Tag Archives: africa

Conflict Over Conflict-Free Diamonds in Zimbabwe

Are you a conscious shopper? When you buy lumber or wood furniture, do you always buy it from a certified sustainable source? When you buy clothes, do you check to make sure the company doesn’t use sweatshop labor? Is your chocolate fair-trade? Are your diamonds conflict-free?

Is there really any way to know?

Despite having the best intentions to use your consumer dollars to lobby for human rights and sustainable practices, and despite the hard work of NGOs with their certification schemes, it can be nearly impossible to know where your money is actually going. Continue reading

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120 Girls Circumcised in Uganda Last Week

It is horrifically ironic that this took place in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism against Violence Towards Women. Read this article in the New Vision:

120 Sabiny girls circumcised

SOME cried. Some were confused. Others still traumatised, while many were left speechless.They looked on in disbelief as a local female surgeon tried in vain thrice, probably using a very blunt knife, to cut off a girl’s clitoris.

She then asked for another, similarly blunt knife and to make it work, applied extra force, going back and forth, the way a saw cuts into timber. The girl struggled not to show fear and to contain her trembling, which is culturally unacceptable and would have attracted scorn and ridicule from the attentive crowd.

As blood gushed from her private parts, the crowd urged the girls: “Be strong! You are almost done! Remain calm!”

You can find more information and ways to take action in my earlier post, “Female Genital Mutilation Continues in Eastern Uganda.” Continue reading

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Environmental Sustainability at St. John's Teachers College

This post is dedicated to my friend, David Cook, who said I was starting to depress him with the environmental news out of Uganda. He was right to call me on it – when I started writing this blog, my goal was to have a good balance between challenges and hope, but somehow the balance has been tipped in favor of the challenges. It has been hard to be hopeful with oil drilling happening in the national parks, and the corruption of the newly disbanded Uganda Wildlife Authority board (who are still trying to get payments out of the UWA accounts!).

However, as is so often the case in Africa (and elsewhere, I guess), the problems are often at the higher levels, and the hope comes from the grassroots. I honestly have very little faith that the Ugandan government has the will to protect the environment in this country in any way. I have a personal policy here, though – whenever I get discouraged about the future of Uganda, I try to spend more time with individual Ugandans. That’s what reignites my hope and reminds me why I am here.

I had that opportunity this week at the St. John the Baptist Primary Teachers College here in Kampala. It is one of the leading teacher colleges in East Africa, and about 2,000 students attend each year from the five countries in the EAC. The college has a very active environmental club that has partnered with Tusk Trust, Uganda Conservation Foundation and Siren Conservation Education to implement some model sustainability projects that the newly trained teachers can implement in the schools where they are ultimately placed. With 2,000 teachers being exposed to this every year, you can imagine how many children will be exposed to the importance of environmentally sustainable practices.

The project looked at some of the main environmental challenges confronting the college, which also happen to be some of the biggest challenges facing Africa as a whole:

* Water
* Fuelwood for cooking
* Maintaining good food harvests
* Waste management
* Income generation

Below are some pictures of what they have put in place in each of these areas: Continue reading

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Signs of Uganda #5

Lover’s Hotel Continue reading

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Was it Really Churchill who Called Uganda "The Pearl of Africa?"

I have always bought into the idea that Winston Churchill should be credited with dubbing Uganda the “Pearl of Africa.” That’s what everybody says, and knowing that he came here and was enamored with the country, I never had a reason to doubt it.

Then this morning I read an article on Musere’s Live Journal called “Uganda the “Pearl of Africa,” Henry Morton Stanley, and Winston Spencer-Churchill.”

This article makes a pretty convincing argument that it was actually Henry Morton Stanley, that incredibly brutal explorer and scourge of Congo, who first called Uganda the “Pearl.”

I must admit that if this is true, I am a little disappointed. However, disappointing or not, the truth must be told.

Has anyone else out there come across references that connect this phrase to Stanley rather than Churchill? Continue reading

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Female Genital Mutilation Continues in Eastern Uganda

Female Genital Mutilation is still Widespread

While the practice is limited in Uganda, according to the Stop FGM Now campaign, “over three million girls a year are still being victims of genital mutilation today, not only in Africa and Asia, but also in Europe, the USA and Australia.”

The World Health Organization estimates that between 100 and 140 million women worldwide are currently living with the results of female genital mutilation. Continue reading

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Yes, Northern Uganda IS Safe AND Amazing

Northern Uganda is no longer a place of war – it is a place of potential. Sure, it still has its challenges, but one of the things it needs most is to be more integrated with the rest of Uganda. What that will take is more people traveling there and seeing it as a living, vibrant part of the country rather than a mythical land of warfare and abductions. Continue reading

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Wal-Mart Makes a Move on Africa

Wal-Mart has made it’s first move to enter Africa by putting in a bid on a South African retail chain and it is already stirring controversy. Continue reading

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I Made it Into Orion Magazine!…Sort of

My favorite source of inspiration, Orion Magazine, has an on-line department called “The Place Where You Live.” I was very excited this morning to get their e-newsletter and notice that my entry on Uganda is one of their featured pieces. Continue reading

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Talking About Race with Kids

“White people over there! Black people over there!”

My wife and I stared at each other in horror as our then-3 1/2-year-old son stood on his chair and shouted this during a dinner we were hosting for a group of Ugandan and ex-pat friends. Continue reading

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