No One Asks For It.

Here’s my short note. #MeToo

Advertisements

I went to work today (i wrote this on Friday). My work station really is basically in the field, with people pretty much all ages; babies in class, to the old man sitting in his administrative office. My basic dress code is just that. Basic. You will occasionally find me wearing a t-shirt or a blouse that’s usually loose fitting, and jeans, usually loose fitting as well, save for some rare instances. I am talking about my clothing because a lot of people attribute sexual harassment to dress code.

This particular male teacher whose program I really had to interrupt because i am permanently scheduled, kept going on about how he “appreciates” my smartness. He said it almost 50 times, much to the bemusement of an older female teacher. The tone with which he used, is what got me frowning rather than taking the compliment. He also kept on referring to me as “ka girl” regardless of the fact that we could be the same age. I low-key did not feel respected but i let it slide.

“i have appreciated the ka girl. I have appreciated her smartness, this ka girl” (repeat 10 times)

Now i am not being modest. There’s nothing on me that made me specially “smart”. Some teachers looked nicer than me. I was only wearing some kind of lipstick(although it’s a dull colour) that stood me out from the teachers around me.

I’m just saying the guy was weirdly overreaching with his compliments. I’m also just saying that if I wasn’t amidst other teachers, and by myself, he probably could have said weird(er) things that I’d have lashed out back at him before taking the matter to his head teacher. I know it because I can tell. I mean, the other day a person who met me once, that I’m supervising, just started to call me baby like he was entitled, so he could have his way. I went up in flames.

NO ONE

Sexual harassment is as real as it gets. Forget the downtown groping, that’s another one…it’s worse that in the places we think we’re “supposed” to feel safe, it’s done in the most subtle ways that leave you holding your shoulders in, with discomfort. We now have to look out for ourselves EVERYWHERE we are, and happen to go.

I’m just saying we ALL have a story.

I’m sure these things happen to men too. And i guess it’s harder for them to come out. I just want to say that regardless of what’s going on, as we keep our guards up to stand up for ourselves, we can be each other’s strength. People that have been through worse, been violated, been robbed of innocence, could use your shoulders and ears.

Listen to, love, and protect your neighbour. 

Yours,

Diamante.

My little friends in Kibuli – #Dream4040 

Maybe one day, very soon, i will share a bigger story, but today, this is my short one;
I grew up in a peri-urban environment. Every adult,including mine, was on a quest for survival. Every child, including myself, was looking up to the adult, hoping for a better childhood. A better life. 

It didn’t turn out so bad for myself. I have ordinary humans to thank for that. Humans who wouldn’t have cared less! 

But most of all. God. 

4000 children in the slums of Kibuli have the chance to have what i did not have. I have seen them, known them, and they need this more than I did then. We can be the ordinary humans who couldn’t have cared, but we did. We took the matter into our own hands and brought hope to our learned, innovative and exceptional friends in the future. 

With your help,  40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation will build a Learning Centre in Kibuli, a Kampala city suburb, providing free access to books, computers and a space for skills development for in and out-of-school children living in the slum.

We can give 4000 children, 4000 stories to tell today and tomorrow.

Click here  to learn more and donate! We have 9 days left to do this. 🙏

Just-ice cold hearts?

“To Mob the guilty and Mop the blood of the innocent.”

And just like that, is how another child has to painfully respond to their friends or a concerned adult at a particular point in life, that they didn’t grow up with a father because well… we decided to take matters into our own hands in the very literal sense that it is. We will also lose a friend, a brother, a neighbour, a husband, acquaintance and all form of relation; but even then, it will hurt. It will be a painful confusion of WHY.

Sometimes, maybe not why; but HOW it is that a human out there had a rush of excitement with blood rushing and gushing through their veins to cause the death of another man with their own hands, not out of defense or protection but rather out of the sheer “excitement” of it. Maybe they’ve suffered in the hands of  a criminal themselves; they’ve been a victim of malice, robbery, and the many other kinds of evil humans do to each other on a daily. None of that justifies an angry mob’s gruesome act of “justice” for their past, present and future losses. 

I guess people can judge all they want; heck we all silently judge passersby every now and then, but it is not in order for a responsible (or not?) civilian to punish another for crimes that the law has been written for. Whether the law plays its part is another story for another day, surely, because a few months ago i witnessed the police stand aside as boda-boda men and a Pajero owner (of responsible citizens ey?) quenched their thirst for violence by stoning and breaking every limb on a young man’s body. The Police, your saviours, watched. I was dumbstruck. Are they tired? The heck? But again, not today, Karen.

So I also reached out to a few friends on the matter, just so i could share more than my words, and they were glad to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences;

“I cannot pronounce myself on Mob justice. Crowds often find that due to the incompetence of the Police they should take justice into their own hands and deal with matters once and for all without the judicial red tape.

What crowds never do though, is think.

In that moment of madness, they never think about the consequence of what they are doing. They never think to ask who it is they are exacting judgement upon. They never think to find out why the judgement is being exacted.

I know of a story of man who used to visit his brother’s shop once in a while in Nansana. On one fateful day he got there in a taxi but had no change. He told the conductor he was going to the boda stage to get some change and when he got there and gave one of the boda men his 50,000 shilling note, the boda man started shouting “mubbi! mubbi!” – “thief! thief!” and in a matter of minutes he had been rained on to death. But before he died he had been shouting and pleading, asking the crowd to go his brother’s shop and ask his brother to confirm that he knew him and wasn’t a thief. His brother hadn’t yet opened his shop but had heard the commotion. When he got there, albeit too late, his brother had already been killed by the crowd.

Mob justice is absolute and the problem with its absolute manner is it depends on bits and pieces of information and never really knows the truth.

Personally, lifting a stone to cast upon someone accused of a crime (someone I do not even know) is something I am afraid of. Killing makes me shiver.” – Joel Ntwatwa (@nevender)

“The word justice can be defined as just behavior or treatment. In society’s context, this behaviour is usually agreed upon by a majority and set as the governing rules of the land. Consequently, the treatment of the offenders that break the rules is also catered for in the very same breath, thereby leaving no room for poorly-thought-out action.

That’s until a thief or defiler is caught and everybody (including you and I) loses their minds!

What happens when you see that thief is remember all your hard-earned belongings that have been stolen/conned/grabbed/burgled from you. You no longer see a person that broke the law you agreed to institute. You see the loss you’ve suffered – loss with no vengeance. You see the selfishness of the world about to be handed to the system that you don’t trust to dispense fair justice. You are reminded of your personal pain, that nobody else can feel, until now, because now you pick up a stone!

Mob justice, much like smoking, drinking, masturbation, buying a prostitute is a quick temporary relief from life’s aches. It’s a pain-killer when what I (know I) need is to see a doctor and get proper medical attention. It’s an itch to put myself first that I have accepted. And, by the way, it doesn’t start with seeing a thief who’s been caught.

Mob justice starts in my mind, when a random car splashes sewage water on me while I wait under the rain for a taxi to get to an interview. It starts in my heart when the LC Chairman asks me for 10k to stamp my letter, with no explanation as to where the money’s going, and no receipt for my payment. Mob justice starts in my home when we’re watching the news and a new government scandal is being aired and analysed yet the people behind it remain untouched.

Do you know how long it would take an angry crowd to convince you to stone a thief with them? Too much time! That’s why, when you join the crowd, you don’t join with their conviction/ache/vision, you join with yours. You crucify a fellow man because he is a ready conduit for you to vent your frustration with life.” – Boyd Migisha (@b40deep) 

“I believe mob justice feels right! …but it actually is wrong. I think that people who carry it out feel justified and feel gratified only temporarily, but in the end they feel bad for the act. So really even in a fallen state or world, the mass madness can seem suitable but it helps no one and just affects everyone; especially when i think about the images the kids might see, the callas cold hearts that grow when the older people see the act and grow to become inert to the grim and gruesomeness of it.

But mostly all this pales in comparison to the possibility of innocence; To Mob The Guilty and Mop The Blood Of The Innocent. Being as they aren’t guilty till tried, but also because sometimes they are victims of a con by wiser rascals.” – Wafula JohnMark (@ugxfiles)

“Mob justice feels like the best possible option in the moment to whoever is carrying it out. They are the judge, jury and executioner at the same time. Judgment is definitely blurred here and wrong decisions are always made. The victims never get to be heard. Mob justice should never be carried out in any society” – Ninno Jack Jr (@NinnoJackJr)

“Mob justice is insane…it deprives the person in question the right to ably defend themselves. I would never participate in it. How would I live with the guilt of having summarily stoned or clobbered someone innocent?” – Paul Kasami (@PaulKasami)

“I’m not for it. I don’t think anyone should take the law into their own hands. Sometimes people kill someone for something as small as a chicken. Other times the crime is horrific but it’s better for someone to be judged and punished accordingly. I’ve had a guy steal from me in a taxi, and I just asked for my mp3 player back. He told me I’ll go to heaven (laughs).” – Yusuf Mago (@MagoMcAw)

“I could say Mob justice is lately on the rise due to technology, because it claims to connect us yet it’s not done better. It’s more of an anti-social network. People watch lots of violence and resort to practicing it and the news is full of violence too. People don’t have the patience to talk to each other but instead rush to practice what they see. So basically in my view, I would connect mob justice with technology.” – Malaika Tabby

“I feel no one deserves the kind of torture and prejudice that befalls them as a result of mob Justice.  Sometimes, and if so most times, the victim needs to be heard and judged with righteousness before any course of action is taken. Yes, at times the alleged perpetrators could deserve that and worse but it’s outrightly not a fine vice to execute.” – Pius Enywaru (@penywaru)

“Would I want it to be done to me? No. The Bible says in Matthew 7:12, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets.” If every time I sinned regardless of the gravity of the sin, I would need to be saved. I’d want love. I hope we can reach a place where love is a choice even when it hurts.” – Faith Edigold (@Owaa_Monday)

Amen.

Ghost relatives in the Middle East.

Long story short, it was December 2015 when Bridget finally flew to Oman…

Bridget was her name, she was about 18 going to 19, a child according to the Ugandan law. We had met a few times because she was a cousin to John, a former workmate who she visited every now and then at work. Bridget was orphaned when she was little and her mother struggled to raise her and her siblings single-handedly. Consequently like many Ugandan girls, she had to drop out of school because of poverty. Neither literacy nor numeracy was her strong points, at least that’s the deduction I made from the conversations we had on those few occasions. English comprehension wasn’t her forte but as I tried to talk her out of going to Oman, I really hoped she’d understand.

Hitherto that she’d told of this exciting opportunity John had found for her on the Internet. Everything she explained was too good to be true; a good paying job as a domestic servant, no travel or visa costs and then expeditious handling of her travel plans. Of course, being as cautious as they come, I conducted due diligence on this God sent agency. A website with insufficient information, a fictitious address and to top it, shared the name and branding of a renowned human resource agency overseas.  It then dawned on me that the agency was a possible trafficking scheme.

In a lengthy conversation later that day I explained my fears to both John and Bridget.  I explained to John specifically about the role he’d played in selling this child and the consequences on the Prevention of Trafficking Person act because together with her mother, they’d bought into the juicy idea and could take no advice to cancel plans as the adults. For Bridget, I tried to explain the plight of many Ugandan domestic workers abroad in the middle east especially. But that did not faze her, no amount of video or newspaper reports changed her mind.

John took my advice but his aunt and cousin, not so much and now John appeared like one sabotaging a good future for the teenager now that it was seemingly real. He had become the enemy of progress. Bridget would be a maid, take care of rich old people and send her mum the killing she’d made, or so they thought. I cautioned her, told her of how traffickers confiscate passports and phones and that she should be careful and survive at whatever cost and look for a way to contact home while planning an escape from whoever had enslaved her in case the need arose.

Long story short, it was December 2015 when Bridget finally flew to Oman with the encouragement from her mother without informing anyone. It is a year and 4 months now and nobody, not even her mother, has heard from her. Our fears are yet to be confirmed but we only hope she’ll live to come back home someday. This is probably a story you’ve heard a thousand-fold. But yes, we now join the many other families that are waiting for their children, husbands and wives, if not rich like they’d hoped, but at least alive.

Just a couple of weeks ago, news broke out of 4 young women from Kampala who were rescued in Tororo after the Police were tipped off by hotel management; they would soon be crossing the Malaba border to Kenya to catch their flight to Oman. None of that made me sleep better, because more girls had probably crossed over a few days ago, and more still did a few days later. It doesn’t stop. I am now pretty sure that’s what happened to Bridget. Kenya now provides a quick and more insidious manner for trafficking.

I do not know if it is our ignorance or something worse; because these recruitment companies are obviously trafficking. Even I could tell that this company was shady. What of the police who undergo vigorous training, aren’t they able to discern and pick out these wrong characters? I sometimes wonder to myself, am sure other citizens have carried the same thoughts; “if I were the police, I would just go over right that moment, arrest them, lock them up and close these life-threatening agencies.  I mean, these unlicensed agencies are right here under our noses; they’re not even hiding!

It keeps getting worse, I say. These adverts not only (boldly) run on our national television stations, but also on the streets printed on A4 sheets complete with contacts. It is easy to think that security would call these numbers undercover and close more agencies the next day but well… what do we know?

I am just saddened that at that time with all my suspicions, I did not tip off the police; maybe the agency could have been closed, and a lot of girls saved. (I am however told that these unlicensed agencies have mastered their art of survival, and that is why they boldly advertise on TV without coming to any harm. I do not want to think about how they do it.)

What is not being done right? From recent stories, a number of women and men have been assisted by the police to come back home; but is that the primary place we should be looking? Should we not focus on who is taking them away while they’re still strong, healthy but naïve young people instead of how to rescue them from the Middle East after they’re battered and weak from ALL kinds of enslavement?

In a Ministry of Internal Affairs’ 2013 annual report on the trend of trafficking in persons in Uganda that was published in February 2014, among the national interventions to combat trafficking was to form working groups in stakeholder ministries, departments and agencies on trafficking in persons, which by the end of the year were formed but lacked institutional support. I guess in simple English it just means that not enough work is being done. On top of that, “…a total of 8 capacity building workshops were held with a total of 350 stakeholder members trained…” all in regards to practical investigation techniques among others.

All the above are great initiatives. But if only we could start with the simple exercise of just visiting these offices that don’t care to stand out in the city and closing all that are unlicensed, we would have fewer victims to rescue with time. Most of the victims are young men and women who are only comfortable expressing themselves in local dialects, I, therefore, think that an advert should run on every local TV station depicting a brief Trafficking experience to create awareness of the vice and ways to avert it.

Featured Image: http://www.ungift.org/images/ungift/about_ungift/africa4.jpg

The Green Slum Project

I wore all black, with a cap, even though the sun was blazing hot. Well, the sun has never been cooler. The weather was roasting hot and as dusty as could be in Nansana, a municipality of Wakiso district. I was looking for Kabumbi, also known as the Green Slum as it’s a one of a kind slum surrounded with a lot of green; mostly trees. I was going to meet a young man called “Woria”, the proprietor of Nansana Stop The Violence Movement. He goes by the name of Tente Joseph. Woria is a stage name that he picked up as a hip hop (Bboy) dancer. I walked with him to the project area, sat on a bench in a shade and we had a long chat.

As i might have earlier mentioned, the project at the Green Slum is called the “Nansana Stop The Violence Movement”. It is a small non-profit project under the hip-hop community in Uganda which is fast growing in the background.
There are quite a number of hip-hop projects budding in different communities and this is just one out of many. The element of hip-hop is being used to spread peace, unity and love and hope in various communities and at the same time equipping young people with life skills to lead productive lives. That children in disadvantaged (or otherwise) situations will find an alternative for violence, theft and other conditions, where they meet up with other kids to learn hip-hop, dance, music and emceeing. This is so that they’re able to express themselves in the things they believe in and those that have affected them.

The children and teenagers are taught above all, to share knowledge. The projects thus come up in a way that a young person learns the elements of hip-hop and life skills and on seeing the need in his/her community, they then move back to set up their own where they host children and teenagers in one place to teach and impart the skills learnt, that their issues might somehow be addressed.
This is also how Woria started the Nansana Stop The Violence Project.

It begun on the 23rd November 2015. Although it is a hip-hop founded project, it mainly focuses on stopping violence in the area of Nansana where the children come from. Woria said he drew inspiration from an incident that saw his friend killed after he had been beaten for stealing a few things; he admits that his friend was quite the gangster.

He believed that his friend could have turned out differently had he been under the right influences. He hoped that he could do his part in nurturing the children in his community to avoid any kind of risky behavior in the near future and for them to grow up to be responsible citizens through music, dance and life skills.

Woria passionately stressed the issues affecting the children in Kabumbi saying that on top of the environment being chaotic, children as young as 10 years old would become thieves as others would lose interest in going to school but instead look for scrap to sell, whilst their parents hardly cared for their wellbeing.

He said that the project helps to bring up these children better, they find clothes for them, with encouragement, while putting their minds off the troubles in their homes. He meets the children every evening at 4pm. But above all things hip-hop, he says the children learn discipline, respect for elders, art and craft, English, to believe in themselves and most of all to love God.

So far, parents are happy with Woria and even though the project has close to 100 kids coming in, he says 27 of them are sent directly by their parents who have registered a positive change in their children.

So being the passionate volunteer of my knowledge on leadership, life skills and project management, I was wondering what I’d do with it come 2017 besides taking it to an office or field every morning with a possible salary at the end of the month; I decided I’d find a project I could be part of in my free time (thankfully being a hip-hop dancer too, I’d blend in with the kids.)

I pledged to Woria that I’d visit once a week or twice every month for a couple of hours to share with the children as much as I can as they’re dangerously limited on knowledge. I’d also help to think about and build an Income Generating Activity of their own so they can educate a couple of kids at a time as most are challenged by school fees; so in the end, his project would be self sustainable as opposed to his current situation of looking for funding.

Woria is doing a great job as are so many others that have put up these dance projects in their communities to provide a safe space for the less fortunate.
I toast to them!

Image: pinterest.com

PS: I’ll do better next time, and post pictures 🙂

Day Of The Girl.

“They should get informal education, where they stay home.”

girl-child-day

“Girls are not supposed to learn.”
I turned around to see who it is that was speaking. It was one of the students at the school a couple of friends and i had gone to carry out some reach out sessions.
The young man who must have been about 17, had been standing outside the classroom just like I was with all the others, preparing to go out for a street march while also looking at the “LET GIRLS LEARN” banners that had been put up.

You see, there are days when you could go on and on about the things that are important, that matter to you, and then there are days when those same things just put a gape on your face, getting you dumbstruck. At a loss for words because at that point, you look at what is around you and you know in that instant that you have to think hard for what to tell this young mind, putting across your point in the shortest time possible.

“Why do you say that?” I asked, rather composed with an encouraging smile on my face.

“Aaah that’s what I think.”

“But what makes you think so? Are the girls not contributing in class?”

“Girls should stay home.”

“And you have no reason why…?”

He kept a shy smile the whole time, which puzzled me.

“They should get informal education, where they stay home.”

“So you’re saying this education is not helpful to them?”

He smiles.

“Do you have sisters?”

He nodded.

“And they go to school. Right? ”

“Yes. But they are not supposed to.”

“Would you ever let your girl children go to school?”

“No.”

girl-day

At this point, I was getting nowhere with that conversation. I got down to business and told him about education for everyone and why he should not think such thoughts because of what he might have witnessed in his youth.

I started to think about the danger we are still in if even a young man in the outskirts of Kampala still believes that educating girls is a waste of time and money.
These thoughts stem from the communities these young people come from. Communities where girls’ youth is cut short when she is married off, or when the living conditions and cultural norms have pushed her into the arms of a deceitful older man.

In that case, we have and are doing our best to support their education materially or with skills that give them a hope that they will get through their youth unhindered, whether their parents  can afford school or not.

An agitated headmaster in Moroto once complained, when my team visited, that nothing changes even when we keep coming to talk and talk. The girls stop studying in P7. And there’s not much they can do, he said.
Sometimes an older man comes and points out a girl he would like to marry soon. And he says he can only do as much… because the parents have no problem with it either.

He left us thinking that even as we continue talking to the girls, let’s also groom these young men to understand that everyone has a right to education, and that marriage or getting a girl pregnant because he gave her some nice things, will alter her education and a chance to a beautiful future full of hopes and dreams.

Maybe they can grow to outlive their societal and cultural norms.

#LetGirlsLearn
#DayOfTheGirl16
#InternationalDayOfTheGirl.
#11Oct.

Of Sad Stories 1 – Prologue.

….that was real sweet Nicholas Sparks, real sweet.

Date check: Sunday 26th June 2016. I am under house arrest for a few days in an unknown location; not as if secret, but well, i haven’t mentioned where i am yet otherwise I could easily be found if one wanted to. Don’t ask me for details but just so you know, if I were discovered by a certain group of people, my near future would come crumbling down in uncollectable debris or like the murderous mudslides of Bududa. Not like a joke.
Like most people my age, this is the most critical time of my life when I am most concerned about what happens tomorrow at my desk, while on duty, etcetera because it basically makes me who i will be “tomorrow”.

Anyhow, I can’t sleep in, or I’d feel like a lazy bum. So i reach over my bed to find my phone that spent all night plugged into the socket to recharge. I winced at the thought of the pain it must have felt; being force-fed beyond what it could take. I knew deep down that one day it would completely resent me, stop feeding, and eventually leave me for 6 feet under. I wouldn’t weep, but take a deep breath and start the long holiday from the noisy pop-up notifications.
I digress.

When I find my phone, i pick up from where I left off the last time I read. Now, i am reading books using my phone; i will tell you how I got them in the story next, they’re over 30. I haven’t got into the habit of buying books yet, (but my children gon get served books for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Granted) and having my temporarily-owned computer crashed, phone’s in handy. So don’t be thinking i am addicted to social media when I’m looking down at my phone all day. And away from people…ambivert alert.

I begin to read for a while, and the book prematurely comes to its end. Yes. It actually leaves me hanging but i am thinking that maybe there was nothing more left to do. Landon loved with all his heart, Jamie lived with all that she was and there was nothing Hegbert or I, could do if not further the already sad situation. Although, i must say that was real sweet Nicholas Sparks, real sweet.

The hunger pangs have kicked in. This is the worst possible moment of being under house arrest, i tell you. I finally find breakfast, a very awkward breakfast… Even spinsters live better than I do sometimes.
Between the weird breakfast, i was writing this post, about what kind of book(s) i have just read and why i love reading them…