This week Pope Francis is making his first trip to Africa in his as leader of the Catholic church. While mass excitement is building in the three host countries, Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic (CAR),among people of all religions not everyone is in the mood to celebrate.
Before she entered the Miss Uganda beauty contest, 24-year-old Fiona Nassaka was a farmer.
Growing up with five brothers, soccer-mad Majidah Nantanda had half a team to compete against at home in Makindye, a suburb in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. But at her school, in the 1990s, there were two sports rules: “Netball for the girls and football for the boys,” recalls the 32-year-old, as she stands on the sidelines of a boy’s game in Makindye.
HIV/AIDS activists are adamant Uganda will not achieve an “AIDS-free generation” now a “backwards” HIV/AIDS Bill criminalising the “wilful and intentional” transmission of the disease has been signed into law.
Barbara Kemigisa used to call herself an “HIV/AIDS campaigner”. These days she would rather be known as an “HIV/AIDS family planning campaigner”.
When Peninah Mamayi got her period last January, she was scared, confused and embarrassed. But like thousands of other girls in the developing world who experience menarche having no idea what menstruation is, Mamayi, who lives with her sister-in-law in a village in Tororo, eastern Uganda, kept quiet.
Olga Mugisa, 11-years-old, takes to the microphone in front of her peers, the Ugandan flag proudly draped behind her and green plants framing the stage. She has an important message to share with her fellow students: “If you cut one, plant two.”
Every day, 14-year-old Deborah wakes up in an orphanage, goes to school, and comes home to an orphanage. It does not matter when or for how long she leaves the orphanage, she always knows she’ll be back.
Before Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Salaam Uwamariya’s husband, a professor, was the family breadwinner, providing for her and their eight children. Uwamariya sold vegetables at a nearby market to supplement their income.
The late Malian writer and ethnologist Amadou Hampâté Bâ said, “In Africa, when an old person dies, it is a library that burns”, so huge is the loss of oral stories and information. It’s a saying that rings true with the Acholi ethnic group, that was left devastated by the war in northern Uganda. “Our culture believes, when someone dies, there is a grave and it documents the loss. Now we need to look beyond the graves,” Acholi chief Rwoth Achoro says.
When Gerald Abila received an iPhone as a gift almost two years ago, the Ugandan law student didn’t just use it to text his friends. He used it to create what would eventually become the first entity of its kind in East Africa — a tech savvy, multi-award winning, organisation that uses Facebook, Twitter, SMSes, and radio and television partnerships to provide free legal advice and consultations.
Ugandan AIDS bodies and campaigners have warned that the “ugly clauses” of an HIV bill passed by Parliament late Tuesday, which includes the criminalisation of the “wilful and intentional” transmission of the disease, will see many in this East African country “shun the healthcare system”.
Twenty-year-old Fabrice Shyaka sells popcorn in brown paper bags five nights a week from his stand in a small alleyway, situated next to a DVD shop blaring loud music, and a supermarket. Here in Kanombe, a suburb in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, he is the only person selling popcorn in the area.
Every morning at six a.m. before he goes to school, and every night at six p.m. after he gets home from school, Emmanuel, 11, knows what he must do: take his antiretroviral pills.
As she sits in a Kampala hotel holding a mobile phone that rings frequently, Sandra Ntebi tells IPS: “I’m really exhausted. I don’t know where to start. We have many cases pending.” Ntebi manages a hotline and is helping Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community find alternative, safe accommodation after they have faced harassment.