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Health in Uganda – Showcase

The importance of achieving universal health goals cannot be over stated 

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Aids fight: New approaches needed to reduce scourge

By Kaviri Ali

Uganda is often cited as a rare example of success in a continent facing a severe HIV/Aids crisis. The country is seen as having implemented a well-timed and successful HIV/Aids prevention campaign, which has been credited with helping to bring the prevalence rate from around 15 per cent in the early 1990s down to around 5 per cent in 2001.

Sadly, Uganda is at an important crossroad in her nearly 30-year long struggle with the HIV/Aids epidemic and prevalence has increased, especially amongst the young people who constitute over 70 per cent of the population. After a dramatic reduction in HIV occurrence, following an early comprehensive HIV/Aids prevention campaign, there is evidence that the number of people living with HIV in the country is on the increase and majorities are youth.

The reasons for this increase have been attributed to the government’s shift towards abstinence – only prevention programmes – a general complacency or ‘Aids fatigue’ and a suggestion that Anti-retroviral drugs have changed the perception of HIV/Aids from a death sentence to a treatable, manageable disease.

The epidemic is also a gender issue because it affects men and women differently. The prevalence rates are higher among women with young women being at a greater risk of contagion. Young girls are more vulnerable to HIV/Aids because of intergenerational sex, discrimination, sexual violence, cultural beliefs and limited access to information.

In Africa, women’s vulnerability to HIV/Aids is rooted in the existing strong gender inequalities in the distribution of resources, which leaves women economically dependent on their male sexual partners and hence lack of control over their sexuality and fertility which renders them vulnerable to poverty, violence and sexual coercion.

HIV/Aids has claimed many lives as a result of limited sensitisation, limited knowledge about prevention, limited access to health services and stigma; which have all obstructed many from accessing treatment. Many people have been involved in careless sexual relationships; extra-marital relations and premarital sex.

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Involve rural youth in agriculture

By Ali Kaviri

More than 80 per cent of Uganda’s labour force is in agriculture. However, youth engagement in the sector remains low even with high unemployment, a factor often backed up with a common perception that youth dislike agriculture, and do not see it as a viable venture. Whereas that may be partly true, the sector faces an uphill battle in its quest to modernise.

Though agriculture is said to be the backbone of Uganda’s economy, there is little investment in the sector. Farmers still practice rudimentary farming methods, use outdated tools and equipment. The youth, especially those who may want to engage in farming, have limited access to land, lack financial services to counter agricultural risks in addition to having limited access to post-harvest information.
While the government has extensively applied a range of policies to promote agriculture, many of the policies and strategies have failed to reflect the needs of youth. Consultations are often held in urban centres, which often exclude uneducated, rural and poor youth. There is also lack of comprehensive data on rural youth as a distinct group, resulting in policies that do not respond to the real challenges faced by the rural youth.

Therefore, in order to promote youth participation in agriculture, value addition and agriculture extension services should be prioritised and invested countrywide to attract more young people into the sector.
For better understanding of challenges in the agricultural sector, data should be aggregated according to age, sex and geographical location. The aspirations, needs and concerns of young people should also be taken into account. Additionally, the budget allocation to agriculture sector should be increased and more resources channelled to local government levels where rural youth reside.

Furthermore, advocacy campaigns targeting local authorities on land use is crucial. Similarly, loans are also necessary to enable youth access to land and providing low cost insurance products to cushion them against shocks from fluctuating prices and weather conditions, including natural calamities such as floods.
Rural youth should be supported to actively participate in policy dialogues on agriculture as the country looks for the best alternatives to curb high youth unemployment.
Ali Kaviri,
Uganda Youth Network

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Empower young women to be advocates of change

By Ali Kaviri

Looking at Uganda’s population, the section of women in leadership is far lower than that of men. In terms of political representation, men occupy most of the mainstream seats in Parliament and at local council levels while most women are elected on the basis of affirmative action policy. This takes women as marginalised group of society. For instance, in 2011 general elections out of the 1,269 candidates nominated for the directly elected seats in Parliament, only 46 were women accounting for 3.62 per cent whereas the men were 1,223 accounting for 96.38per cent.
The situation at work places is not different because most top jobs are still being occupied by men due to a fixed false belief that women are incapable. In some homes, women are still seen as kitchen wives who are incapable of even managing financial resources of the home. Many cultures take women as irresponsible and a promiscuous part of society without questioning the adulterous and uncivilised behaviour of some men.

In such an environment which is highly patriarchal, many have internalised male norms and values. Influencing public policies from a gender perspective has become a daunting task for women legislators. Those who may be willing to take up leadership positions have been impoverished by the cultural wing of society that believes that women are only meant to do the production, whereas the management of the finances is left to the men.

In the above light, empowerment of young women is crucial for the achievement of social justice. They need to be empowered socially, economically and politically. There is need to increase access to information for women and young leaders to become advocates of change. An informed woman will lead to an informed society. Access to information is a powerful tool for influencing change.

Additionally, young women and men need to be mentored for social change. In addition to strengthening the capacities of women and youth in decision making and advancing issues of gender equality in the political arena, we also need to nurture feminist visions and values among young people who will come into public institutions with “a critical eye” especially on societal pressing issues such as social injustices and gender inequalities.
And more importantly, we need to begin empowering women from childhood by instilling in them concepts of leadership, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, effective interpersonal communication and public speaking among others.
It is only by infusing transformative leadership skills and knowledge as aforementioned into youth’s overall leadership through mentorship that the realisation of social change will be attained.

Ali Kaviri, akaviri@dotrust.org

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Canadian company to support young innovators

By Jeff Andrew Lule, Henry Sekanjako

The program targets only young social innovators with ideas which can be develop into solutions to their community problems.

The one month program which kicked off at the Information Communication Technology (ICT) ministry is funded by the Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT), a Canadian company and coordinated by Youth Equality Centre (YEC).

The program targets only young social innovators with ideas which can be develop into solutions to their community problems.

Under the program, the youth are given online training, market research and computer skills, business and leadership skills, and also trained on how to develop an idea to attract funders among others.

Pascal Ojijjo, a facilitator from the DOT, said many graduates have good ideas but lack the required skills and motivation to develop them.

He also stressed that on many occasions, graduates lack a sense of direction on what should be done unlike semi illiterate youth.

“Many educated youth never focus on one thing to develop it, and it is the reason why many fail in life. Educated youth do more than one thing and end up gaining nothing but semi illiterates succeed in what they do because they focus on one thing and give it time to grow. That is why many standout in what they do,” he said.

He also stressed that others have great ideas, but lack support to develop them.

“That’s why Government needs to set aside a special fund to always support the young social innovators. They also need to be given other business skills to manage their ideas to grow bigger,” Ojijjo noted.

He asked graduates to always pick “that one route of passion” and run it to the finishing line than taking many routes and lose all.

“At least you can always take on another route if the other fails totally. But you will never succeed if you take on many things because your energies and mind not be settled,” he said.

The YEC team leader, Ali Kaviri said 500 youth submitted their applications with their elaborate concepts but only 30 outstanding young innovators were selected for the program.

“We are limited with funds; but this shows many youth have unique ideas which can contribute to the development of the country. They only need support,” he said.

Kaviri said the youth are also taught how to persuasively pitch their ideas to get grants and source for funding.

At the end of the training, the youth will be taken for a global conference with other innovators to share ideas and network in Kenya. They will also be given a grant.

Hebert Murungi 26, from Kyenjojo,  a graduate in environmental science, said he has learnt to how to use online to look for funds to boost his biogas business.

“We are dealing in biogas but we want to make it accessible to all people. But with this training we now have an on how to do it,” he added.

Stella Tabala, 23, from Busitema University, said she innovated a wearable alert device but ended at a prototype. “Now I am going to use the digital skills to get a sponsor to support my idea into a consumable product,” he added.

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Promote Sex Education To Avert Teenage Pregnancy

By Ali Kaviri
True we are living in a fast-changing
world in which attitudes towards sexuality and procreation are evolving by the day, a situation in which globally 20,000 girls below the age of 18 are reported to give birth daily, according to the State of the World Population Report 2013.

Uganda is an extremely youthful nation with 48% comprising of young people less than 15 years of age. Coupled with a higher birth rate, the country has the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Africa standing at 24%. Global studies estimate that about 70,000 adolescent girls continue to die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth whilst many who survive days of obstructed labour end up with complications like obstetrics fistulas.
 Cited causes of teenage pregnancy in Uganda are linked to early sexual exposure for girls, forced child marriages, coerced first sexual intercourse, family situations for the adolescent girls, and limited access to sexuality education and reproductive health services.

A recent study by UNFPA indicates that 49% of Ugandan girls are married off before their 18th birthday, a factor that contravenes the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda which consents marriage at the age of 18.

Other factors include inadequate life and livelihood skills especially assertive and avoidance skills, older men taking advantage of young girls, poor parenting styles and limited educative media reaching out to vulnerable communities.

Teenage pregnancy is further exacerbated by the cultural beliefs and social stigma related to teenage pregnancies in which most, if not all, schools in Uganda discontinue teenage girls from continuing with education, as soon as they establish that the girl is pregnant.

Many students also rely heavily on self-education from peers without adequate and professional guidance and counselling on sex education.

Further still, sexual and reproductive health programmes provided in some cases also tend to ignore the social, cultural and economic factors that prevent young people from making healthy decisions and that contribute to their vulnerability to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes including exposure to HIV, sexual violence and unsafe pregnancies.

Resultantly, many adolescents end up lacking assistance in sexual decision making skills and those with limited connection to their families and schools are ensuing into increased risky sexual activities, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and even death due to maternal-related complications.

Teenage pregnancy hence has been bled by attitudes, several myths and misconceptions among teenagers as well as general complacency that surround sexuality amongst most communities in rural Uganda.

In light of this, if we are to address this hitch, there is a need to have a compressive sexual education culturally, socially and in politically acceptable ways streamlined within existing institutions such as schools, homes and churches alike.

This will begin to change the rigid mindset among adolescent gate keepers including parents, teachers, the community and religious leaders who still think sexual and reproductive information is not age appropriate for adolescents.

We also need to begin instilling in adolescents right from childhood concepts of leadership, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.

This will go a long way in empowering them in decision making processes so that they make informed and responsible life choices such as delaying sex.

Irrefutably, adolescent stage marks a critical time of development in someone’s life. It is a period of dramatic physical, cognitive, hormonal and social changes that occur in our bodies, which ultimately translates into one’s identity and personality.

Targeting them at an early stage will consequently make teenagers delay sex and child bearing as well as live healthier and productive lives to their fullest potential.

Adolescent premarital pregnancies, childbearing and teenage mortality rate is a cornerstone obstacle and a community concern and for that reason remains a major social, health, financial and economic sabotage in Uganda, which all of us must vividly fight.

The writer is a youth leader

kvrali.harrison@gmail.com

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Civil Society activists call for people-centered budget

Budget – Participants from civil society groups, academia, and ordinary Ugandans from various parts of the country have called for a more people-centered national budget.

The call was made during a conference on the 2019/2020 national budget which was organized by the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) at Hotel Africana.

Patricia Munaaba from FOWEDE expressed concern about sectors that serve majority Ugandans, like health, education, and agriculture, being allocated underfunded in the national budget.

Munaaba said it was FOWEDE that sponsored Isaac Musumba to draft and have the Budget Act passed; which she said has greatly promoted transparency in the allocation of resources in the national budget.

Munaaba argued that whereas there is transparency in the budgeting process, government needs to put more resources which can improve the lives of Ugandans.

Ali Kaviri, the team leader of Youth Equality Centre expressed disappointment that government has not done enough to undertake more practical measures for addressing the high rate of unemployment and poverty among the youth.

“The Youth Livelihood project is only benefiting a few youth who are politically connected. There is even a proposal to have State House takeover the funds, and that worries us because it will make the project more political,” Kaviri stated.

Alfred Mutebi, an ordinary citizen from Lyantonde blamed the ministers and MPs for budgeting for themselves to get exorbitant salaries and forget about majority of civil servants who are paid meager salaries.

The head of Budget Monitoring and Evaluation from the ministry of finance urged the civil society, legislators, and citizens to be more vigilant to ensure that government officials don’t inflate costs for government projects.

“Government officials in various entities are always inflating costs for projects for their personal aggrandizement. Costs of infrastructure projects are higher than they ought to be.

“If we could reduce the cost of constructing each kilometer of a road, we would save money which would go to the health sector,” Kakande passionately stated.

Citing various structures that are constructed and they collapse, Kakande argued that as a country, we have failed to fight corruption, and this is hampering service delivery.

Kigulu South MP Andrew Kaluya stated that whereas the country has been peaceful for over 30 years, little progress has been made in the economic empowerment of Ugandans.

“We need to step up the fight against corruption. There is corruption in politics and all other sectors. Uganda cannot develop economically if we don’t successfully fight corruption.

Government has been just changing the name for poverty alleviation from Entandikwa to Bonna Bagaggawale and Operation Wealth Creation but the program is the same and it has failed. It has failed because it is politically motivated and always comes at the time when general elections are approaching,” Kaluya argued.

Makerere University lecturer Fred Muhumuza expressed concern that the country is now spending the biggest percentage of the government revenue collection on debt repayment other than service delivery, which he said doesn’t make economic sense.

In the 2018/2019 national budget, over sh9.6t was allocated to debt repayment. The allocation for debt repayment was about 65% of the sh16.4t the government planned to collect in the course of the financial year.

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A man in the struggle for women’s rights

If a man lost his tooth fighting for his shirt, that might be understandable, and many will possibly come to his defense. Men put on shirts and that’s his shirt, they will say. But if he lost his tooth for a bra then everyone will most likely ask, “How? Men don’t wear bras!”

If a man lost his tooth fighting for his shirt, that might be understandable, and many will possibly come to his defense. Men put on shirts and that’s his shirt, they will say. But if he lost his tooth for a bra then everyone will most likely ask, “How? Men don’t wear bras!”

In the same way when one sees women bravely and fearlessly fighting for the rights of women, it is easy to say that that is what they are supposed to do – woman up for the cause of fellow women. But when it’s a man advocating the rights of women, especially in a patriarchal society like ours, one cannot help but immediately wonder about what motivates him.
Slender, relatively tall, dark-skinned 24-year-old Ali Kaviri is one such man to whom such questions can be posed.

This soft-spoken man describes himself as a women rights’ activist. Kaviri has crafted a career in human rights promotion and protection with a particular interest in the universal rights of women. And they-the women with whom he is joining hands for the cause that is deeply rooted into society but remains contentious, misunderstood by many, ignored or both- are giving him the nod.

In 2009, then 19 years old, Kaviri was named Mr FOWADE by the women’s organisation Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWADE), a position conferred upon a man who understands and supports the cause for women’s rights. Kaviri had attended a FOWADE’s six-week long training on gender and governance. He exhibited ambition and excellence. “The training awakened my consciousness towards gender issues,” he says.

Drawing from his childhood
But why a field where not many men will go or probably know little about or simply choose to ignore?
For Kaviri it was passion or conviction, emanating from his childhood experiences in his home village of Kibuku, in Eastern Uganda. “It was a society that had no respect for a woman,” he recalls. “Women were battered, had no decision making powers and were not allowed to raise their hand in public to speak. Only men did.”

It is not that Kaviri was opposed to men talking. Rather, he believed that women, just like men, had the right to express their opinions. It is these injustices against women that Kaviri says inspired him to advocate for the rights of women. To realise his aspirations, Kaviri eyed leadership roles because, he argues, leaders influence decisions. He figured that being a leader would put him in position to influence decisions to protect the rights of women. He obviously needed an education first.

Activism
Coming from a humble background and raised by a single mother, Kaviri went to a number of schools including Koborwa and Busesa primary schools before joining Margaret Secondary School Kyebando for O’ Level and Kyambogo College School for A’ Level. The opportunity that would enable him realise his aspirations came in his Senior Six vacation shortly before he joined Kyambogo University for a Bachelor’s degree in Community Based Rehabilitation.

That was the FOWADE training that he embraced, ending up being named Mr FOWADE. With other alumni of the training, Kaviri would begin advocacy and leadership development for young people, sexual rights and reproductive health for girls in schools. In 2012, Kaviri was voted chairperson of the Young Leaders Alumni Association (FYLAA), a FOWADE initiative for young people to advance the cause of women in leadership and development.

Kaviri is also the Field Coordinator at Digital Opportunity Trust International (Uganda), an organization that equips child mothers with business and technological skills for improved economic livelihood. He is a blogger and writes articles advocating for the rights of women. He has been in Tanzania and Malaysia in women empowerment fora. In June 2013, Kaviri was one of Uganda’s delegates at the Women Deliver Conference in Malaysia.

The eldest of three children born to a peasant mother, Irene Litta, as he never knew his father, Kaviri challenges what he terms as a “societal perception” that advocating for the rights of women tantamount to subduing men. “What is wrong with saying that a young girl of 13 years shouldn’t be married off?” he argues, and adds, “What women are asking for is equality and fairness. Gender is a human rights issue.”
Challenges

“Some of my peers ridicule or misunderstand me. Some, in fact, think I am not in the right state of mind to advocate for the rights of women,” he says, noting though that some section of society sees him as an example, which encourages him.

Role models
Kaviri’s role models are FOWADE’s Patricia Munaabi and Oxfam International’s Winnie Byanyima, the women he says have been consistent in advocating for women rights; the Pakistan girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban Muslim extremists for advocating for the rights of girls to education in Pakistan.

Kaviri’s views on:
Bride price and the Marriage and Divorce bill:
“Discouraging paying bride price is a way of protecting the rights of girls to education. Some girls are married off by their parents to get material wealth. Those who look at this law in bad faith are simply not informed.”

Proposed mini-skirt bill: It seems politicians lack meaningful and better things to focus on. Issues like youth unemployment should have been their focus rather than (pass) a bill that infringes on the rights of women. Politicians should know that we live in a dynamic world. Young people should be left to express themselves. It’s their rights. In fact some young people look nice in mini shirts.

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Govt asked to use part of COVID-19 cash donations

KAMPALA – Youth-led organizations have implored the Government to consider using part of the billions of money donated to the National COVID-19 task force, for financial support to local companies and organizations.

According to the youth leaders, the majority of the young people have been laid off by various companies whose income inflows have been affected by the current lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“The Government should come out and support these organizations not to lay off workers. Let them use some of the money to support these companies, to pay off their workers for a few months,” Gloria Nawanyanga, a Youth leader and HIV advocate said.

Last month, 4,200 companies closed shop over the current lockdown. According to the trade minister Amelia Kyambadde, the companies could not adhere to some standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government.

While some companies have remained in operation, they have had to lay off many of their employees to reduce operational costs.

President Yoweri Museveni, on Friday, warned such companies to avoid laying off workers and instead find a better alternative such as delaying payment or going without pay for a few months.

On COVID-19 cash donations, the youth who wondered what the money is used for, appealed to the government to ensure proper accountability of the funds.

Youth inclusion

The youth also implored the government to consider immediate inclusion of the youth leaders and youth-led organizations in the national COVID-19 task force to ensure that the response is holistic.

” While attention is currently focused on those most immediately affected by this situation, there are many indicators that this Pandemic will have long-lasting social, cultural, economic, political and multi-dimensional impacts on the whole of societies including the young people,” Ali Kaviri, the team leader youth equality center, said.

Speaking during a virtual press briefing in Kampala, Kaviri among other youth leaders called upon the government to establish a recovery plan for the country which should entail an extensive development plan including social protection mechanism in the medium and long term to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Youth.

Uganda currently has the youngest population in the East African Region with 78%  of the population being under 30 years of age.

The high rate of youth unemployment currently stands at 54%.

According to the youth leaders, this predisposes the youth to a life of redundancy and vulnerability coupled with exploitation.

In the recovery plan for Uganda, the youth want the government to extend financial support to small and medium enterprises especially those employing young people.

” We need to support the SMEs and the informal sector that employs most Ugandans especially the youth to prevent young entrepreneurs from falling back into poverty, bankruptcy, and massive job losses resulting from the prolonged lockdown,” Kaviri said.

The youth also want the government to invest 5% of the ministry of health budget as stand-alone allocation for the establishment of and sustenance of youth corners in all public health facilities at all levels.

They also appealed to the government to improve Uganda’s health system and young people’s access to health services in some places especially in refugee camps and informal settings such as slum communities.

They commended the government especially President Museveni and health minister Jane Aceng, for their leadership in preventing the spread of the Pandemic in Uganda.

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Ugandans still ignorant about SDGs

Youth leaders from various Civil Society Organisations have called on the Government to involve the youth and other groups of people in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) for better results. They argued that the implementation of SDGs remains slow and invisible because there is no inclusiveness. This was during the youth dialogue on SDGs in Kampala on Tuesday. They event was organised by Youth Equality Centre (YEC). The YEC Team Leader, Ali Kaviri said the youth are very critical and need to be involved at every stage. “The youth have been left out of the whole process yet they are the majority. We need the youth to be involved and become drivers of SDGs in their communities. When we go to the communities, people ask us what SDGs are,” he added. Kaviri called on all youth organisations to come up with a clear framework on how to coordinate various activities towards the implementation of SDGs. The Programme Manager; Healing Point International, Kenneth Wabuteya said there is a need to move from policy to action. 

 Nakayima speaking to participants“We have many policies, but no action. Youth need to take the lead in the implementation of SDGs right from their areas of operation.  We need to involve all youth from various sectors including; drivers, boda-boda drivers, students and market vendors among others to make them understand,” he said. Wabuteya said many people think SDGs are for elites because they have not been sensitised.   Ashraf Kakaire, from the Open Space Centre, said SDGs dialogues should move away from hotels to communities. “We must localize this concept for people to understand it,” he added. The NGO-Forum Coordinator Policy and Advocacy, Esther Nakayima said there is a need for a consortium of youth from all organizations on SDGs to take the lead. Phiona Atuhaire, from the Prime Minister’s Office, said SDGs have already been localised into 10 local languages to facilitate proper understanding by the local person.