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)




Thursday, 7 May 2015

THE PRICE OF LOST TIME

It starts when you make a resolution, “this year I am going to be punctual and organized.” You then convince yourself it is the only way you will be productive both at work and in your personal ambitions. You are so determined that you hope to turn a new leaf this year round. You have probably resolved to start by waking up early in hopes of working harder than you used to. The first few days are filled with profuse enthusiasm but soon you notice the fire is burning out slowly as each day goes by. A day comes when your new year’s resolution is more of a myth than a reality.

Time and again we are moved to do something but we always have that interminable voice within us that constantly reminds us, “you still have time, it is not too late”. Another whisper follows in a similar tone, “you have all day to finish just that.” After all some people barely do half the work you do. We then have a “genuine” reason to procrastinate and push our programs further, sleep or chat a little longer because we have all the time in the world. 

We make plans but always overlook them because all the other things that disrupt our schedules are equally important, so we would like to think! We come up with a psychological rationale about how our distractions could contribute to attaining our major goals in the long run. We then start living on borrowed time because we assume everyone does it!  We reschedule our plans daily hoping time will always be on our side whenever we choose to execute our personal goals but the ugly truth is life does not offer the same opportunity twice.

We sit down at the end of a very long day feeling no sense of achievement and wondering why we barely did anything productive despite being incredibly busy. We set out to execute 8 major goals during the day but here we are at the end of the day with barely any goal getting accomplished. We then ask the big question, “What went wrong?”

Most of the time we are fully responsible for the delays in our progress because we focus our time and energy on things that are of less value to us. We spend all day doing everything else but what we are supposed to do. We stay busy doing other peoples’ work but our own.

The habit of procrastination is one that is built over time and yet one that can be eliminated shortly if the right attitude and determination is applied. A person has to realize  that being busy all day does not necessary mean one has been productive  and so they have assess what is going wrong in their plans that prohibits their progress.


Many times people forget to plan their day, and if they do, it is not clearly written down so that one can do strict follow up as the day runs. Making a daily, weekly or monthly program is one way to ensure one prepares for the day. The program has to be well priotised for it to be motivating and rewarding. This can help a person ensure they spend their time on the high value tasks in the day and progress can then be ensured. Above all, the only way to stay ahead of time is to do all you can, in whichever way you can whenever you can to meet your goals before time runs out.

(Image credit to www.barbaraclifford.com.au, www.lifehack.org and www.holyaw.alltop.com) 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A STAND AGAINST XENOPHOBIA



A community that once suffered several years of apartheid where Africans were harshly discriminated against, in the cruelest of ways. All the world posed and turned its eyes upon the wails of the many souls that were diminishing in a blanket of segregation and animosity. It was the struggle and diligent efforts of many extraordinary people like the Late. Nelson Mandela who redeemed the nation from extreme hatred and discrimination to forgiveness, freedom and harmonious co-existence of people of all races. 

After several years of peace and tranquility South Africa is faced with yet another wave of violence attacks that have claimed over 7 lives and displaced many foreign nationals. People have turned their rage and frustration on to the unsuspecting foreign nationals that on many occasions leave their home countries in search of better opportunities and a better life. Xenophobic attacks in South Africa have previously been a major cause of alarm and death of many foreign nationals, with the most recent being the attacks that started in April this year. In May 2008, similar attacks broke out and claimed over 42 lives with over 17000 people displaced. 

The main motive behind the attacks is the belief that foreign nationals are taking away the jobs meant for the natives during a time when South Africa’s unemployment rates stand at about 25%. The big question is “how many South Africans are qualified for the jobs they claim have been robbed from them or how many are they creating?” South Africa is the country with the fifth highest crime rate in the world and many people blame foreign nationals for engaging in crime, but can they possibly commit that much crime when they barely make up 4% of the total population. 

The government has failed to provide reliable solutions to the many jobless South Africans who feel oppressed and has on several occasions undermined the immensity of the xenophobic attacks, while brushing them off as a simple misunderstanding between given settlements, until they attract international attention. The many years of apartheid brutality sowed seeds of hate among South Africans, a reason that could explain why South Africa is a highly violent country. Pivotal community leaders have continued to fuel the revulsion against the foreign nationals with controversial statements that further push the frustrated population to channel their hostility towards the easiest target, who happen to be the foreign nationals. 

It is not too late to change the trends of South Africans attacking fellow Africans. The South African government has a big role to play in restoring peace to the affected communities by ensuring the equal job opportunities for both natives and foreign nationals. South Africans too, have to ensure they acquire the right employability skills to compete favorably on the job market or else they risk staying unemployed because on many occasions the foreign nationals are more educated than they are. Those who participate in malicious acts of violence against foreigners should be prosecuted to reduce the attacks which will also ensure justice for the foreign nationals
This is a tribute to all the people who have lost loved ones or been affected by the Xenophobia attacks in South Africa. #SayNoToXenophobia (Image credit to www.pbs.twimg.com and www.pulse.com.)



Thursday, 9 April 2015

DOES IT SOLVE THE PROBLEM?

Peter is a young man aged 21.  He had been drinking for 3 years straight. It all began when she said she did not love him anymore, he always believed she was the finest person in the world and nothing could compare to her. The sound of her words cut so deep into his flesh that he did not hope anything could heal him. During his sad moments, a friend convinced him to “drink” on his problems. A strategy that had worked so well for him on many occasions. Feeling convinced about the idea, Peter then, confident drinking could help him get over his break up with his longtime girlfriend, started drinking every time he thought of her. Shockingly every time he sobered up, he still felt abandoned, betrayed and lonely.
 
A few months had passed but Peter did not stop drinking. He felt worthless and guilty because most people judged him as a spoilt brat who could not own up to his problems, this only pushed him to drink more every day. He was rarely sober because there was a lot to worry about every time he was not “high”. He felt isolated from his pals so he chose a new set of friends in his neighborhood who occasionally spent their days drinking and smoking because they did not judge him and were always ready to give him his next “fix”. 

While a number of people drink to be merry, other people slowly but surely get sucked into the habit of drinking solely because they are trying to escape a number of problems. It starts with a few bottles in the first days, the thrill eventually kicks in and they are set lose with no worries of what tomorrow brings. The feeling is nothing like the constant worry they go through in an effort to resolve their problems. 

The Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 states that 3.3million deaths were attributed to alcohol consumption in 2012, of which 7.9% were men and 4.0% were women but 61.7% of people 15 years and above had not drunk alcohol in the past 12 months. 

Drinking is on many occasions a negative copying strategy. Many people lack essential life skills that can help them overcome their challenges in a healthy and non- destructive way. Some may fear to confront their problems head on, while others hope drinking will miraculous make their worries disappear. 

Anyone can get a drinking problem at any time because of various reasons but the most important step is knowing the motives for drinking, is it because of recreation or it is an escape route?  Identifying the motive for drinking is vital for one to know what exactly they are dealing with in terms of magnitude and consequence.  In case it is a problem then it gives a clear picture of what is at stake and whether it calls for individual or collective effort to resolve, “a problem shared is a problem solved.” Lastly social support is key when it comes to rehabilitating people that have been dependent on alcohol because they need someone to support and believe in them if they are to make any efforts in transforming their lives.(image credit to www.medlines.org)