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Archive for the ‘My Experience’ Category

Image Source:https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/the-guide-to-right-of-way-laws-in-georgia-by-valerie-mellemaThis morning as I was  sorting and organizing  books on my desk, I came across one of the magazines by a regional youth organization. I flipped through the pages  to see  its content and I picked interest in an interview with a young  and prominent female journalist.

Among the many questions that she was asked, there was this question about SDG goal number 5 on  achieving gender equality and this is the question:

The UN adopted  a set of 17 goals, one of which is achieving gender equality by 20130. Do you think women in the media industry  have made progress towards reducing the gender gap?

Her response: …we have looked at this emancipation debate as a right of way even when you have not worked hard, you want to be there. You cannot say I am a woman and therefore I need to sit on this committee. Society should not afford us favors because we are women.

I found her response disturbing given the fact that she is a woman. I remembered the words of a fierce, unapologetic  African feminist Hope Chigudu who told young women that even that trouser you are putting on, someone fought for it.  I think we have grown up in a privileged environment and have taken gender equality for granted. The struggle for gender equality cannot be dismissed as a right of way! Women have come along way and it is very unfortunate that instead of standing on the shoulders of our fore mothers who paved a way for us, we are calling it a right of way. Really???

I am deeply concerned that  as young women and girls, we have quickly forgotten that the basic rights and freedoms we are enjoying today including education, citizenship, employment and many others were fought for by our fore mothers.

I challenge all women and girls to read the history and struggles of the women movement.

– “you can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” Maya Angelou

Image Source:The Guide to Right-of-Way Laws in Georgia

 

 

 

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In September 2015, I was privileged to participate in the third African School on Internet Governance(AfriSIG) that took place is Addis Ababa. The goal of AfriSIG is to give Africans from multiple sectors and stakeholder groups the opportunity to gain knowledge and confidence to enable them to participate effectively in internet governance processes and debates at national regional and global level.

The 2015 AfriSIG brought together  is a diverse and dynamic group of people with different, expertise, age and gender identities. Being at the AfriSIG was  a whole new experience to me and  made me realise how little I know about the internet and internet governance in particular despite that fact that I use it on a daily basis. One of the remarkable assignments at AfriSIG was the practicum where  students  were  grouped  into four stakeholder teams that  included the Business Community, Civil Society, Government and the Technical Community. Each team was tasked to develop a policy statement on the subject of Net Neutrality and Zero rating. 

Net neutrality is the principle that individuals should be free to access all content on the internet and applications equally, regardless of the source, without Internet service providers discriminating against specific online services or websites

On the other hand, a zero-rated service  refers to services that do not incur data costs and are exempt from data usage counts. This practice generally refers to mobile carriers offering free mobile data so that customers can access particular forms of online content and services at no additional cost to the carrier’s customers or without having associated data usage counted against the costumer’s usage allowance under the hired wireless service plan.

I was in a group that presented the interests of the civil society. Sincerely speaking, this assignment brought out the dynamics and complexities involved in public policy formulation process, the nature of stakeholders and their vested interests. Even within the individual interest groups, it was very difficult to reach at a consensus because the groups were composed of different categories of people from different institutions. The civil society group composed of the Academia, Charity NGO, Multinational Advocacy organisation, Non Commercial Internet user, Privacy advocacy, rights advocacy and a Youth group. All these people have different values and priorities and at time they contradict each other. I also believe that this was not any different from other  stakeholder groups.

Similarly, the nature of the policy issues were also confusing because  they seem to contradict each other. Net neutrality as mentioned above  is the principle that individuals should be free to access all content and applications on internet equally, regardless of the source, without Internet service providers discriminating against specific online services or websites. On the other hand, Zero rating refers to the provision of access to certain internet services by internet service providers in such a way that the bandwidth consumed is not charged to the customer. Although zero rating has been embraced as a solution to bridge the digital divide especially in Africa by increasing  internet access and affordability, it contradicts the principle of net neutrality. Therefore it was very challenging for stakeholders to come up with clear positions within a short period of time.

In actual sense, this discussion was a clear reflection of what happens in real policy negotiations and formulation processes between different stakeholders who have different interests especially the civil society organisation who are rarely given an opportunity to present their issues.

Thanks to  the faulty team of #AfriSIG for organising and facilitating this mock  exercise that  exposed us  to the  realities and complexities of  public policy making.

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Activists marching through Busia to to raise awareness

Activists marching through Busia town  to raise awareness on SGBV

In december 2014 I was in Busia district, Eastern Uganda on a campaign to end Sexual and Gender based Violence (SGBV) organized by the Institute for Social Transformation (IST) and Isis-WICCE in Partnership with Busia Local Government.  The aim of the campaign was to mobilize communities in Busia district to discuss strategies to address the increasing SGBV cases.

According to Police files, on a daily basis at least three cases related to SGBV are reported and over 80 cases a month. These are only the reported cases and remember that so many cases remain unreported.

Over 2000 women, men, youth and local leaders from different sub counties in the district participated in the

discussions.

Dressed in their usual African dresses and non-traditional African attires in different styles, designs and colors with majority putting on head covers, the women listened attentively in the discussions and actively participated in different activities such as the march and group discussions.

Women during listening  to the facilitator during the discussion

Women  listening to the facilitator during the discussion

I kept observing  the crowds of women and then, I remembered that 20 years ago, the Beijing Conference took place and was a seen as major breakthrough in the history of gender struggles and women’s empowerment. The conference came out with what is known as the Beijing Platform for Action. The Platform established twelve Critical Areas of Concern that needed to be addressed in order to achieve political, social, economic, cultural, and environmental security among all people. These Areas are poverty; education; health; violence; armed conflict; the economy; power and decision-making; mechanisms for women’s advancement; women’s human rights; mass media; the environment; and, the girl child. For each critical area of concern, the problem was diagnosed and strategic objectives and concrete actions were e proposed for Governments and others stakeholders.

I asked myself, do these women know that there is Beijing Platform for Action and other human rights instruments that guarantee protection and promotion of women’s rights and gender equality?  As confirmed by Dr. Thelma Awori, the Executive Director of IST, women in Busia are afraid to stand up for their rights, afraid to take advantage of  the laws that are in place and have resigned to violence  that ‘what can I do, I just have to suffer’.

This state of hopelessness is what many women globally experience every day. Statistics from UN Women reports indicate that between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime and most of this violence takes place within intimate relationships.

Therefore as the world reviews twenty years of Beijing Platforn for Action code named ‘Beijing+20’,many questions  remain unanswered.  Why aren’t these frameworks changing the lives of women? What can be done differently? Are there any hopes of breaking through patriarchy? Are women losing the struggle against gender equality?

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Last week on Friday 20, the Uganda media broadcasted a video clip where the Police officers were seen squeezing the breast of the opposition woman politician Ingrid Turinawe. Ingrid is the leader of the women’s league for Forum for Democratic Change(FDC)  which is one of the strongest opposition political party in the country. The police squeezed Ingrid’s breast  while arresting her  on her way to a rally in one of the city surburbs. This cruel and brutal act has been condemned by human rights activists and the general public

As a woman, I couldn’t image the pain Ingrid experienced  in the hands of the police. Why did the police target her breast? This is  pure sexual violence perpetrated by the state which is supposed to protect its citizens. If the police can behave like this in broad day light and before the cameras, what happens in isolated places? Isn’t worse that this?

This action by police also shows that the country has no respect for women which is very sad as they are mothers of all nations. One of the reactions from the Uganda Women’s Movement was to organise a topless protest only wearing the bras at  the  central police station to express their anger and action against the police officers who abused Ingrid. Unfortunately they were also arrested though later released. The women were also criticised by the public for exposing their breasts and condemned for being immoral.

In the same spirit, the chairperson of Uganda  Women parliamentary association Betty Among   and on behalf  of the Uganda Women’s Movement presented a statement in parliament condemning in the strongest terms the police act and demanding an apology from the Uganda Police and government  in general on behalf.

To the surprise of many of us from  the women movement  who attended the parliamentary session, members of parliament from the ruling party, National Resistance Movement(NRM) who stood up to talk condemned the police  act with reservations  and blamed Ingrid for resisting the arrest and added that she deserved it.

There was also another controversy on who actually effected the arrest as police claimed that it was done by the female police officer while the cameras clearly showed that it was done by the male officer. The Uganda constitution says that female offenders are supposed to be arrested by the female police officers

When the Prime minister honourable Amama Mbabazi  stood up to speak he stated that he watched the clip and  apologised.  He also said that action had been taken and the Police Officer who was involved has been suspended.

And when he was tasked to give the details, he could not explain,  the Prime Minister however insisted that he did not have the name of the officer but said he would bring the details to the house when police investigations have been concluded.

The speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga asked the state minister for internal affairs to table the findings from the police investigation before 18th May when the Parliamentary session ends.

Since the  presidential elections in 2011, Ugandans have experienced  increased police brutality  especially targeting opposition leaders.

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