“I cannot be heard”

At schoolWatching the ‘Amplify Dandora‘ video, below – they used some of my footage from the slum in Eastern Nairobi – brings back memories of a great group of people. The Amplify team are hoping to do more of the video work I started on a very small scale last November (more on that project here) – and improve education opportunities for young people in Dandora.

The link between teaching video skills to unemployed youth and improving a (primary) school is perhaps not obvious. Continue reading ““I cannot be heard””

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Heartsinking headlines

Last week’s Uganda story – the President’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act – is heart-sinking stuff.

Not just for what it means for people trying to live a normal life – but also because it’s such a slap in the face of any attempt to talk of shared values.

And because it looks to be driving a wedge between the West, who are rushing to take the moral high ground, and the Ugandan political class, who have jumped on this chance to demonstrate their ability to resist imperialism while avoiding dealing with Uganda’s actual problems. And so, as Think Africa Press write, sexuality becomes part of (an inconsistent) foreign policy.

Maybe we shouldn’t give up on the shared values thing just yet, though. Continue reading “Heartsinking headlines”

Dear reader

Nairobi 2013 - let's not overstate the transformation
Nairobi 2013 – let’s not overstate the transformation

Whatever you might think of Bill and Melinda’s pro-aid stance (and there are many who disagree), the Gates annual letter is a well-crafted communications piece (mostly).  Here’s what it does right:

It creates a buzz.
Not easy for a publication these days. Of course, the authors are pretty well-known and have lots of money (they’ve handed out over USD 28 billion to date); they don’t exactly have to fight to be heard. Continue reading “Dear reader”

A hell of a to-do list: 2014 in development

We may need it all
We may need it all

What’s in store this year for international development?

Here’s a bit of a preview, drawing from various publications (not very scientifically selected – mostly, those daring enough to make predictions). It’s also somewhat weighted to areas of my own interest – hence the Europe/Africa focus. (The great danger of the Internet: instead of widening your knowledge, you simply find evidence to back up your own theories.) Continue reading “A hell of a to-do list: 2014 in development”

Get local

classroom-cSomewhat daunting to find myself speaking right after someone with three honorary doctorates and a knighthood last week – especially when Noerine Kaleeba opened her talk wondering why anyone would use Powerpoint (‘Where is the power… and where is the point??’).  Needless to say, the rest of the day – a seminar on HIV prevention organised by my former employers, BTC – was somewhat Powerpoint-heavy (presentations, including mine, available on their website).

As is often the case, the most interesting stuff came during the discussions. The formidable Ms Kaleeba, who founded one of the first AIDS support organisations in Africa and was once a lonely voice speaking out about the disease that claimed her husband, is still trampling over taboos. Continue reading “Get local”

Making workshops work: Film & photo in Kazo

ConcentrationI’d had my doubts: I have no qualifications in youth work, nor do I have years of filmmaking/photography experience. “’If you can’t – teach’… eh??” remarked some guy I met in London, the week before leaving – and I wondered if he was right. Maybe I was being totally irresponsible.

But – with a first full ‘participatory photo/video’ project behind me, with young people in Kazo, Uganda – I’m glad I stuck with my instincts. Of course, the doubts didn’t disappear (for a blow-by-blow account, see here) – but I know a few people learned something. As for me, here’s what I learned. Continue reading “Making workshops work: Film & photo in Kazo”

The Uganda chapter

Making ofThis month I’m in Kazo, just outside Kampala (Uganda), working with a community organisation called UYWEFA – who I found via idealist.org, a great resource for non-profit opportunities all over the world.

I’m doing film-making and photography projects with young people, schoolkids, and HIV positive women – not to mention a few other unexpected tasks like filming the local football tournament. More details, pictures and videos coming soon – in the meantime, I’m blogging from over here.

 

Take the risk (and the picture)

JumaLearning photography means getting used to being told off – usually, for taking pictures. Sometimes, though, you get in trouble for not taking them.

Working at an aid agency in Dar es Salaam, I was responsible for documenting our fieldwork (and the one with the decent camera). When the heart-sinkingly inevitable time came to attend a funeral – the gardener/groundsman at our head office died after a sudden case of malaria – my colleagues told me: take photos.

Off we went, on a typically humid morning, to Juma’s home. A few hundred people had gathered under the awning. The women sat on the floor and wailed; the men stood or sat on wooden chairs wiping sweat from their brows. Continue reading “Take the risk (and the picture)”

The next China

Nigeria is set to surpass the US as the as the third-most populous country by 2050. By 2100, it could have more people than China. The populations of Burundi, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia are all projected to increase at least five-fold by 2100; overall the population of Africa is set to quadruple by the end of this century.

Revised UN figures published last month show that Asia’s population is set to continue to rise to a peak within about 50 years, and then decline, while developed countries, especially in Europe, will stagnate or shrink. (The Washington Post has some useful visuals here.)

Meanwhile, the population of the least developed countries is projected to double (from 902 million today, to 1.8 billion in 2050). This would mean that by 2050, 86.4 % of the world’s population would live in less developed regions, including 19.0 per cent in the least developed countries. Continue reading “The next China”

Pictures without pity

Which image of Africa would you rather see: skeletal, abandoned child, or healthy-looking working family?

Most people would say the latter; certainly most of those in the aid sector  – some of whom were discussing this at the recent PICS festival – now consider the starving child images not only unethical, but also unhelpful. They’re “not effective”, is the general view.

sunglasses
Provocative without the pity

But effective for what? Fundraising appeals today still deploy the same imagery, and the same language, as they did in the 1980s, when “poverty porn” made it to the mainstream with the Ethiopian famine hitting our headlines. That’s not only an indication that we’re seeing the same problems as we did three decades ago; it means we’re also stubbornly looking at them in the same way.

Continue reading “Pictures without pity”