Wednesday, 27 March 2019

It is only the beginning ...

Yesterday I had a chance to give a branding workshop to one of the organisations I am working with. It is called KIFAD. It's an NGO, that is working hard on building capacity in their communities for people living with HIV/ AIDS, orphans and vulnerable children and their families to progressively become self-reliant. They do it through HIV prevention, testing, consultations, skills-sharing, education,  support and many other remarkable projects.

Few weeks ago, KIFAD’s development manager Judith, told me about their cool team development concept. Every Tuesday they gather all the employees and one of them has to give a session about something that he/she is passionate about. It is beneficial for both of the sides because the audience can learn every week something new and the presenter can improve his/her presentation skills and gain some valuable feedback. When she asked me to deliver a branding related workshop, I was more than happy to do that. Anything that could help them raise awareness to their honourable work, will do.

One of the minor “errors” I had to consider, was that here in Uganda it is not very common to use PowerPoint slides because there simply aren’t any means for it, no screens nor projectors. Therefore, it was a slight challenge for me and for my obsession of beautiful visual content. Especially when there are so many cool branding examples to present them with to really draw that big picture.

Well, what you gonna do. It was time to get creative and use the traditional methods, a flip chart. That is also something I have experienced in that short time - people here tend to write most of the things down. Therefore, it was important to pin down all the things I considered important for them. Although, I am not sure how effective it is in the end, as you are trying to divide your focus on 2 different things at the same time, but hey, I had to adapt to their preferences. I have to admit, I could have also been more clear when communicating that I will be sending them all the materials after the session. Maybe that would have helped them to arrange their full attention to my talk. 

However, that is clearly not the most important. Actually, what I wanted to write is that while I was sharing my ideas about corporate and personal branding, and after while getting feedback, I realised how I, in fact, had gained a lot of valuable information in those past 2 hours. I got an insight to Ugandans mind and their consumer behaviour, which I am sure will help me to understand the locals better further-on.

Imagine getting feedback like, “Thank you so much, Victoria! We have been using Facebook because that’s the only social media channel that we have been introduced to (except WhatsApp, of course). I had no idea that there are such opportunities out there. So many channels to choose from. Thank you!” 

I had to take a step back and think, was half of my presentation even relevant to this group. Indeed, I have noticed that most Ugandas are actually not very active in social media. Except WhatsApp, but even that is tricky.

See the thing is, internet costs money and you know what else costs money here in Uganda? Social media. That’s right. They have regulated a fee for it and it is called the OTT tax. Buying an access to social media channels for a month costs locals 6,000 Ugandan shillings (1.5 euros). Doesn’t sound like much? Now, add also the cost of the 2 GB internet bundle for another 20,000 shillings (5 euros). That is already something for the locals. Most of them would rather put that money into something rather practical and essential. 

For example, I have often had cases when I have tried to contact people from the projects through email or WhatsApp, and haven’t got any response in a week. In the beginning, I didn’t understand why it is taking so long, but it is actually that simple. Their data has either ran out, OTT tax has expired, or they haven’t had it in the first place. On the other hand, Ugandans do like to spend money on airtime. They are people who really like to talk. They tend to talk for hours on the phone to have that personal connection and that is why they don’t really understand why I prefer emails or messages. Now I have adapted to calls, though.

Anyways, getting back to the cost of the internet and social media. There are surely people who can afford it, but they are also mostly not so active there because there is limited amount of people they can interact with. Makes sense, right? 

When I reflected back on my thought, I understood that this cannot be it, this has to be only the beginning. I thought, “Of course, I remember now!” Back in 2009, me and most of my friends were using a networking platform called Orkut, and then I had somehow discovered a new channel called Facebook. I logged into this new promising platform and I didn’t get it. It was empty, I had like 9 friends and I felt bored. I told myself, “This will never become a thing.”  Yet, here we are today :) 

Then I figured it out, Uganda and many other countries are still going through that change. It takes time but they will get there sooner or later. That is why it is actually important what I taught them. The sooner they realise the power and opportunities that internet in general has on hold for them, the better it is. During that time of the shift, I am happy to prepare them and share some tips how to gain that advantage and lead on others. I love how much potential there is in Uganda and I am so happy to make my own small contribution to its development.

Thank you for your time!

Until next time ;) 

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Child Protection Training in Kikooba; an international EUAV cooperation

MONDO and the EUAV program launched a comprehensive support program for Kikooba Infant and Primary School. The first step was to establish a boarding section in order to ameliorate the services of the school and to find income generating activity. The next step was a child protection training for the teachers and other employees of the school.

Child abuse is a common phenomena in Uganda. The practice of corporal punishment like canning, burning, hanging from the ceiling is still an everyday way of discipline. Verbal abuse and humiliation of the children is also common. The Ugandan government tries to act against these practices by banning them by law however the police has not much capacity to deal with these cases especially that these incidents are normally not reported. As a good sign some of the schools started to realize the harmful effects of these practices and try to fight against them. Kikooba Infant and Primary school is one of them. When we brainstormed with the Head Teacher how to move on with the school support project he himself rose the topic and asked me to organise a child protection training for the schools staff.

Concerning the question of violence in schools Uganda is not unique. Most of the countries in the region (if not all) are affected. MONDO already has successful projects in Kenya regarding child protection. Marine, EUAV in Shianda, Kenya is an education expert whose special field is safe school environment. Marine is providing trainings for teachers regarding this topic in several Kenyan schools since six months. Due to her expertise and experience it was not a question that an international EUAV cooperation would be the best solution for Kikooba. Marine happily accepted my invitation and thanks to MONDO’s support she could visit Uganda to hold a 2-day workshop for the Ugandan teachers.

The workshop was focusing on attitudes towards learners, violence in school and the importance of positive discipline. During the training the teachers were invited to share their opinion, motivations and ideas about these topics. By using interactive methods like group work and role plays Marine made the group to brainstorm together on the sensitive topics. The teachers learnt about the difference between punishment and discipline. Violent punishment is a biological act which triggers fear and blocks learning however discipline meant to develop the students’ behaviour and to teach self-control and confidence on focusing what the students should learn. The teachers were asked to refresh their best and worst memories from their school ages and draw parallel with their behaviour in the school as a teacher. Then by a role play they were asked in groups to act an example of punishment and   positive discipline. By the games the teachers could familiarise with alternative discipline measures and could reinforce their good practices.  
The teachers will to participate and honest sharing of their opinion is very promising. By talking about the taboo of child abuse we could start a dialogue which could affect positive changes in a long term.  Quote from Isimail, the Head Teacher on teachers’ responsibility to create a safe environment which assures learning and development:

“We might be different by colours but we do the same services!”