No One Asks For It.

Here’s my short note. #MeToo

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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.

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.

Kasese.

This is a totally new experience for me again, well.. not totally new, but somewhat. I am doing some field trips for work and lucky enough for now, I have a big amount of spare time between trips to be a tourist in my country. It is not everyday that you can go east, west, north, south without any worries (read logistics) so I berrah maximize. And I know about the “go and see then come and tell” but I might forget so much; then I remembered this baby of mine, Karen’s. So like the title says, I am in Kasese.

This place is beautiful as I have already told Ninno countless times in one day…do not worry about who Ninno is, but he knows this place a million times better than I do, and maybe again not so much. I will find out. It’s just that it is funny how the people living around tourist attractions have no idea what there is. That is why I always quietly applaud my friend Gerard in Arua for always going on adventures in his own district because it is fascinating. Not many people have time, or the zeal for that matter. Infact he is the reason I am dying to go to Arua some day.

There’s something about mountains I can’t get over. Maybe because I am not living next to them everyday, but still…they’re beautiful. How they overlap each other, like one of them is peeking from behind the other’s back. How they stand in rows of pretty little sharp piles of earth. In my colleague’s words, “it is like someone got earth and was pouring it there in piles” it’s awesome.

I can only imagine the view from atop those hills.. Of the Rwenzori, lakes George and Edward, the Kazinga channel, queen Elizabeth, all in one glance. How wealthy can that opportunity be? A lot of you have probably seen all that, and maybe it is not a big deal anymore. But you have no idea the scores of people that could do so much to be in that moment… It not even a place anymore. It is a moment. A moment of beauty and silence, a moment of fresh air, more rocks and green, less pot-holed tarmac and posters of political candidates in full billboard-like pictures with their coats hooked on their fingers over their shoulders like they’re advertising suits. (I thought that was cool. Hehe).

How do I tell about Kasese and forget our way there? We drove past Fort Portal. See, some of these towns need to be transformed into cities… So the whole country can stop moving into Kampala and maybe we shall have an even distribution of population across the country. Infact, it is now that I can’t believe how congested the city is. You can hardly breath sometimes, because all you will get are exhaust fumes, traffic noise, and dust. You brush against people when you walk, and there’s a sea of matatus that create most of the havock.

Fort Portal left me awed. I kept staring. It is probably one, if not the cleanest towns in Uganda. I looked around for rubbish, but wah. I am told the mayor also takes part in cleaning first thing in the mornings. Eh mama. And there’s space enough to swing your arms when you walk, the buildings are in order and the homes too! You could think the lawns are cut with a pair of scissors; really neat beautiful grass, you would want to touch it. No sound of unnecessary noise. I saw a market and I could swear that if I walked through, no idling men would be grabbing and pulling my arms and hurling s**pid things.
I have yet to see some elephants on my way out tomorrow. And I know I have not yet seen breathtaking if I haven’t been to Kisoro and Kabale.

I am still telling. Just wait here.