ICTs in schools,
the distribution of ICT skills among students and the role that ICT-based
skills has in terms of future employment opportunities.
Wondering what the future holds for youth
 ‘The challenge of youth employment in Africa,
therefore, is not just to create more wage and salary jobs–important as this
may be–but to increase the productivity, and hence earnings, of the majority
of young people who will be employed in informal farms and household
enterprises’ United Nations declared 2010 the year of the youth and several global conferences
focused on the role of the youth in socio-economic development. One of such conferences
that took place in Africa was the “elearning Africa 2011” which took place in
Dar-es-salaam with a focus on “Youth, Skills & Employability”. The discussion was centred about what youth can do to earn a
descent living beyond the class room. A number of solutions focused on
entrepreneurship skills as well as Agriculture.
 When I recently asked my friends on facebook this
question “What are
the real causes of unemployment among the youth especially in Africa? Is it just
laziness and the strong desire for white colar jobs?” Below is a one of the responses that I received from
a 22 year old Frank Odongkara a software Engineering student at Makerere University in
Uganda. 
 “I don’t think it’s laziness and
even though I used to curse the “school-should-make-white-collar”
mindset, I think it’s kinda the way things should be. Not everyone can and
should be an entrepreneur. Our major problem is investment climate; I can
personally testify to that and I believe there are thousands of Africans who
have undergone and are undergoing what I am experiencing. Today for example, we
have many folks seriously investing in Real Estate and hardly any investor
interested in technology in Uganda; considering that you need many people
earning enough first, before you can sell to them houses, I’d say it’s just
plain misguided investment. Our major problem is that we do not have a kind of
wall street and business intelligence is scarce and decisions are made at home.
The youth are not lazy and the problem is not the government either; the major
problem is that the majority of African business folks with huge bundles of
money are uneducated
.”
Do you agree with Frank’s argument? What are some of
the existing opportunities that young people can tap into that have been ignore
for so long?  

Mobile phones for Family Planning in Uganda

As health practitioners, politicians and entrepreneurs from all walks of life gathered in London for the Family Planning Health Summit, the rest of the world commemorated World Population Day
on July 11th 2012 with this year’s global theme being “Universal Access
to Reproductive Health Services”. The focus of the family planning
summit was to invest in family planning in order to reduce maternal
deaths and improve womens and girls’ health. I hope that the conference
created momentum and was able to highlight this need to invest in family
planning which will in turn make it a lot easier to achieve Millennium
Development Goals (MDG’s) 4 and 5. Target 5b of the MDG’s is to “Achieve
Universal Access to Reproductive Health by 2015″.

Status
of Family Planning in Uganda
In Uganda more than 4
out of every 10 women wish to access modern contraception to plan their family
but cannot. They have an unmet need for Family Planning. Family Planning alone
would reduce the country’s maternal mortality ratio by 33%. Uganda also has one
of the highest teenage pregnancies in Africa. According to the UDHS 2006, one
of every four pregnancies occurs in a teenager. By 15 years of age, 24% of
girls and 10% of boys are sexually active (debut 16.6 for girls and 18.1 for
boys). Yet only 11% of sexually active young people are using contraception.
Uganda also continues to have one of the highest birth rates in Africa and one
of the fastest growing populations in the world.  This no doubt poses new challenges – more so
in areas such as education and health care delivery given the youthful
population of  – 70% under the age of 24,
56% under 15 years.
How
Mobile Phones facilitate Access to Family Planning Services
In partnership with Program
for Accessible health Communications and Education (PACE) , Text to Change is
using SMS and Interactive Voice Responses(IVR) to reach out to women as well as
check with service providers to find out which women are using family planning.
The project is being carried out in central, western and Northern parts of
Uganda. The IVR are pre-recorded in four languages, three of which are local
(Luo. Runyankole and Luganda) to cater for a bigger majority of the women who
are unable to read or write but who can easily follow the prompts on a phone and
listen to instructions on how to access family planning services in a language
that they are comfortable with within their community. SMS is usually used to
back up the voice and it interactive, informative and incentive based to
encourage more people to use their phones to access these services. According
to the project beneficiaries, this has been a service that has not only added
value to their lives but has also empowered them.
In 2011, PACE’s ProFarm
franchise enambled more than thirty thousand women to receive long term family
planning method (Inter Uterine devices and implants). A total of approximately
1488 have been reached by mobile phone through voice and SMS.
Sources:
1.      PACE
Annual Report 2011
4.      http//www.pace.org.ug

A radio for the Farmer

In a typical village in rural
Uganda and many parts of Africa, a radio is a very powerful tool which is
mainly used to receive information within communities.  It’s used to broadcast lots of information
ranging from death Announcements to talk shows about issues affecting the
community. The benefits of radio, just like the mobile phone is amplified by
the fact,that the adoption of this technology in some rural areas has occurred
much faster than with other ICTs. In a country like Uganda where mobile
technology has quickly become much more cost effective for telecommunication
provision, Radio is used to boost its further adoption, use and application.
According to the farm Radio
International 2011 report, Radio is the most widely used medium for
disseminating information to rural audiences across Africa. Radio can reach
communities at the end of the development road – people who live in areas
without phones or electricity. Radio reaches people who cannot read or write.
Even in very poor communities, radio penetration is vast. It is estimated there
are over 800 million radios in sub-Saharan Africa.  http://www.farmradio.org/pubs/farmradio-ictreport2011.pdf
The Gender factor
Photo by: Edward Echwalu
Just like many other ICTs, Radio
has one major limitation. It has been a one-way medium that reaches farmers in
their homes and or fields and on its own, radio has had limited means of
interacting with listeners because of the one way flow of information.  And even if it’s true that radio is the most
widely used medium, it’s ownership, control and greatest percentage of
listenership is limited to mainly the men despite the fact that majority of
those involved in Agricultural production are women.
The Question:
How have you successfully used
radio as an ICT to reach not only men but also women for projects that benefit
both of them for example on Health, Education, business, Governance? Share your
thoughts.
,

ADOPT TECHNOLOGY THAT SUITS PEOPLE

In a continent where internet penetration is low,
mobile technology especially phones can act as an empowerment tool for the
majority of African people.  It is
evident that in Africa, the existing digital divide is not going to be bridged
with Computers and the internet .it is being overcome through Mobile phones which a great majority of
people on the continent own and or have access to.
Networking
without your Computer
A variety of mobile handsets
Although many people argue that the
penetration of Mobile phones into Africa is being overrated, it is true that
for once in decades; Africans now have mass communication that is interactive.
The people who were once excluded from vital
information are increasingly using cell phones to advance their own well-being
and that of their families.  This technological revolution is boosting
local economies, bringing information to remote corners of the world, and
saving lives. Africa is the region with the highest annual growth rate in
mobile phone subscribers worldwide. According
to International Telecommunications Union, there are 6 billion Mobile Phone subscriptions
Globally  (ITU,2011) with over 1 Billion people in Africa, 41% 
having access to mobile phones. 
 

With
the existing Literacy, skills and electricity shortage in Africa, it seems to
be a fantasy rather than a reality to promote a larger use of online media in
Africa. However, Africa can overcome this through the use of Mobile Technology.
It’s almost a year since I joined Text to change a mobile for development organization
with both offices in Uganda and Netherlands but operating in many African
Countries and some in South America. From my experience of managing a maternal
health project; I have learned to appreciate the value of mobile phones for
Women who are usually underserved and or in rural areas.
It’s
evident that there is a huge difference in terms of access, use,
application and control of mobile phones between men and women. Whereas, we all
agree that ICTs can enable both men and women to gain stronger voice in their
communities and that mobile phones can specifically offer women flexibility in
time and space, this is far from reality for many rural women here in Uganda. A
big gender gap exists in accessing communication services. More men than women
access/make use of ICTs.
Given
women’s multiple gender roles and heavy domestic responsibilities, their
leisure hours are few and therefore need a tool that can effectively reduce the “distance” between them as
individuals and institutions thereby making sharing of information and
knowledge easier and more effective. The mobile phone comes in handy.
About Text to Change:
Text to Change (TTC) has a wide range of experience
in conceptualizing, managing and analyzing mobile phone-based
programs. We developed a flexible and easily scalable mobile platform, with
state-of-the-art tools and techniques, to send out and receive text messages,
mms, voice and data. TTC also has strong relationships within the mobile
industry in the countries they work in. Therefore we deliver the full package
from database and software development to content development, data analysis
and interpretation as well as the visualization and reporting, based on our
partner’s needs.  Read more here http://www.texttochange.org/about-ttc