I Report on the First African Youth Forum on Maternal infant health and development in Africa.

Maureen, Laiton, Sean & Dr. Simon

The first ever African Youth Forum took place from 17th to 19th July 2010 at the Imperial Botanical Beach hotel  in Kampala Uganda.  This took place ahead of the African Union summit. The focus of the youth forum was to capture the voices of the youth from various African Countries and make sure that their concerns are addressed.
Sponsored by UNICEF, the theme was “maternal infant and child death: The youth call for action”, a number of questions had to be answered to find solutions to the epidemic “maternal mortality”. Majority  of the questions based on the “WHY”
·         Why do young Mothers die more than old mothers?
·         Why are young girls getting pregnant?
·         Why are the young boys/men getting them pregnant and not taking responsibility?
·         Why do so many lose their lives when pregnant of 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 death and continue to harass them?
·         Why does the community make them vulnerable?
If you cannot understand why, you cannot take the right decision
At the forum, it was noted that the patricial system affects the girl child and yet  many a times, society  doesn’t take action. The only way to reduce on maternal motality was to involve all parties; the individuals, the community and the Government .
In his speech during the official opening of the forum, Mr. Ben the Pan African Youth Union president said that the youth should have the spirit of UBUNTU to help enhance unity and development.  Mr. Alhaji who spoke on behalf of UNICEF Executive director Mr. Anthony Lake expressed his gratitude to Uganda for hosting the first African Youth Forum ahead of the African Union Summit. He acknowledged that the youth were the majority on the African continent and therefore had a big role to play in transforming the continent, he however mentioned that highest leadership as adoption of modern technology like mobile phones for rural communities are some of the factors that can enhance youth involvement.
Mr. Alhaji said that UNICEF supported the forum to mainly capture the voices of the youth from rural areas to make sure they are heard and their concerns addressed. He concluded by pledging UNICEF support to accompany youth effeort.
His excellency the president of Uganda Mr. Museveni wondered if the theme was relavant for the youth, he said that to be young , you have to not only be health but productive in a social, economic sense and not biologically. Mr. Museveni mentioned four key issues that could reduce on maternal and infant deaths in Africa; Immunization, Hygiene, Nutrition and behavior change to avoid catching HIV/AIDS. He said that Youth a lone cannot bring change, they need a conducive atmosphere like good infrastructure and electricity which are not clearly defined in Africa.
He conclude that if the youth are to get actively involved in issues that concern them, then we need a complete socio-economic transformation of the entire African continent.
On my part, I represented the Special Interest Group on Mobile health in Kampala. Together with UNICEF Kampala, Mobile Monday Kampala and the Faculty of Communication and Information technology, makerere, we were show casing some of the currently used mobile health applications for projects in rural Uganda  like Rapidsms, Find Diagnosis as well as OpenXdata.
The youth forum started on 17th and ended on 19th Jull 2010.

Cervical cancer: A threat to Women’s life expectancy

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer affecting women worldwide and the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in developing countries. According to the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), global statistics show that nearly nearly half a million new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. And more than a quarter million women die of this disease annually, with the highest incidence and mortality rates being in sub-saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia. Cervical cancer is the most common female cancer in Uganda. At Mulago hospital alone, 80 percent of women diagnosed or referred with cervical cancer, have the disease in it’s advanced stage.
The causes of cervical cancer have been attributed to early engagement in sexual activities, multiple sexual partners and multiple marriages. Cecil Helman in her book Culture, Health and Illness, identifies that the disease is rare in nuns and common in prostitutes. And while in recent years, there has been a growing understanding of how people’s gender identity determines the nature of their ill health, their vulnerability to disease, their ability to prevent disease and their access to healthcare.  The dimension of feminist theory and females experience puts males’ hostile sexuality at the biopsychological core of men’s subjugation of women. In most situations, a woman’s risk of getting cervical cancer will depend less on her sexual behavior but more on that of her husband or male partner since the disease can be transmitted from woman to another, with men acting as carriers. This mostly applies in communities with cultures that expect men to have many premarital and extra marital affairs as proof of their masculinity, while barring women and looking at them as eminently available and seducible.
Usually women contract the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) between their late teenage years and their early 30’s. But most often cervical cancer is found much later, usually after age 40, with a peak incidence around 45. There is a long delay between infection and invasive cancer, hence killing many annually often because it goes undiagnosed for many years. And yet the disease is preventable and can be detected and treated at an early stage when the cure rate is virtually 100 percent. Ignorance of the disease of the disease might not be the only threat, but limited access to screening and therapy for precancerous lesions and the low acceptability of pelvic examinations are also contributing factors towards the high prevalence of cervical cancer. Women might also have no control over possible disease transmission if they fail to decide when and where to seek medical attention or when and how they have sex. The imbalance of power between women and men in gender relations curtails women’s sexual autonomy and expands male sexual freedom, thereby increasing women’s vulnerability.
According to PATH, prevention of cervical cancer can be done in two ways; Preventing infection initially or detecting the precursors to cervical cancer and providing treatment. The former can be accomplished by avoiding exposure to the virus through abstinence from sexual activity or through mutual monogamy(when both partners were not previously infected). Condoms only offer 70 percent protection against HPV when used all the time. Vaccination is the other preventive method. PATH is working on incorporating HPV vaccination into a comprehensive cervical cancer prevention programme, through developing a vaccine delivery strategy, a communications strategy for out reach to communities, and an advocacy strategy for outreach to policy makers. Vaccination can be combined with screening. Every woman deserves the right to the highest attainable standard of health, especially the many millions of women who confront illiteracy, poverty, poor sanitation, and medical facilities that are inadequate and physically/ economically inaccessible.

Maureen Agena: CTA’s FIRST Remote Intern

In 2009, The Technical centre for Agricultural and Rural cooperations  ACP-EU introduced CTA’s Internship and Young professional officers programmes. The Centre offers the beneficiaries of the program the opportunity to acquire practical experience related to their professional backgrounds and aspirations.

How it all began
During CTA’s 2009 annual seminar which was also her 25th anniversary, I was privilledged to meet the biggest percentage of the CTA team in Brussels-Belgium including Mr. Giacomo Rambaldi my current Remote trainer and Mentor. Being a trained Citizen journalist, I did not waste any precious time but decided to join the various web 2.0 platforms that were being used to share information about the seminar and anniversary. Twitter was my favorite platform. I spent most of my time tweeting and re-tweeting until the day I was set to make a presentation on behalf of WOUGNET entitled “Use of web 2.0 tools for sustainable
argriculture: A case of small scale farmers in Uganda”.
The entire idea of web 2.0 tools was “News” to majority of the participants. After the presentation, I had the privilege to share my passion for web 2.0 tools and new media with CTA’s Senior programme Coordinator/ICT and Innovation Mr Giacomo Rambaldi.
After a discussion with WOUGNET coordinator Dr. Dorothy Okello during the CTA observatory Workshop in Netherlads in 2009, it was agreed that I should be recruited as a remote CTA intern.

What the Distance Mentorship Covers.
During the internship period, it is believed that Knowledge and skills will be acquired via remote coaching and hands-on practice. The distance mentorship programme covers the following topics:
Use of SharePoint remote collaboration platform to store and exchange data related to this programme (Microsoft Office environment)
• Use of Joomla (CMS); e.g. publish ready edited content
• Monitor and improve visibility and ranking of websites. This includes SEO assessments, registration on search engines and online directories, planned crawling, establishment of reciprocating links, use of WebRings and other
• Improve dissemination of online products. This involves the posting of short announcements on selected portals, social tagging and tweeting. Content will be provided by CTA.
Moderate and animate the exchanges on the Web2forDev DGroup
• Transcribing and translating videos on dotsub.
My experience.
Being a remote intern had never occurred to me. I did not know that such a “thing” existed, being trained and mentored online using a number of tools. When CTA offered me this opportunity, I was so eager to find out what “remote” internship entailed. I must say that, six months into the internship, I have no regrets at all. The benefits are overwhelming and opportunities keep increasing.
Ø I have understood the power of the internet and the benefits it can offer when properly used.
Ø I have learnt about many more web 2.0 tools and how they work. This has made it possible for me to use the skills for WOUGNET.
Ø Being a trained citizen Journalsit, I am putting into use the practical skills like blogging, tweeting , skyping among others.
Thanks to The Technical centre for Agricultural and Rural cooperations ,CTA’s Internship and Young professional officers programme for giving the youth like me an opportunity to maximize on the potential I have in relation to new and digital Media.

Maureen Agena
Remote Intern
Affiliated to the CTA Distance Mentorship Programme
Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation ACP-EU
P.O. Box 380, NL 6700AJ Wageningen, The Netherlands

Proud to take the 6th Place in the e-learning Photo competition

Dissemination to Rural Communities through Radio (Uganda)
Owing to a lack of skills, high costs and limited access to ICTs, staff at Kubere Information Centre in Apac district, Northern Uganda, were holding face-to-face meetings (while listening to recorded speeches/ideas over the radio) with rural community members who do not have an opportunity to listen to live radio talk shows broadcast on “Radio Apac”, a local community radio.

Top ten photos

Mothers deserve Better: m-Health and e-Health must feature in this AU summit.

With the theme “Maternal infant and child health and the development of Africa” the forth coming 15th Afican Union (AU) summit scheduled for 25th to 27th July in Kampala Uganda is meant to find solutions to reduce on the high maternal deaths in Africa.
Uganda has been chosen as the host for the 15th African Union summit because of her effort and contribution towards the fight for peace and stability on the continent. Uganda sent troops to Somalia to contribute to the peace in that region and she a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
Prior to the summit, an African Youth forum with the theme “Maternal Infant and Child health: African Youth call for Action” will be held at the Imperial botanical beach hotel in Entebbe from 17th to 19th July 2010. This is a very good initiative by the African governments to involve young people in matters that will affect their future.
Uganda, like many African nations has limited resources in terms of man power and health facilities to enable her provide quality health services for mothers, infants and children. According to the report by Population Action International which based its figures from the Uganda National Health Policy, “supplies and medicines may either be unavailable where they are affordable or unaffordable where they are available”. This prevents low-income women from accessing basic medicines due to the high cost of purchasing drugs from private pharmacies. Worldwide over 350,000 women die due to preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth. The main causes are bleeding, infections, abortions and obstructed labour among others. The majority of women who die during or as a result of child birth are low-income earners from marginalized groups. Despite advancement and availability of technology interventions to save mothers and babies, maternal deaths have continued with 99% of deaths in developing countries of Africa and Asia.
As the African heads of state and leaders meet in this 15th AU summit, it is important for them to focus on issues of violence, human rights, education and poverty which are some of the key underlying causes of maternal and infant mortality. They must also not forget to intensively discuss the role Information and communication technologies (ICTs) play in preventing mortality and come up with feasible solutions on how different governments can tap into this potential of ICTs. With an increasing range of devices for communicating and disseminating information, Mobile and electronic health applications are very powerful tools in solving a number of health related problems. These include; sharing information on health related issues, monitoring treatment of patients as well as monitoring health workers. Given the fact that mobile phones cut across literacy levels and have been adopted by many women in rural areas all over Africa, it is important for the African governments to invest in mobile technology and e-health Applications.
The Ugandan ministry of health should partner with Organisations/ institutions like Text-to-change, Mobile Monday Kampala, Faculty of CIT at MUK, SMS media, UNICEF and Women of Uganda Network(WOUGNET) through her SMS campaigns to tap into the potential of mobile and electronic application as a starting point in solving the problem of high maternal deaths.
If the Millenium development Goal of reducing deaths for newborns and children is to be achieved within the remaining five years, our leaders have to “WALK THE TALK” in the upcoming government leaders meetings like the African Union (AU)- July in Kampala and the G8 summit-September in Canada.

This aticle was also published in the main stream media, The Newvision

Citizen Journalists: The “Watchdogs” during the 2010 FIFA World cup.

Technological innovation is taking place at a breath-taking pace. Simple, open source internet-based applications and services designed to enhance on-line collaboration are now available to the wider public at little or no cost at all. These new online services known as Web 2.0 applications have enabled people, especially citizen Journalists to collaborate remotely in creating, sharing, networking, lobbying and publishing information about the FIFA 2010 worldcup . The 2010 FIFA world cup which is currently taking place in South Africa comes at a point when the use and application of web 2.0 tools has been adapted by many African people.
Globally, technological development has taken the place of face-to-face interaction; with an increasing range of devices for communicating and disseminating information. It is evident that the world is changing rapidly and African Media needs to catch up with the technological revolution. Africa cannot oppose the rise of this technology and the investment in “new and digital media”. But because of the low literacy levels, limited skills and high costs, it seems to be a fantasy than a reality to promote a larger use of online media in Africa. Never the less, this has not kept those who can access and use the technologies/web applications from making the best use of them during this 2010 FIFA worldcup.
Twitter an interactive micro blogging platform based on open publication of 140 character messages is one of the most popular web 2.0 tool being used to share information across the globe about the world cup. Being the largest sporting event in the world, twitter introduced the idea of having a picture of a ball after every tweet that bears the hush tag for the worldcup (#worldcup).
Facebook a privately owned social online networking website having users who can request for or add friends and send them messages as well as update their personal profiles in a chronological order to notify friends about themselves is another powerful tool being used by thousands of both soccer and non-soccer lovers during this 2010 FIFA world cup . It’s on these platforms that you find the latest updates about the different games in terms of the fixture, the winning teams, the “avoidable mistakes ” made during the different games, the online links to follow and watch the games, the vuvuzela discussions and people’s personal opinion about game.
We cannot ignore the blog, a type of website usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Many bloggers worldwide are having their blogs populated with the world cup event from all spheres; socially, politically and from an economic point of view.
A number of other tools like Youtube for sharing videos, flickr for photos and RSS for syndication are also being used. However, how are Africans benefiting from this worldcup and the various technologies?
The need to invest in citizen journalism and involve citizens in policies that affect them is now evident with the ongoing 2010 FIFA worldcup. The use of web 2.0 tools has enhanced real time communication, improved information sharing and networking. It is very important for different African governments to take advantage of these platforms to improve on key sectors electronically like health, education, governance and business. Each one of us can be a watch dog in our own societies or localities by reporting and sharing information on issues that affect us but have been left out by mainstream media. We are all citizen Journalist in one way or another.

The writer is a trained Citizen journalist

Ugandan Citizen Journalists among the Top Ten in the e-Learning Photo Competition

The recently concluded e-Learning Africa 2010 Photo Competition saw two Ugandan citizen Journalist featuring among the top ten finalist taking up the 4th and 6th position. The photo competition aimed at finding out “How ICTs Are Changing the Way We Live”. To know what this has meant for the African continent and to learn more about how digital media (mobile phones, the Internet, computers, radio and the audio-visual) have changed the lives of the people in Africa who use them in their day-today work.(Digital citizens). More than 100 images were submitted during the competition that lasted for months and only the top ten were chosen and presented.
Ugandan took five of the ten top positions, with two of the TOP ten coming from WOUGNET Staff Members (Ssozi Javie and Maureen Agena in the 4th and 6th positions respectively).
The TOP 10 photos :
  • Will be featured in an exhibition from May 26th – 28th at eLearning Africa 2010 in Lusaka, Zambia
  • Have been announced on the eLearning Africa website: http://www.elearning-africa.com/picturevoting_home.php
  • Will also be part of the next eLearning Africa Newsletter, which is distributed to thousands of people in Africa and all over the world (mail out: Thursday, May 20).
  • will be part of the eLA photo book and handed out to high-level conference participants.
HOW CITIZEN JOURNALISM INFLUENCED OUR POSTIONS.
 
Being one of the country focal for the Citizen Journalism in Africa (CJA) project, Women of Uganda Netwok (WOUGNET) was privileged to participate in the two year recently concluded project which targeted Citizen Journalists in six African countries of Uganda, SouthAfrica, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. With support from SANGONeT and Hivos, several trainings were conducted in the mentioned countries and Uganda was not an exception.
Among the trained citizen Journalists in Uganda, Maureen Agena and Javie Ssozi from Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) were among those specifically trained as trainers. Photography was a major subject matter in all the CJA trainings and this improved on our photography skills. We also learnt about writing skills and how to describe scenes, situations and pictures. BROSDI is the second Country Focal point in Uganda for the CJA project. The key trainers were Brett Davidson, Mathew De Gale and Noma Rangana all from SouthAfrica. With these skills there was no doubt that we would fail to participate and either win or be among the winners. For details visit CJA :

HOW WE FEEL ABOUT THE FINAL RESULTS: 
Javie Ssozi: I am thrilled that I made it in the Top 10. The participants submitted very powerful photos and this made it even more competitive and interesting. This is a very good initiative that promotes citizen journalism in Africa and most of all shows how ICTs have improved livelihoods around the continent.
Maureen Agena: I feel that the Citizen Journalism trainings I received from the Hivos and SANGONeT team were not in vain, because out of Over 100 photos submitted, mine was the 6th best/relevant photo. Thanks to SANGONeT and Hivos for trusting the power and ability of Citizen Journalists like me. Thanks to the e-learning team that thought of such an innovative competition and for giving us the opportunity to participate. And to all those who voted, thanks for believing in me and seeing the relevance of the photo I submitted.
Conclusion.
It was a competition worth participating in, because it was the first of its kind especially by the e-learning team. It was interesting and yet challenging but as the saying goes, everything has to eventually come to an end. To all the top ten participants, well done and well won and to the rest of the participants, keep the fire burning with the use and application of technology in all your undertakings. To my fellow Ugandans who participated, thanks for scooping five of the top ten positions. Good luck and enjoy the conference on e-learning.

AFRICAN NETWORKS AT THE ART and SCIENCE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL (TREFFPUNKT AFRIKA)

The cultural organization STADTWERKSTATT Linz arranged together with partners from development cooperations, art and science, the international festival TREFFPUNKT AFRIKA. The 2010 Festival which took place from 20th to 22nd May 2010 in Linz Austria, was partly held at a ship (the MS Negrelli) on the bank of the river Danube and focused on a two-day symposium with topics on „African-European developments“ and „African Networks“ .
The first chapter of the symposium was intended to give an update on relevant topics as: media, technology in daily life, raw materials and social matters. The lectures were accompanied by filmscreenings, a DJ and concert nightline with musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Germany and Austria and a soccer tournament.
Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) was privileged to be part of this festive and made a lecture presentation entitled “Digital Media: The Future of Rural Communities in Uganda” which mainly focused on the social aspect of the digital citizen, how specific technologies are being implemented in rural areas of Uganda and how web2.0 tools are being used by WOUGNET in bridging the digital divide between rural and urban communities.
The main purpose of the symposium was to bring together partners from development cooperations, art and science to discuss topics and experiences on topics of “African-European developments“ and “African Networks“. It is believed that digital media fills a media void on issues in rural communities that, as mainstream media may be unable to, owing to censorship. Often, the main stream media agenda is very narrow so a range of issues in mainly rural areas do not get attention.
Africa, particularly Uganda cannot oppose the rise of technology, and the investment in digital media from various media intuitions needs to be considered. It is therefore important to acknowledge the role Citizen journalists who have become central to exposing the ‘underdevelopment’ in many countries; often giving a voice to rural communities that would otherwise not be heard.
The Symposium enabled sharing of WOUGNET’s experience on how she has trained rural communities on the need to practice citizen journalism and on the various web 2.0 tools she uses to share information and network. A number of Network organizations presented on their various activities(http://www.servus.at/stwst/ta/index.php?l=en&s=0)

Maureen Agena represented WOUGNET to this conference.

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The Digital Doorway: A solution to Rural Communities.

The Digital Doorway is a very robust computer kiosk. It was developed so that it could be put in rural areas among communities and school areas so that the communities can just use it to equip themselves with ICT skills and retrieve local content relevant to their needs. It is also good for school children to teach themselves how to use the computer.
The Digital Doorway is a hardy, weatherproof internet kiosk with three computer terminals, vandal-proof keyboards, reinforced screens, speakers, and webcams within a rugged steel enclosure. Deployable in cities and remote areas through satellite internet, the Digital Doorway provides internet access to children and communities that are otherwise unreachable by computer labs or internet cafes. In the absence of internet connectivity, the Digital Doorway offers interactive educational software, reference materials, game and tutorials.
Digital door way, a company in South Africa is working with UNICEF to reach out to a number of schools and communities in Uganda by deploying the digital door way in rural area. According to Jeff Benson a consultant with UNICEF in Uganda, Over 100 of these Digital Doorways are to be deployed in rural areas in Uganda said. The Digital doorways operate on purely Open source (BUNTU operating system).
For more information and Details oon the Digitaldoor way please visit: http://www.digitaldoorway.org.za

Third Lango Forum on e – Agriculture: Improving information access for agricultural and rural development

Women of Uganda Network with support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP – EU (CTA), holds a bi-annual event called the Lango Forum on e-agriculture. This event is held two times in a year in Apac District, Northern Uganda. This year the third Lango forum on e – agriculture will be held on the 18th February 2010 .

The Purpose
The purpose of the forum is to sensitize rural women and the community at large on the role of ICTs in rural and agricultural development. Forum participants share knowledge and experiences on how ICTs have been or could be applied in agriculture and rural development within the region, highlighting both the benefits and the challenges. Participants include farmers, district leaders, Civil Society organisations from Apac, Gulu, Lira, and Oyam districts, and stakeholders from other areas of Uganda.

Why Apac District?
WOUGNET has initiated various ICT initiatives including Research work in Apac District since 2003.The most significant initiative was started in 2005, in that, this particular project works directly with Rural women farmers. The Project which is in its fifth year and supported by CTA is called “Enhancing Access to Agricultural Information using ICTs to Rural women farmers”. The project also established a rural information centre called “ Kubere Information Centre, located in Apac town. Other significant ICT processes in Northern Uganda that WOUGNET has been involved in, include the “Agricultural Research Extension Network- ARENET project that was implemented by FAO and Kawanda Agricultural Research Information Services, the Rural Women’s Voices project the Esociety Programme and the Knowledge Network of African Community Telecentres – KNACT among others.

About WOUGNET
Women of Uganda Network is a non-governmental organization established in 2000 by several women organizations in Uganda to develop the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) among women as tools to share information and address challenges collectively. Supported by CTA, HIVOS, and Dimitra ,WOUGNET’s mission is to promote and support the use of information and communication technologies by women organisations as well as individuals. This is done with the aim of improving the conditions of life for Ugandan women, through enhancing their capacities and opportunities for exchange, collaboration and information sharing using ICTs. WOUGNET’s information channels include its websites; www.wougnet.org, http:kic.wougnet.org, www.wib.or.ug,; Mailing lists, Print Publications and Kubere Information Centre (KIC) located in Apac district, Northern Uganda.