Thursday, 25 February 2016

DO YOU LIKE IT OR YOU NEED TO IT?


The demands for survival in this century are harder to meet than any other we have known in the past ages. From workaholic fathers immersed in work to provide for their families, to stressed mothers meeting both work and family demands and to children growing up without a reliable figures to look up to for social, mental, spiritual and physical growth. Everyone has tasted a piece of this bitter cake but it leaves a big vacuum for fulfillment in everyone's heart.

We are in an era that is bombarded with gigantic workloads, massive economic constraints and virtually no time for one to relax. with this has come the several “quick fix” pleasures that offer a temporary relief from our many challenges and satisfy a wide range of needs. These range from drugs, smoking, internet, alcohol and gambling which are among the most addictive things in the world.

Whenever people talk of addiction, our minds generally envision a helpless “junkie” hooked on drugs in some abandoned building in the middle of nowhere. It is commonly narrowed down to drugs, but addictions spread across so many spheres of life.

In the simplest form, an addiction is a compulsive desire to recurrently partake of a certain substance, behavior or activity that may impair a person’s daily activities and health. This can be related to a number of things. It could be a behavior like smoking, a substance like soda or an activity like “facebooking” Whatever it may be, one way to know it is an addiction is realizing whether one has control over the activity or it is an obsessive compulsion that helplessly drives them into an activity even when they would prefer not to.

The neuropsychologists have a simple explanation for an addiction. The brain has a reward system on which it operates to ensure every positive occurrence in a person’s life is rewarded. Every time something good happens to a person, from a nice meal, sex or taking a drug, the brain releases a neurotransmitter called “dopamine” in the brain’s pleasure center (nucleus accumbens ) which stimulates feelings of happiness.
Human beings are conditioned to release large amounts of dopamine whenever the primary needs are satisfied. Every time dopamine is released into the nucleus accumbens, the amygdala registers the emotion and the hippocampus creates a conditioned response to the occurrence. When a person  does something pleasurable, it creates a shortcut to the brain’s pleasure center , flooding it with dopamine. With repeated use, it then starts competing with the pleasure that comes from satisfying primary needs. Eventually it stimulates the release of more dopamine from the activity than the primary needs. This is what kicks starts an addiction, at that point when some finds taking a drug a bigger priority than eating food when hungry.

Most times it takes a long drift for someone to realize they are hooked onto a behavior or substance. Unfortunately by this time, someone may have the desire to control their response towards the addictive habit but they can no longer control the compulsion




These steps can help you know whether you are on a path to an addiction.
1.     How often does it happen?
How often you engage in a particular behavior can always alert you on how important it is and it is a great indicator that you are going beyond the limits with the activity.
2.     How much time is spent on it?
We hardly spend hours trying to brush our teeth yet it is a healthy habit, that is because it is essential but we do not need to spend many hours brushing. Similarly addictive habits could be a result of over usage of something beneficial beyond the limits of its significance.
3.     Does it control or disrupt daily activities?
Taking a bottle of beer during a party over the weekend may have bearable but taking three bottles of beer on Monday morning shortly before work could have a grave bearing on a person’s career. If a person finds themselves making decisions that continuously threaten their physical, mental or social well-being because of a particular habit, it could mean they have lost control.

Photo credit (www.illkeepyouposted.typepad.com, www.users2.unimi.it and www.commons.wikimedia.org)

Friday, 22 January 2016

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 2015 AND 2016

The new year has finally settled in, it's exactly 22 days, 528 hours, 31680 minutes and 1900800 seconds lost into the new year. While the birth of a new year is an exciting time as everyone rejoices for a new era of growth and development. The heaviness of the previous year’s troubles is then overshadowed by the joy of having an extra year of life.
For some people it was the climax of a victorious year immersed in opportunities and tremendous achievements. Unfortunately, for others it was the dim light at the end of the tunnel to which they bravely strolled towards, to escape the gloom of the previous year’s challenges and setbacks.

With new year comes plans and milestones we hope to reach during the 12 months ahead of us. The year begins with personal ambitions we want to realise. Within everyone’s mind is a vast deposit of goals they want to attain, fears they wish to conquer, resolutions they intend to meet and a purpose they wish to fulfill. 
We all begin the year with unbeatable enthusiasm but along the way, “life” happens to us and we soon back down from the ring of winners we all committed to at the beginning. We seem to lose the belief we held of meeting all our plans along the way.  
What happens during the 12 months of every year that separates those who emerge as victors and those who don’t?
Statistics shows that 75% of people keep their new year resolutions up to the 1st week, 71% in the 2nd week, 64% in the 4th week and only 46% stick to them till half of the year.


Here are 5 things that make the difference between people within every year.
1.      Carrying Buggage:
The world is a very unfair place and it beats all of us down at some point. We all have a fair share of that experience. Some people let circumstances define who they are by embracing all the negativity they carry which devour their motivation for life. Everyone has bad days but if you don’t leave them in the previous year, they will surely impair this year’s plans. “the past is dead except for the life you give it”- Myles Munroe
2.      Having  no Strategic Plans and Goals.
It is said “the first stage of failure is failing to plan.” Sadly, this is a bad habit that engulfs numerous people. We start prophesying the many resolutions and goals we hope to achieve but it only goes as far as our speech ends and we forget to write anything down. With the busyness of life, we soon forget what we set out to do and end up living each day “normally” until the year ends with no goals achieved.
3.      Forming the Right Habits through Self Discipline.
Napoleon Hill says “the mind is an animal of habit.” Anything, good or bad that you continuously engage in, conditions the mind to embrace the habit, which then governs your life. It takes a lot of self-control to kick out bad habits, whether in behavior, finances or relationships. Equally, self-discipline is the foundation for attaining success at any goal one sets.
4.      Persistence with a positive Attitude.
We always expect the best but rarely prepare for the worst. Every plan or goal we set, attracts both positive and negative associations. The trick lies in embracing all the positive energy whenever it is available and using it to buffer all the negativity that comes along the way. This should be coupled up with boundless persistence during all the bad times, because they will surely come but stick to the simple truth, “the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
5.      Having a Life of Purpose
This is the most important of all because without it, the rest crumble. Everything operates in a mechanism aimed at meeting the purpose for which it was created and that applies to everyone as well. Purpose determines what goals to pursue, which habits to embrace and it is biggest driving force anyone can have when planning to succeed at something. With the knowledge of one’s purpose in life, the sky is the only limit to the success one can have.

I wish you a happy fruitful New Year.
Photo Credit: (www.history.com and www.fggam.org)



Thursday, 10 September 2015

WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG

In a society where “sex” is a taboo, many children go from childhood into puberty, then struggle through adolescence and finally transition into adulthood with no clue on what constitutes of health sexual practices and what danger lies in the ignorance of the most misunderstood pillar of society, sexuality.

Parents send their children to school with the hopes that that “bold teacher” will educate them about the fundamentals of reproductive health so that they do not have to go through the embarrassment of stammering while sharing very sensitive information on sexuality with their young and naïve children. Some parents shun the responsibility because they believe sex education could be the reason their children experiment new realms of their sexuality, which in the eyes of most parents is the eternal doom of an early pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.

Sadly, the people entrusted with the responsibility of teaching the young generation accurate information about sexual reproductive health neither feel competent nor confident enough to teach the students the age appropriate information. Most students experience the “no nonsense biology teacher” scenario where the jolly teacher who smiles through all other lessons suddenly pops into class with a gloomy face to introduce the topic of “reproduction,’ as their first sex education class.
This is barely enough knowledge for a naïve teenager battling raging hormones that push them to explore or find answers to the many changes that are happening in their bodies. This particular stage in life is better handled only by those few luck students who had a bold enough mother or father that gradually prepared them for biological, physical and emotional changes of growth through continuous sexuality education from childhood.

Unfortunately, not so many children get that opportunity in a society where sex talk is only for the grownups. This leaves many students at the mercy of the environments they are groomed in or the peers they relate with to determine what values or behaviors they adopt in relation to their sexuality.

Nina was a victim of misguided information from her peers who convinced her that being a virgin was a sign of childishness. She was always disdained by her peers who often bragged about their many boyfriends. For so long she wanted to seek advice from her mother about the pressure she faced but she knew her mom never entertained any conversation about boys in her home with her only two daughters. With no one to turn to, Nina embraced the words of her friends and soon had a boyfriend. Sadly, Annie was so naïve that her “boyfriend” easily talked her out of using a condom  on their first sexual encouter.

A few weeks later, she was feeling uneasy and told her peers who quickly brushed it off.  Ritah, her closest friend in the group decided to break the news to her, she was dumfound after hearing “pregnant” and failed to come to terms with the news for some days. Her immediate thought was calling her boyfriend Enoch, who denied being responsible for the pregnancy since she was a minor and immediately sealed off contact. Nina was running out of options because her mom would soon know. She sought an abortion which Ritah initially repulsed but later agreed to and suggested they go to the local midwife who had helped two of the girls in her group to abort. The midwife suggested that Nina was late and desperate measures had to be taken if the abortion was to occur. At this point Nina was willing to take any option provided it rid her of the unintended pregnancy.

That day, Nina did not just lose a baby, she also lost all hopes of having another baby because her uterus was damaged in the process. Till this day, Nina confesses the daily torment of the screams of that innocent child that she lost. Her story speaks for the 2.5 million adolescents who experience unsafe abortions yearly, with 14% of these happening among teenagers between 15- 19 years in low and middle income countries.

I believe Nina’s story would have been different if someone was bold enough to challenge the ‘sex taboo” and teach her accurate information on sexual reproductive health while she was still younger to make informed decisions when she was older.  Nina’s story speaks for the many girls who endure the trauma of an abortion and its effects because they did not know any better options available to them. This trauma could have been avoided with a comprehensive sex education program or efficient youth friendly services to the many youth who face similar challenges but because no one is ready to listen or offer substantial help end up choosing the dead end.


Access to accurate reproductive health information and youth friendly services is a right to every youth because it is the only way people can make informed decisions about their sexuality well aware of the impact there after.
(Image credit to www.niaje.com, www.straighttalkfoundation.org and www.timeslive.co.za)

Friday, 7 August 2015

SHISHA: AFRICA'S UNTAMED THREAT


Jenny is jolly young girl, about 20 years of age. She is naïve but with a league of friends allover school. Most of the students in school know her for unfading smile. She seems humble even in her jumpy mood. She has been a good girl for a long time. Of late, she is under intense pressure to adopt a new lifestyle because of her new set of “cool” friends. Their hobbies are a little out of her “daddy’s girl” book, they have less interest in academic work but are all about having a good time.

Unlike her usual weekend program of spending time with family, they prefer to meet up and spend time out in bars at night blasting away their money on several drinks and smoking Shisha. She admires their lifestyle and feels it is a more fan life. Soon she starts escaping from home to join in on the fun of smoking all night long with no worries of all her father’s rules clouding over her head.

The new life seems far better than her old “boring” life. Most students esteem her clique as the famous girls who throw the lavish parties. All seems well until her grades start falling and she finds herself in constant need of tobacco so as to concentrate in class or on any assignment. What started out as a smoking experiment has now become a craving that drives her to escape from home on several days in the week to get a taste of tobacco in her body. “I feel a mess,” she confesses with teary eyes.
Young people enjoying a shisha session

Like Jenny, several youth today use shisha often because of its trending and fancy culture. Unfortunately, few of them understand the contents it is composed of.





History of Shisha
Using shisha has been a long sustained custom  among natives of  countries of the middle east like Turkey and India for over 500 years, though it has now spread all over the world. It has various flavors including apple, plum and coconut which make it irresistible not only for the teenagers but for many adults as well. It is also commonly known as goza or hookah in many parts of the world.

How it is made
Pieces of charcoal are placed on top of tobacco, usually separated by an aluminum foil. The smoke generated then bubbles through cooled water in the bowl into the hose and finally to the mouthpiece where it is inhaled and shared among a group of people.


What are the risks?
Contrary to popular beliefs, shisha is more harmful than cigarettes. It contains large amounts of nicotine, 36 times more tar and 15 times more carbon monoxide and heavy metals like lead and nickel generated from the heat sources.The World Health Organization estimates that hookah users may inhale as much smoke during one hookah session, as a cigarette smoker would inhale by consuming 100 or more cigarettes!
Smoking shisha requires longer drags, this drastically increases the amounts of carcinogens inhaled, which escalates the risk of getting lung cancer and heart disease. It also exposes users to infectious diseases like tuberculosis, oral herpes and hepatitis because a mouth piece is constantly shared among numerous people, who in some cases may be strangers who have just met in a bar or club.

What to do it about it?
Shisha consumption is becoming a major challenge because of the many myths portraying it as harmless well scented recreational drug. This propaganda is largely spread by people who sell shisha who in most cases want to increase sells. The tobacco industry manipulates the public by investing in extensive advertisement in the media through music videos and other platforms to attract the youth into a trap of linking Shisha to fancy role models (artists) and lifestyles in order to prompt constant usage. The best way forward is demystifying all the myth surrounding shisha use and sharing it with as many people as possible.

Popular Hip pop icon Drake smoking hookah




Recently the Members of Parliament in Uganda abolished the use of shisha, this shows a growing concern that shisha is posing as viable threat to the general population. In addition, the Tobacco control bill has also been passed to reduce the consumption of tobacco. With these efforts in place, provided the legislators follow through with the guidelines to regulate the use of tobacco, then we could have a dependable solution to one of the greatest threats our youthful generation is faced with.

(Image credit to www.archived.thisisafrica.me, www.globalgrind.com and www.suggestkeyword.com)

Saturday, 1 August 2015

A DAY’S EXPERIENCE OF A HACKATHON FANATIC.


It had been a long three days as several teams groomed ideas to tackle some of the most challenging aspects in accessibility to sexual reproductive health among the youth in the world. The main organisers  of the Hackathon UNFPA, selected diverse teams to encompass participants from all over the world, each with a special skills set including UN staff, health experts, software programmers and engineers and some of Reach A Hand (RAHU) peer educators.

The contestants brainstorming ideas

The groups possessed the strangest names to a lay man but each name stood for a unique bond and aspiration that all group members shared, from “Olympians for Tulumbe (O4T)” to “Hacktivate Youth” to “Put It On.” Each group had a unique idea that aimed at addressing a major youth sexual reproductive challenge through a mobile application. Every group had devised ways to market their app and attract the youth to use it. This involved having a youth friendly user interface and accurate reproductive health information in its most subtle form. Confidentiality was the key ingredient for every app because the youth would never wish to have their secrets shared with a third party.

I spoke to one of the energetic participants, a peer educator from Reach A Hand, Emmanuel Kateregga a.k.a (Stick) as his friends referred to him. I asked him for quick one about his experience at the 2015 Hackathon. With a big smile on his face, he raced through the words as he explained how great his experience had been. “ It has been an exciting and mind blowing experience for me because I have had the opportunity to share ideas with high profile people in a neutral atmosphere. I have met people I never thought I would meet in life,” he exclaimed enthusiastically “My group focused on ending sexual harassment among the youth. Our application, “Safe Pal”contains information about sexual harassment with an action plan to help any youth in case they have been harassed and it offers real time connections to authorities to prompt immediate action. I am positive our idea is brilliant and will save many lives” he concluded.

I moved on to interact with several members from other groups and boy did they have awesome ideas! In my opinion all groups were winners because I have not yet come to terms with the possibility of people creating a mobile app from scratch in just three days but apparently it was a walk over for some groups.

Mr. Ahmad addressing the contestants after the presentations
It was then time for the groups to present their great ideas to panel of judges, who included the UN Secretary General's Envoy on Youth Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) technology expert and research scientist Mr. Kenneth Paik. It was tough race ahead but the teams displayed an unwavering determination. Each group had five minutes to illustrate their idea and show a demo of the application on the screens. One by one the groups presented their ideas as the judges critiqued and challenged them.

We had a short break and our attention was back to the main stage to know which teams had generated the best ideas.  Team “Hackers ASHRICA” was the second runner up and team O4T surfaced first runner up.  With a cloud of tension and high expectations the remaining teams warmed up in waiting for the winner. Finally team “Put It On” emerged as victor with their quiz app "TriGivia." The whole place was absolved in a beam of jubilation as team “Put It On” members marched to the stage to join the other winning teams and immediately set off a dance in celebration.
Team "Put It On" celebrating their victory


After a long day of seeing the potential of the youth in creating reliable strategies for change, I was convinced that the future is bright.  I cannot wait to see what happens in the next Hackathon. 


(Image credit to Mr. Kintu Kenny)

Thursday, 25 June 2015

THE SECRET BEHIND KNOWING YOUR SCORES.

Someone once asked me what my most important possession was,  I told them my brain, it seemed to bother them that I did not choose something tangible or expensive that I could hold onto. Well, this question will surprisingly have far varying answers if a wide range of people were to be asked. Many people around the world seem to believe that their most valuable assets are tangible items that have probably been attained after several months or years of hard work. Hardly do they ever consider themselves as valuable assets to themselves and other people

Growing up, Sam was the ideal student in class, a good friend and confidant to his pals. He always knew the right words to say to everyone to make them feel much better, a quality that won him the favour of so many people around him. He was that “magnet” that attracted everyone around it. He was a multitalented person, with varying skills in different fields of life. He was, as most people could call him, “A Jack of all trades.”



He never imagined that one day, all that could be robbed away from him until he woke up in hospital after a six months coma with no memory of what happened to him. He kept wondering what was going around him but he could not figure out a simple detail of which people surrounded him. The doctor came and told him he had a brain tumor that was spreading fast each day. He had a few years left to live with the rate at which the tumor was growing. He was so torn down that given the excruciating pain he was enduring, death came as reliable companion and escape for his agony. He was advised to enjoy his days because he didn’t have so many left for him to live.

 
For several weeks all he could think about was giving up because he saw no future in pushing forward with life that seemed like a time bomb, ready to explode at any moment. Most of his friends by this time, had already given up on him. For the first time all the words he used to encourage other people now seemed like a joke to him.

A friend visited him and asked him what kind of story he would want to hear if he were to attend his burial. The statement troubled him for several days until he finally decided to step out his house and face life with the little breath he had left. The first few days were full of hurt as most people treated him like a brittle glass that could shatter any time. Fortunately, this did not deter him and he went on ignore the pessimism that lay all around him and decided to dedicate his time to his most loved hobby, helping other people with troubled souls.


Within A few months, what appeared to be a lifeless boy with no hope, had become the pillar of hope to the many children in the neighbor who had lost hope. He constantly reminded himself of the few days that he had left, he realized they would not increase by keeping to himself. He no longer felt that his life had little to offer but believed it was a big blessing to many.


Like Sam, we usually hit the wall in life, weather it is a minor loss, a delayed achievement or even a major setback. During this time we start magnifying our problems through focusing on everything that is going wrong and we forget the many things that are going right.  We occasionally turn to counting other peoples’ scores around us in relation to our own. If they are high then we feel like failures and if they are low then we feel better about ourselves but in reality nothing is changing about our lives. All that ever does to us is to keep us content in a stagnant position where we feel no need for enhancement.

Our struggles are not won overnight and it may take a while before we feel victorious. Everything changes the moment we start seeing our challenges for what they really are instead of what we think they are. This is the most reliable way we can move from a total devastation to the peak of our lives.

 Image credit: (www.flickr.com, www.digitalizuj.me and gabrielsreport.com)

Friday, 5 June 2015

THE HERO IN A MIDWIFE

Every life starts at the time of delivery, regardless of whether one will be a president, a rich business personality, ordinary person with a survival job or even pauper. For a baby to survive its first few hours of life, its survival depends upon the kind of maternal care a mother is given during the birth process. While this would seem an ideal scenario in many parts of the world, many mothers in Uganda never enjoy the benefits of having a skillful and highly trained midwife to guarantee their survival and the life of their newborn child.


At a rate of 20 women dying daily during pregnancy and the labour process, of which 42% of the expecting mothers are young women who usually face a higher risk of birth complications that require the skills of a well-trained midwife to handle. Uganda faces a major crisis that calls for immediate intervention.

The Millennium Development Goal 4 aims at improving child health, including that of newborns, while the Millennium Development Goal 5 aims at improving maternal health. These two global objectives can only be achieved if each country invests enough resources into training more midwives, especially in developing countries like Uganda.

The need for midwives is greater than ever before the nation’s history. Unfortunately, many people have not paid attention to the crucial role midwives play in Uganda. This is largely because of the fact that generally people lack accurate information on the significance of having qualified midwives attend to every expecting mother in the country.

Midwives are trained to support expecting mothers in a wide range of circumstances, including abnormal complications in the delivery process. They work tirelessly every day, 7 days a week and 12 months a year to ensure all the expecting mothers within their reach have safe deliveries. On top of facilitating a safe delivery for a mother, midwives go ahead to assist mothers in breastfeeding in an effort to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child and advise mothers on safe newborn care and family planning services. These remarkable abilities portrayed by midwives are expedited by the intense training they undergo in order to acquire these essential skills.

As the need for midwives increases in Uganda and in the world, a lot has to be done to address this vital deficit. The field of midwifery requires the strength, knowledge and zeal of the young people so as to give it a major boost in terms of man power and efficiency. Midwifery should be branded, not as a stressful occupation for only those that are not academically brilliant though love medical studies, but rather a desirable career path that brings joy as one constantly works towards safeguarding all mothers to enjoy a safe delivery. Men too, have a key role to play by supporting their wives throughout the 9 months of labour till the final day when the baby is delivered. This serves to appreciate both their wives and the midwives who fight hard to sustain the life of their wives and guarantee the birth of the newborn babies.

 The Midwives4All campaign aims at giving every mother the dream of having a safe delivery with a healthy baby through advocating for need for more midwives to ensure every mother  is attended to by a qualified and well trained midwife. Every mother deserves a right to a safe delivery, only a qualified midwife can guarantee that right for every mother.
 (Image credit to www.midwive4all.orgwww.who.int www.huffingtonpost.co.uk and africanwomanmagazine.net)