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Why consider Women in Agriculture Education?

I was recently in Maputo, Mozambique
attending the 4th Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) biennial conference. RUFORUM is a
consortium of 42 Universities across Africa and a platform for catalyzing
change is African Universities.  I had
gone for a consultancy to train young social reporters and journalism students in Mozambique who had been tasked
to cover the proceedings of the event in real time via social media.  I have in the past conducted similar
trainings but this was a special one given the nature of the trainees. It was a
mixture of English, French and Portuguese speakers. After successfully
completing my trainings, I had an opportunity of attending some of the plenary
sessions as I monitored my ‘students’ do their work.
Conducting a training for social reporters and journalism students.
It was not a surprise that one of those
sessions that I chose to attend, focused on the role of women in Agriculture
and why they should not be ignored in institutions of higher
learning and specifically Agricultural education.
In her opening remarks, Her Excellence Dhlamini Nkosazana Zuma
the chairperson of the African Union commission mentioned that transforming
Agriculture in Africa required innovative scientific research, educational and
training approaches.  She added that
transformation demands a bold vision backed by bold actions.  Ms. Dhlamini said that Africans from all walks
of life must contribute to a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth, so
that Africa can take its rightful place in the world. By 2025, all young
persons under 25 in the world will be African. They must therefore be
intellectually empowered with relevant skills especially in science and technology.
she added. On the role of women in Africa’s
development, Ms. Dhlamini had this to say 

“Women not only make up half of Africa’s population but also produce the other half, they form 70% of African workforce.
We must empower them. We must have deliberate strategies to ensure girls’ access
to higher education and more women in the academia”

She challenged participants when she
mentioned that no country has ever developed on primary education alone and
emphasized the value and need to focus on Higher education. In her opinion,
Africa needs to have its own agenda and pursue it. “We do not need the UN to tell us to take our children to school”
she said.
H.E Dhlamini Zuma Chairperson AU commission
More often than not, we do what people
give us money for and not what we are supposed to do as Africans. No country
has ever developed only on donor money,we must put in a lot of our resources. 
We must look at new Technologies like
elearning to give us more access to education. Universities must be innovative
enough to adopt to new technologies and they must have both physical and
virtual learning spaces to give skills to more students. We should not miss the
opportunity that technology offers. Innovators must innovate to replace the
hand held hoe for Women.  She concluded.
Women remain invisible, in spite of their presence.

Graca Machel the keynote speaker of this
conference started her address with a reminder that every one of us had to have a responsibility of how we change Africa.  It
should no longer be about “Reducing the percentage of people dying of hunger”
but rather totally eradicating it from Africa. Graca firmly asserted.
We get comfortable talking about numbers
but what impact do we have on the lives of the people we represent? 43% of
African Children are stunted, that means that they can never attain their intellectual
capacity. To Ms. Graca, poverty for African is no longer the issue of hunger
but rather the intellectual nourishment.
As a way of walking the talk, Ms. Graca,
with the support of African Development bank has established an African women
Network focusing on Women in Finance with a plan to establish networks of Women in Agriculture especially woman in Business. She was concerned that women are not well
represented in Agricultural services yet it is important to improve women’s representation
in policy decision making processes. There is very little attention given to
the roles women play in agriculture and their specific needs and priorities. To
realize the potential of Agriculture as a source of livelihood for many
Africans, We must recognize the roles women can play in Agriculture.
Why
Women?
The AfricanDevelopment Bank estimates that 90 per
cent of Africa’s food is produced by women in spite of the fact that few women
hold titles to the land they work. Because of this, rural women’s contribution
to Africa’s agriculture is important for the persistence and success of their
families, communities and local and national economies, and to poverty
reduction and sustainable development.

Ms. Graca Machel gave a keynote address & focused on
the role of women in Africa

According to a research conducted by
RUFORUM in 2010, Women play a vital role in Agriculture yet are poorly
represented in higher education with 28% of student in universities Agriculture
programs, less than a quarter in agriculture faculties and 20% women
researchers.
An MOU between RUFORUM and AWARD was signed to encourage Women’s
Participation in Agricultural Research and Higher Education

The big question remains, what must be done to
address the gender gaps and concerns in Agriculture and science in Africa?

For more details about this conference, please visit:

Flickr to see some of the pictures 
Blogs: Over 43 were written by the social reporters

THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN UGANDA’s 2011 GENERAL ELECTION. My Perspective!

For the past three days, I have been thinking so hard about the outcome of the elections in Uganda after watching on Television the revolutions in the middleEast that saw former Tunisian and Egyptian presidents Ben Ali and Mubarak being forced out of power by the people they were supposed to lead. The reasons are always the same; Chronic Corruption, unemployment and dictatorship among others. 
As I sat in my room at school in St. Mary’s Halifax  a small town in Canada’s Ocean Playground, I could not keep my eyes off my laptop for updates that came in from facebook friends and twips. I kept looking out for updates on newspapers/magazines in Uganda like the Kampala Dispatch, The Independent and Daily Monitor.
On the social websites these were some of the tweets and topics that filled my friends’ status updates.
·         Uganda bans SMS texting of key words during poll ‘Egypt’, ‘bullet’, ‘people power’ etc
·         Museveni making personal calls to voters on their mobile phones just before elections
·         UPC flag Presidential Candidate Mr. Olara Otunnu did not vote for himself
·         Presidential candidates’ names missing on voters lists
·         Fights and scandals by some members of political parties like Mafabi
·         Gender discrimination in politics analysis. Only men analysing elections
·         Updates of polling results from different stations
·         Being reminded to use #ugandavotes as the tweeter Hash tag
·         Heavily guarded streets of Kampala
·         And finally about some prominent Members of parliament who have lost their seats.
As I read all these real time updates from youthful friends that I personally know, I was praying that peace prevails during this time. And from the updates that I am still reading, the situation seems to be okay.
Politics has never been something of interest to me, though I know that am affected by the outcome in one way or another. My focus is on how ICTs especially social networks have played a significant role to keep me updated about the situation in my home country.
What does Foreign Media report about African?
At first, I thought that by watching Television (CTV and CBS) here in Halifax, I would  get some good information about what was going on in Uganda. However, I was not surprised when it was not even mentioned anywhere in the news bulletin for the number of times I happened to be watching. This got me thinking that ”What if Kony the LRA rebel leader had abducted people in Uganda” maybe that would have made news. Unbothered by that, I resorted to one of my best companions, MY LAPTOP. With  the super fast internet here, all I had to do was open as many windows with websites and readily access information about the election progress. Twitter was first on the list, Facebook, the independent Newpaper,The Kampala Dispatch and The Daily Monitor. I must confess that I was shocked but at the same time impressed by the number of people who were tweeting using the #ugandavotes tag.  It was because of this that I was inspired to quickly write this blog post.
State of Technology in Uganda is still wanting:
Also the fact that Mr. Museveni’s (Probably through an automated voice) personal call to people who are subscribed to Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) showed that he had finally appreciated the role of ICTs and will this time (if declared president, which is most likely according to the statistics coming in ),appoint an ICT minister who understands the urgency with which Uganda has to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of technology and not for the sake of appointing.
I did not personally have an opportunity to cast my vote, because the nearest Uganda Embassy is in Ottawa and that required a flight. Just imagine a situation where I could vote online and my note remains valid regardless of my location. That’s the Uganda we want to see with the new president.
Mr. New President my concluding Request is :  Please appoint a New and different minister for Education and Sports as well as another one for ICT, I will be very thankful.
Thanks  Rosebell Idaltu Kagumire for the constant updates on your facebook, blog and Twitter accounts.

DISABILITY is not INABILITY: Women,ICTs and Disability in Northern Uganda

“I am not good at videography especially editing but I believe you will all get the message clearly.”
The convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPF) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 2006. A major milestone for all persons living with disabilities around the world, it is the 8th Universal Convention on Human Rights of  which majority of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) member States are signatories to the convention.
Article 9 of the CRPD defines ICT accessibility as an integral part of accessibility rights on par with transportation and physical environment for PWDs. There are indeed so many challenges for PWDs to realize their fundamental Human Right of access to information especially in the developing countries
These challenges include but are not limited to;
  • · Low education levels of  PWDs especially in the developing countries,
  • Absence of assistive technologies to help even the educated PWDs,
  • The absence of clear intervention strategies by governments, local disability leadership and other    stakeholders to save the situation,
  • The fact that majority PWDs live in the most rural parts of Africa and therefore can’t be covered by the available ICTs.
And although the Mobile telephone technology is greatly improving accessibility to information in Africa, its applicability for use by people with disabilities is still highly wanting. There are barriers to accessibility mainly because of the different designs of  ICT tools used by people in the mainstream which are not adaptable for use by the PWDs.
In one of the resent trainings for PWDs in Gulu which was organized by Women of Uganda Network with an aim to increase civil society organisations’ use of  and interaction with various forms of media especially PWDs who since time immemorial have been left out of ICT related programs and projects, I was privileged to facilitate a number of session on how ICTs can be used by and for PWDs. The training took place at Gulu Union of Persons with Disability on December 2010 and it was specifically offered to Gulu Landmine Survivors, A local Women’s group in Gulu. The level of enthusiasm and zeal portrayed by the woman was overwhelming. They were eager to learn, listen, implement and share. They wanted to share their stories with the entire world and be heard.
I was drawn to two particular participants, Ms. Adong Lucy a blind Woman and Ms. Jenifer Arach a deaf and dumb Youth. For Lucy, being disabled was not the issue, her issues was about the unfriendliness of ICT tools towards the PWDs especially the blind. She cited an example of airtime cards which are very user unfriendly to the blind. She said that Telecommunication Companies should be sensitive to the PWDs and produce airtime cards with the digits written in braille. In this way, even a blind person would be in position to load credit to their phone without being manipulated. In this video, Lucy shared with me why ICTs have to be user friendly to PWDs.

Jenifer Arach a youth from Gulu on the other hand said that despite the fact that she is a school dropout dumb and deaf, she is very interested in learning especially typing. She said that she wants to own a phone to ease her communication (Mainly SMS) and to increase on her networking opportunities. She shared her story with me.

Why the need to improve web/ICT accessibility for PWDs
Since time immemorial, PWDs all over the word are faced with the problem of exclusion and Isolation. This has contributed to their low levels of education therefore exclusion from majority of social services. During this training, it was noted that there is need to improve ICT accessibility for PWDs and this could be done through the following suggested ways:
·   Easy access to the web which can be used for news, information, commerce & entertainment among others though aiding devices like the Braile for the blind and speech software.
·       Adopting new technologies like real time captioning which is very relevant for the deaf.
·        Using other assistive technologies like mobile phones which are speech and visual aided. 
Proposals and plans of actions Identified at an ITU/UCC workshop held in 2010 in Kampala to address these challenges;
a) As a means of inclusion of persons with disabilities in the development of infrastructure; it was proposed that a universal access fund for Infrastructure especially geared to underprivileged areas, and disadvantaged groups including women, youth and persons with disabilities be established;
b) Governments in partnership with civil society should  increase opportunities for training of women and persons with disabilities through education, training and human resource development taking into account special consideration of underprivileged areas;
c) As part of policy development process, the participation of women and other disadvantaged groups should be facilitated and encouraged in the ICT policy development and implementation process.

Technology, Gender and Violence!! Break the Silence.

As I anxiously wait to join the rest of the world in marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence(GBV) from 25 November 2010 to 10 December 2010 whose regional theme is “Engaging Faith-based Communities to Prevent Violence against Women” focusing on how our faiths and faith-based communities can (and should!) get involved in preventing violence against women, I can’t help think of the millions of mothers, sisters, Aunties and nieces who have been violated yet still remain helpless and silent despite the growing opportunities and improved technology which can help them break the silence through sharing and reporting.

According to a Ugandan psychologist Paul Nyende violence ranges from Physical, Emotional, Economic and financial. In physical abuse, usually physical force against someone is used meaning that sexual abuse fits in this. A signs of this, is being viewed as a sex object or property rather than a human being. Whereas in emotional abuse, the abuser attacks the victim’s spirit by eating away their feelings of self-worth and independence making the victim feel trapped and worthless. Signs of emotional abuse are humiliation, being yelled at and teased in a hurtful way both privately and publicly, Verbal insults and calling you names against your will as well as using threats.

The financial abuse which is usually ignored by many, involves the abuser controlling their victim financially; the signs include monitoring one’s account for every penny spent, not letting you get on with your career or sabotaging you at your place of work.
MAJOR TACTICS USED BY ABUSERS.
Dominance: This is used so that the abuser is in charge of the relationship.

Humiliation: This is to make the Victim feel bad about him/herself.

Isolation: This is to increase the victim’s dependence on the abuser.

Threats: To scare the victim into staying with the abuser

Intimidation: To make the victim submit to the abuser’s will, this involved denial and placing blame to push into excusing the inexcusable.

AND WHO BREAKS THE SILENCE?
With the emergence of New Media and Technology, it is now evident that the power of the media is in the hands of the people. The only issue is how this power is being used to create positive social change in regard to combating Gender Based Violence. Web 2.0 technologies have given people the power of real time reporting, networking and receiving timely information, but how many people have the technical know-how of using them? Then the mobile phones whose subscription in Africa alone has surpassed five million http://ht.ly/37Ks7 and powerful penetration to the rural communities and can be used to combat gender based violence, How many people use up to 50% of the mobile phone application/functionality? How many are aware that it combines text, video and Audio?

Many people have mentioned to me that you get more knowledge by asking many questions. I am desperate to learn from you the readers of this article.
I conclude by quoting one man from Eastern Uganda who once said that: “For every bullet that hits a man during war kills a Woman’s Child”
Gender based violence is real and it affects all of us, some directly and others indirectly. But the good news is that it’s within our power to end it.

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.