HIV/AIDS Day: 1/12/2013
Today is HIV/AIDS day! It is a day to raise awareness against the killer virus and its implication. It is also a day to remind people about love or caring in its simplest form.
Why expressing love?
HIV/AIDS infected people have been discriminated, stigmatized, and oppressed for a long time. Thanks to efforts from governments, NGOs, and FBOs among many others, stigmatization is on the decline. This year I was lucky to carry out an evaluation of a ‘Good Samaritan Program’, which is run by the Bible Society of Tanzania (BST) and executed in 7 regions of Tanzania. These are Kigoma, Mtwara, Lindi, Mwanza, Kagera, Dodoma, and Mara. I visited all these regions and met people who implement this program on the ground. The program benefits the whole community. The implementers are mainly religious leaders (Sheikhs and Pastors), youths, women, and students. The program uses the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’ in the Bible to incite people and the community to care and express love to people with HIV/AIDS. The program is unique in the sense that it focuses on the behavioral change. Both Muslims and Christians implement the program through training and teaching people on how to be ‘Good Samaritans’ in the context of HIV/AIDS. In this respect, people, starting with religious leaders who were at the forefront in judging infected people, are changing their attitudes and are expressing love and care to infected people. Impressively, out of the programs many groups of HIV/AIDS infected people have formed and are working together to fight stigmatization, discrimination, and HIV/AIDS in general. These groups are instrumental in the fight against this killer disease and its negative implication in the society. First, coming out is the first stage of healing, because it’s a sign of acceptance and a frontline action against it. Second, it fights discrimination than any other means, and third it reduces infection rate. Overall, the program impact on the communities is significant especially in changing behavior. It is all about love.
True love is the most effective weapon to kill HIV and its negative impact in the society!!! Think about it!
The power of inter-faith efforts:
As a person interested in analyzing the impact of religion in the society, the experience of evaluating the ‘Good Samaritan’ program further highlighted to me the power of inter-faith initiatives/efforts to fight issues in the community. BST brings Sheikhs and Pastors together to fight HIV/AIDS from the angle of behavioral change. This has been very effective and has brought the community together without caring about their beliefs differences. We always need to put aside our differences and fight for the common good. This is the spirit of inter-faith work.
Policy Forum Breakfast Debate on Governance: 29/11/2013
On Friday, I was graced to attend the Policy Forum breakfast debate on governance. In the event, the forum launched its 2012 Governance Review titled as ‘Tanzania Governance Review: 2012: Transparency with Impunity”. The review was the debate main reference point. The main speaker was Brian Cooksey. Prof. Ibraheem Lupumba gave a commentary, and Semkae Kilonzo facilitated the debate. Participants included representatives of Civil Societies in Tanzania, donor community, media and members of the public. I attended as a member of the public. It was my first time to attend and my impression was WOW! I learnt a lot in the 2 hours. It was one of the rare moments that I wished to reside in Dar.
Although I have not yet gone through the whole review document, I would like to summarize what I understood from Cooksey presentation, Prof. Lumumba and the discussions from the participants. In brief, the argument was that transparency has been on the increase in Tanzania with regards to corruption and its related activities. That is attributed to various factors, the most appealing being the increased seriousness of parliament due to strengthened opposition. The presenters and the report acknowledge the significant contribution of outspoken MPs such as Zitto Kabwe who posed a motion in the government (to oust the PM) that resulted in the reshuffling of the Cabinet. The parliament is said to become the one with teeth able to bite on hard issues.
However, impunity is still widespread. In spite of the exposure of many corruption cases- big and small, lasting actions are yet to be taken. People accused of corruption are still holding high government positions. The speaker as well as the commentator gave examples such as the Radar case. This is a sad case. Typically of Prof. Lupumba, he tried to explain the situation using academic theories such as those posed by students of corruption. They argue that in the first six months of executing an anti-corruption campaign, if the big sharks are not caught and prosecuted (i.e. focusing only on small fish) the campaign will fail. This, he argues, is what happened to TAKUKURU. The institutions focused more on small fish and left the big sharks free.
I very much enjoyed Prof. Lupumba comments and his way of answering questions. He is a real academician. He used academic theories such as Hyden’s ‘economy of affection’ etc in trying to answer and explain his answers to participants.
Participants were also active in the discussions sessions. They came up with different ideas and questions on how to deal with impunity. Voices of citizens vs. voices of civil societies were discussed.
Personally, I struggled a bit…especially with the use of the term ‘governance’. I asked the question on what is ‘governance’, which Cooksey answered simply…’read the report’. I will read the report yes, but I think due to my training, I never take a terminology in general. I believe in defining terminology on the basis of the context and the subject matter. I think a number of participants struggled with that but somehow it did not come out. One lady, however, hinted indirectly with a question of thinking about the majority rural population- who are farmers in Tanzania…and challenged the participants to think about their issues…which could be pricing, fertilizers, etc….thus when we talk about ‘governance’ in Tanzania we have to narrow down based on the context and the topic of discussion. Otherwise, it’s scope is too wide and can get messy.
Overall, I was very happy to meet good people that I admire for many reasons. It was a networking sessions. I was especially happy to see Brian Cooksey again after many years…he did lots of consultancy assignments with my dad when I was very young. It was also good to meet Semkae, who I only talk with in twitter and email…he is blessing to Tanzania’s civil society and young researchers like me. It was also excellent to meet Michael Dalali and other people.
Bravo Policy Forum!
My entry on why I think my party (#Chadema) is wrong
I blogged about my reflections on why I think Chadema was wrong to strip off Mr. Zitto Kabwe and Dr. Kitila Mkumbo leadership position in the party. This attracted significant attention. It received lots of both negative and positive comments. These comments were on my blog, Zitto na Demokrasia blog, Jamii Forum, and Wanazuoni yahoo group. As an academician, I value critical thinking and analysis…constructive criticism is always healthy for progress. But I abhor insults. Some people, out of their personal issues and problems, decided to insult me. I did not allow myself to be shaken by such because I knew of two possibilities EITHER (a) they did not read the entire entry OR (b) they read it but refused to understand what is written due to hate or unfounded perceptions on the subject matter.
All in all, the comments in Wanazuoni were mostly constructive and reflected the type of people in this e-community. However, some comments in JamiiForum were an indication of how (for the lack of a proper word) ‘rotten’ our society is. We need to change…we are too poor and at this point we cannot afford to put politics into crucial national issues.