Held Hostage by your phone? Learn some Phone Etiquette

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about
email etiquette and the readership was wide. I also received a couple of private
messages thanking me for sharing what seemed obvious yet many continued to
abuse their emails.  I have since
realized the need to write another on phone etiquette and why, despite the
advancement in telephony, many of us continue to be blinded by these gadgets
and loose respect for those who offer their time to be with and around us.

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My experience as a trainer in Sudan

Web 2.0 & social media training, an initiative by CTA in ACP countries, provides practical training for practitioners of information and communications for development and other agricultural stakeholders on how to use Web 2.0 technologies in their work and lives. And the learning process is made enjoyable and memorable through the use of practical sessions, a process that allows learners to engage and interact with the different tools.
I have had the privilege of conducting a couple of Web 2.0 and social media trainings on behalf of CTA in Africa, and I must admit that each country that I have been to has come with its own experiences. My most recent training was in the republic of Sudan, at the University of Gezira , Wad Medani, about 200 km from Khartoum, the capital city.
Going to Sudan came with a mixture of feelings, both excitement and uncertainty. I had questions like: Wasn’t it too hot in Sudan? (Considering that I come from Uganda where the weather is just ‘okay’.); Would I be forced to dress like the local women there? How about the language? I had no idea how I was going to communicate in a country where Arabic is the main and predominantly spoken language. As a matter of fact, the only word I knew in Arabic was shukran, meaning ‘thank you’.
The exciting part of it all was the fact that I was going to train men and women from academia. It was also the first time I would be travelling to Sudan to experience a new culture and, most important, to share knowledge.
I arrived in Khartoum on 9 May 2015, together with a team from the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), with whom the training was to be conducted. Straight away, we set off for Wad Medani to prepare for the event. Of course it was very hot and the people were very warm and friendly.
The next day, a Sunday, our training began. I had to adjust to the new ‘Monday’. In Sudan, Sunday is not a holiday like it is in Uganda, and the working week starts on Sunday. During day 1 of the training, we were reminded that we needed to include time for prayers in our agenda for all the training days. This is something I had personally never experienced but the reason was obvious.
Then came the language. Since the participants where mainly from the University of Gezira, an academic institution, they had a fair command of English and that made it possible for the training to be given in English. However, we had to speak a bit slower and very clearly and use lots of gestures. It was amazing how effective the learning process was. The level of enthusiasm and commitment that the trainees showed was overwhelming.
Even though the training generally went well, it came with a couple of challenges beyond our control. For example, Sudan is on a US blacklist concerning Internet access, which means that some websites are not accessible from Sudan. For instance, when registering on Twitter the user has to confirm his/her phone number and ‘Sudan’ is not among the drop-down list of options. Also Picasa, an image organiser and image viewer used for organising and editing digital photos, is blocked in Sudan. However, this did not stop us from going ahead with the training, but it did mean that we had to look for some alternative platforms.
Overall, for me as a trainer it was a totally new learning experience. It made it possible for me to compare experiences with my previous trainings and highlighted the need to always be prepared when conducting training in a new country.
Are you a trainer? What are some of the unique experiences you have encountered that you would like other trainers to learn from? Please share them.

The beauty of Fitness. My Journey to a healthier body and mind.

Inspired by Evelyn Namara a friend of mine whose life literally revolves around fitness, I decided
to challenge myself into doing a couple of exercises. I had followed Evelyn’s
posts online, especially her routine running and had wondered if I could dare do
just 10% of what she did and remain focused and dedicated to it like she did.
Well, for me, It was not for any specific reason that I thought of ‘getting
fit’, because I was neither over weight nor obese (Those are some of the
reasons that inspire many to exercise). But I just wanted to cut some little
weight and try to make my muscles firm. For those who have tried this fitness
journey, you will agree with me that it takes lots of dedication and discipline
to follow a routine and stick to it.  Often times, people complain about
being unfit but only few take it upon themselves to exercise and eat healthy. 

During a Yoga Session in the comfort of home/ photo by Jordana Atim
I needed to start with
simple manageable workouts and graduate into more intense ones like those done
by Jilian Michaels. (Please don’t ask me if I ever worked out using her DVDs. I am
still trying). Anyway, I got myself a yoga DVD for body toning and fitness and a
yoga mat. Soon, I was doing sun salutations, half-moon balances, tree balances
and planks. It helped me relax a lot especially after spending a whole day seated at work infront of a computer. 
However, Like many others, I expected
the results almost immediately. I wondered why I wasn’t getting that waistline
and why my biceps remained flabby and soft. But that didn’t bother me so much
because of the good feeling that I got after every yoga session. The stretching, mini- muscle pains, the breath controls and the sweating was so amazing that I
got addicted to it. 
Finally able to lift myself off the ground after several sessions of Yoga/ Photo by Jordana Atim
This good yoga
session that left me feeling refreshed raised my curiosity to research about the other benefits of
fitness besides the general one of keeping ‘Healthy’. Swimming was highly
recommended because it made one engage almost every body muscle. My dilemma
was…. I didn’t know how to swim. What
was I supposed to do? I had to challenge myself to learn. But then who would have
the patience to teach an adult like me, who not only had phobia for water but
asked too many questions. In my quest to find a good swimming teacher, I moved
around Nairobi especially the health clubs and found one “Public Service Club”.
I didn’t know that it would be my swimming home for a couple of months. While
there, I requested to meet the swimming instructor (These are clubs that
require membership and I had non, neither did I have plans of joining because their membership fee is quite high). Thank God that for swimming, it’s a
different arrangement. You had to pay for the service prior to the swim. I opted for that.
Trying out my Yoga at Kalangala Island on Lake Victoria  June 2014
I then had a conversation
with Mr. Robert the instructor and after a lengthy chat on swimming, he
mentioned that he trains young children and has been at it for the last 15
years. I smiled deep down, because I was sure that a person who had the
patience to train little children would have the patience to train me. I was
not wrong. He told me that I would be able to swim after 10 lessons. And
indeed, I managed to, although I needed to still get rid of my occasional deep-end fears. I was so thankful because he had succeeded where many instructors
had failed. He was polite, extremely patient and always answered my questions
with a smile. I cannot emphasize enough how calm and experienced he was,
because not once, did he get into the swimming pool to demonstrate. He simply
sat on a plastic chair at the edge of the pool and told me what to do. I could not believe that I could learn that way but I did. It still shocks me!!
After a successful Hike of Ngong Hills in Dec 2014/ Photo by Edward Echwalu

I later on started doing
morning jogs for about an hour, Zumba, skipping a rope and walking (All in the living room not a gym). These were
complimented by change in my eating habits like having a decent breakfast, eating
all sorts of fruits and vegetables, eating within a period of 8 hours from
the  time I have breakfast, drinking a
minimum of 3 litres of water daily (I litre very early morning before any
meal)  and not having dinner past 7:00pm.
I honestly do not remember when I last fell sick after adopting this way of
living.  My latest addiction is hiking. Towards
the end of 2014, I had been invited by a friend Edward Echwalu to join a team in Kenya that was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. So I trained for this adventure, but because
of un avoidable circumstances, it was cancelled by the organisers as the days
approached. It was sad and I did not want to waste all the time and energies I
had invested into training. So I requested Edward to join me in hiking the
Ngong Hills in Nairobi which he gladly did. I guess because he too was psyched for Mt. Kilimanjaro and still had his energies to try out a less tedious challenge-Ngong Hills.
Down Hill on Ngong Hills/Photo by Edward Echwalu
My next adventure (This year) is to
climb three East African Mountains; Rwenzori, Kenya and Kilimanjaro and
also go hiking anywhere else when the opportunity presents itself. Thanks Evelyn for those
posts of your trainings.They inspired me to take fitness seriously. I am enjoying the journey and learning new things along the way. It’s fun and worth every sweat.
Pointing at how far I had come on Ngong Hill/ Photo by Edward Echwalu

Are you planning for any adventure? Like hiking, Mountain climbing, Bungee Jumping, Sky diving, road trips, game drives, marathons especially around East Africa?  Please inform me. I would like to join in.

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

mhealth: Mobile Phones to expand demand for, and use of ANC/PMTCT services in rural Uganda

Any development agenda in Uganda must look beyond the city
and for a simple reason, over 80% of the total population lives in rural areas.

Almost 70% of the world’s mobile phone
subscribers are in the developing world. As an affordable and accessible means
of communication, both men and women are realizing the potential of this
technology to create economic opportunities and strengthen social networks in
rural areas. The mobile phone is no longer just a communication tool but one
that`s capable of providing additional integrated functions.
Today, mobile telephony is being
used to provide information on health, Agriculture, Education and
entrepreneurship to rural communities through Short Message Service (SMS) and
multi-media supported systems in many parts of Uganda and Africa at large. This
has been made possible through public, private and NGO sector initiatives.
According to the 2010 MDG
progress report for Uganda, maternal health indicators for Uganda have
generally remained poor in the last two decades. Over the period of 1995-2000
maternal mortality stagnated about 505 deaths per 100,000 live births. The
Uganda demographic and health survey of 2006 estimated Maternal Mortality Ratio
(MMR) at 435 deaths per 100,000 live births, making a total reduction of only
70 deaths per 100,000 live births in half a decade.
The 2007 ministry of health
expenditure survey in Uganda clearly indicates that the main causes of maternal
morbidity and mortality in Uganda have overtime been considered preventable and
or treatable. These common causes include but are not limited to; abortion,
haemorrhage, sepsis and obstructed labour.
As a result of this, The
Netherlands National committee for UNICEF in partnership with UNICEF Kampala, the Ministry of Health, Text to Change,
The Association of Volunteers in
International Service (AVSI), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are
implementing an intervention to increase
ANC and PMTCT attendance by educating communities about Antenatal care (ANC) /Prevention
of mother to child Transmission(PMTCT) services and HIV/AIDS prevention in
western and Northern Uganda.  
The project will use available
technology, mainly the mobile phones to educate and mobilize mothers, families
and community members to demand for ANC and PMTCT services. Through the short
Message service (SMS), mothers will be reminded about ANC appointments, PMTCT
services and their importance as well as provide information about HIV/AID and
Malaria prevention.
Mobile telephony is the most
preferred technology for this health intervention because it effectively
reduces the “distance” between individuals and institutions making sharing of
information and knowledge easier and more effective. The benefits of mobile
phones are amplified by the fact that the spread of mobile technology in some
rural areas has occurred much faster than with other information & communication
technologies (ICTs). In a country like Uganda, mobile technology has quickly
become much more cost effective for telecommunication provision.
Despite these benefits of the
mobile phone, challenges like high costs of handsets, limited network coverage
and limited usage capacity still exist but these are being solved by the
potential of new models of phones that combine text, audio and video to be used
in a more systematic manner that enables sharing of user generated multimedia

The chances of success and sustainability of
rural health services that are based on mobile telephony are greater when they
do not duplicate services provided by existing information sources such as the
kiosks, telecentres , digital doorways and information centres.