USW Student sets up autism school in Uganda

AUTISM MASTER: Fredrick Sembatya has set up an autism school in Uganda following his studies in Wales. Courtesy: University of South Wales.
AUTISM MASTER: Fredrick Sembatya has set up an autism school in Uganda following his studies in Wales. Courtesy: University of South Wales.

A Masters student at the University of South Wales has set up a school for autistic children in his home country of Uganda.

Fredrick Sembatya, who will graduate from the MA in Autism in September, devotes his time to raising awareness of autism in the East African country, where very little is known about the spectrum disorder.

He teaches parents the skills and interventions they can use with their children by organising workshops and providing them with helpful resources, as well as writing articles in the local press and regularly appearing on TV shows to talk about autism.

Fredrick is currently writing a guide for parents and guardians as well as medical professionals, in order to provide an insight into autism within literature that is widely available to the community.

He has now helped several children and young adults from the age of three to 21, in areas such as special needs education, behavioural management, social skills training and self-help skills, as well as speech, language and communication.

Many of them are now communicating well, with some attending mainstream school settings. “I feel blessed whenever I change the life of someone with autism,” Fredrick said. “I hope that my guide will give direction to parents, teachers and medical professionals in Uganda on how to work with autistic children and young adults.”

The University of South Wales is one of the only institutions in the UK to offer a Masters degree in Autism. Fredrick had the opportunity to study the degree after winning a scholarship, and says it was a ‘dream come true’. “Autism is one of the most challenging conditions in the world, with no known cause or cure,” he said. “These challenges leave communities such as those in Uganda with very few people knowing about autism, who are left with no choice but to rely on traditional or non-evidence based approaches to define, diagnose and manage it.”

Thanks to his studies at the University of South Wales, Fredrick was able to learn about some of the evidence-based interventions that can be used to help children and young people with autism. “Because of the lack of information on autism in Uganda, some parents resort to using ‘witchcraft’ as a means of managing the condition, because they wrongly believe their children are possessed by demons,” he said. “That is why it is vitally important that more is done to educate communities about autism and prevent parents from using the services of ‘witch doctors’ for spiritual interventions.
“I am so grateful to the University for shaping my career and my future. My studies have enabled me to change the lives of people with autism as well as their families.”

Fredrick and his students appeared on NTV television earlier this month when they took part in a sports gala, demonstrating what children with autism can achieve in the world of sport and providing more information about the disorder. For more details on Fredrick’s work at the Teens and Tots Neuro Development centre in Uganda, visit www.teensandtotscenter.co.ug.

$12,000 Tweet helps Dogecoin Foundation reach Doge4Water goal

Remote villages in Eastern Kenya may not be the first place you think about when it comes to the hot button topic of crypto-currencies but this past week investors and early adopters of Dogecoin used their “magical internet money” to help save lives in an area that suffers from seasonal drought and a lack of clean drinking water.

Over the past week the Dogecoin Foundation, a non-profit organization started by the founders of Dogecoin began accepting and collecting donations for their Doge4Water campaign to coincide with World Water Day on 22 March 2014. The foundation hoped to raise 40 million Dogecoins (est. $50,000 USD at current exchange rates) to be able to sponsor the Charity:Water initiative of constructing two hand-dug wells to provide access to clean water for the surrounding communities in the Tana River area of Eastern Kenya.

On Friday a generous benefactor who goes by the name of Hood (@savethemhood) helped achieve that goal by making a record tip of 14,000,000 Dogecoins via Twitter. With a tweet berating the wealthy for not doing enough, Hood summed up how he felt with this post, “It is astonishing that we have fellow humans on this planet without water,” he said. “We have the wealth, but not the will. The greedy do nothing.

Users and foundation members alike were overwhelmed with an outpouring of gratitude on the /r/Dogecoin subreddit. Since its beginning in early December the Dogecoin community has used their popularity and growing monetary value to help out several causes and charities. Donations from Dogecoin helped the Jamaican bobsled team to travel and compete in this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia as well as fostering a community based not so much on gaining wealth but on giving it away. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Dogecoins are given away through tips each day on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

While cryptocurrency has been a high profile topic this past week as to whether it should be regulated, especially due to several well publicized thefts and losses, or as to who the inventor may or may not be, the one coin which seems to take itself a little less seriously than the others firmly made its case that alternative currency can change the world, and for the better.

African academics in conference call

The equitable participation of women in government and politics is essential to building and sustaining genuine democracy. That was a message to students at the first ever African focused Women in Government and Politics conference entitled “Increasing the Numbers: Access and Progress.” This was the maiden edition of the Women in Government & Politics Conference took place at the Central Hall Westminster, between12-13 November 2013.

The conference began with an opening ceremony at the House of Commons on Day 1. Students and other delegates were encouraged to seize the opportunity as change drivers in Sub-saharan West Africa. Conference convenor, Mrs Winihin Ayuli-Jemide, welcomed the diverse attendees to the centre of UK policy making and debate. “Importantly, we have students, young girls. And one young man,” she told the conference. “This is particularly important to me, because we cannot have this conversation without succession planning.

ALL ACADEMIC: Students inspired by maiden conference. Courtesy: Women in Government and Politics Conference
ALL ACADEMIC: Students inspired by maiden conference. Courtesy: Women in Government and Politics Conference

The students who attended the conference walked away filled with new enthusiasm for a better world. Doctoral student and conference facilitator, Zainab Usman, is reading International Development in the Department of International Development, at the University of Oxford. “I had the privilege of facilitating one of the group discussions which involved some of the policy makers, academics and activists in attendance,” she said. “The practical recommendations proposed included the need for constitutional safeguards and quotas, value re-orientation among both men and women using the media, building support networks among women, supporting existing civil society initiatives and building a resource base, such as the African Women’s Development Fund.” A manifesto document is being prepared based on the agreed outputs from the delegates of the conference. Another key outcome is the campaign to generate 1 Million Signatures online, to advocate for more women in government and politics. The campaign is well underway. Every woman, from every country and from every walk of life is invited to sign up for this history making drive that will see better socio-economic outcomes for many nations of the world through the appointment or election of more women.

More information on the Women in Government and Politics Conference can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/wigpconferences

Students ignite progress

While the men in suits surround Parliament in defence of its traditions, a new generation of students were in Parliament to put forward the case for more women in politics and government. Westminster Cathedral was taken by storm with the maiden Winihin Jemide Series conference, which brought together women from about 22 countries. The conference, “Women in Government and Politics 2013 – Africa Edition,” had its opening ceremony take place in the House of Commons.

One of the attendees was Zainab Ushman, who is a DPhil student in International Development at the University of Oxford. “African women have made remarkable strides in positions of leadership and authority across the continent,” she said. “This has been especially evident with the wave of democratization over the past two decades.
Women now occupy presidential seats in Liberia and Malawi, foreign ministry portfolios in Rwanda, Kenya and Somalia, the leadership of the African Union and many other positions hitherto regarded as the exclusive domain of men.

African women in dialogue in Westminster. Courtesy: Women in Government and Politics Conference.
DIRECT DEMOCRACY: African women in dialogue in Westminster. Courtesy: Women in Government and Politics Conference.

There is still more to be done, however. Mrs Winihin Ayuli-Jemide is founder of The Winihin Jemide Series and the Women in Government and Politics conference organiser. She says this is only the first of many conferences. “The Women in Government and Politics conference will boldly explore issues and concepts surrounding women’s increased involvement in Africa’s political arena with consideration given to succession planning and the next generation,” she said. “This will be an annual conference aimed at raising the global profile of the growing role women play in the heart of African public life.

Another speaker at the conference, Mr Simon Wooley, a self-described activist and Director of the UK-based Operation Black Vote, sought to rally the conference behind its cause. “We are not asking for justice, we are not asking for race equality, we are demanding it,” he said. “And we will use our electoral clout, to decide whether you win or whether you lose.” The conference was left inspired by the Honorable Proscovia Alengot, who is the Ugandan Member of Parliament for Usuk County Katakwi District. “When I was a child I always wanted to become one of the most important people in the country,” she told delegates. “I said I would be someone important in this country, but I was really so ambitious that it was a dream, but a dream that became true.
My dad died, and I took over from him, and who of you could take on being in politics one week after your dad or mother’s death?” she asked. “If your dad was a politician, you could still have that pain in you, as I had a pain in me, but I said no. “I looked at the young children we had – we had eight in the family and I was the second one. But I had to take the courage, and I told my mum, ‘I don’t want you to cry, everything is okay, because I am going to stand as a Member of Parliament.” One might argue that the only question young people could ask is; “What type of activist should I become, and when can I next stand for my national parliament?

A manifesto document is being prepared based on the key agreed outputs from the delegates of the conference. Another key outcome is the campaign to generate 1 Million Signatures online, to advocate for more women in government and politics. The campaign is well underway. Every woman, from every country and from every walk of life is invited to sign up for this history making drive that will see better socio-economic outcomes for many nations of the world through the appointment or election of more women.

More information on the Women in Government and Politics Conference can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/wigpconferences

Supporting African women

More than 20 countries in the world today have a woman holding office as the head of a national government. But as delegates at a recent conference at the House of Commons in London discovered, whilst the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments is gradually improving, there is still a lot to be done.

The Winihin Jemide Series conference sees its role as a change driver in Sub-saharan West Africa. It drew together about 22 countries in Africa to what was described as an “extremely significant gathering.” The conference brought together academics, students and others in the field in order to help inspire better public policy and to capture their views in a participant-led manifesto taken from those views expressed at the maiden edition of the Women in Government & Politics Conference series.

Women in Government and Politics Conference - African Delegates
DELEGATED POWERS: Some of the attendees of the Women in Government and Politics conference. Courtesy: Women in Government and Politics Conference.

The aim of the two-day conference was to articulate steps and concepts that will make government leaders, law makers and academics, who jointly influence policy, to support an increase in female numbers and to begin succession planning for young African women. “We need to pull up as many women as possible up the ladder and put aside petty grievances and nuances” was the message of Dr. Diezani Alison Madueke, the Nigerian Minister for Petroleum Resources, who delivered her message to the conference delegates. “We must educate, empower and mentor more of our women, it goes without saying, to ensure that they have the compelling attributes and capabilities that make us as good as anyone else that may be considered to occupy any job or any office,” she stated.

Sponsors of the conference included the Onboarding Impact Consultancy, a Nigerian owned public sector and soft-skills training firm. “As a sponsor of the first Women in Government and Politics Conference we are honoured to have had the opportunity to support the efforts of the Winihin Jemide Series in their drive to Increase the Numbers through Access and Progress for women participation at all levels of Government and Politics,” a spokesperson said. “We look forward to playing a bigger role in the next edition of the WIGP Conference.
We believe through our collective participation we can make a significant difference for this and future generations.

Also attending the conference was Jessica Jemila Kawra, otherwise known as Miss Tourism Ghana 2013. Forming a key part of the conference’s breakout sessions, Miss Kawra explains why taking part in the conference was so essential. “Part of my mission as Miss Tourism 2013 is to encourage Ghanaian girls to aspire to be leaders, no matter the area of endeavour they find themselves in,” she said.

The conference left women inspired and motivated, all knowing that sex equality is not something that could happen in the future, but something that can only happen in the present. “You cannot really achieve anything unless you have gender equality, because gender equality and progress, and the eradication of poverty are inextricably linked,” was how the anchor for the BBC World News service, Zeinab Badawi, put it.

More information on the Women in Government and Politics Conference can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/wigpconferences

African women at the heart of government and politics

It only takes a thought, it only takes a vision, it only takes a moment says Mrs. Winihin Ayuli-Jemide. Courtesy: Women in Government and Politics Conference.
POSITIVE THINKING: It only takes a thought, it only takes a vision, it only takes a moment says Mrs. Winihin Ayuli-Jemide. Courtesy: Women in Government and Politics Conference.

Congresses across the world have made efforts to increase female participation in government and politics. It is often thought to be more challenging for women to access and exercise these rights, particularly in the African Continent. But one recent conference in London has sought to challenge this perspective.

The African edition of the Women in Government and Politics Conference was held in the House of Commons in November 2013, running with the theme, “Increasing the Numbers: Access and Progress.

Its convener, Mrs Winihin Jemide, shared her vision with the conference that was made up of a convergence of women drawn from the 5 Regions of Africa, who were already active in public politics. The conference objective was to agree on the core themes and resolutions that will be adopted into a manifesto document. Mrs Winihin Jemide, whom this series of conferences is named after, believes that the time to start thinking about change is now. “It is time, therefore, for us to bring our strengths together, and it only takes a thought, it only takes a vision, it only takes a moment,” she told the conference delegates at the opening ceremony in the House of Commons. “It is time for us to begin to articulate, in a cohesive fashion or manner, the sorts of stories we’ll be handing over to leaders of government, to allow them to sit up and listen.

The conference has the full support of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of Nigeria. “The subject matter in question is one that is close to my heart,” he said. “I have persistently driven to advance the cause of women, in all levels throughout my time in government. As part of my transformation agenda, and as a deliberate policy move, I have ensured that over 30 per cent of positions in my government have been given to women.
My administration has also seen the highest office being held for the first time by a woman.
As I stated in January 2013, I personally view the appointment of these women as the beginning of a very positive era of politics in our country.

POSITIVE POLITICS: 30% of government positions in the Nigerian Government are held by women says President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Courtesy: Women in Government and Politics Conference.
POSITIVE POLITICS: 30% of government positions in the Nigerian Government are held by women says President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Courtesy: Women in Government and Politics Conference.

The conference’s manifesto document, which is delegate led, is being put together by Dr Nic Cheeseman of Jesus College at the University of Oxford with the collaboration of School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. The manifesto will be based on 25 key points agreed by conference delegates, and will be directed to Heads of Government.

The conference has already won plaudits from African governments. Malawi’s President Joyce Banda, stated that more women need to take front row seats in Government and Politics. “I believe this Conference is taking place at such a time where more women are needed than ever before in elected and appointed offices,” she said.

Another key outcome of the conference is the campaign to generate 1 Million Signatures online, to advocate for more women in government and politics. The campaign is well underway. Every woman, from every country and from every walk of life is invited to sign up for this history making drive that will see better socio-economic outcomes for many nations of the world through the appointment or election of more women.

Sign is on The Wall

Social networks have been alight with news about a fake interpreter at the memorial service of Nelson Mandela. The actions have been described as a “special shame” in light of the late former South African President Nelson Mandela work against the oppression of deaf South Africans.

Kate Davidson is a sign language expert. “My social media has been a-buzz with this since last night, and it’s clear that not only isn’t it SASL, but it couldn’t be a sign language,” she said. He’s not spelling any names in the introduction, no use of classifiers for verb spatial phrases like ‘join us in South Africa.
It’s a shame, though, that so much of the coverage says ‘man does fake sign language’ or some variation, as if all sign languages were the same. It could have been a teachable moment on the variety of sign languages.

War on Terror ‘stalling’ African and Middle East IT revolution

The so-called ‘War on Terror’ led by Western Axes in the US, UK, France and Israel, with support from NATO are having an adverse effect on the regeneration of Africa and the Middle East by leading technology firms.

Firm Baidu had struck a deal with Orange to take its mobile browser into Africa and the Middle East, but the continued militancy by the Western Axes that is driving the Arab Allies into foreign territories under control by Western rebels is stalling the process.

Android handsets in Orange’s African and Middle Eastern markets were due to get a co-branded version of China’s Baidu mobile browser pre-installed. Orange, which is a subsidiary of France Telecom, whose government in France are currently stepping up their armed insurgency against Arab forces in Algeria, has about 80 million subscribers in the region.

Reports suggest that Orange has been planning to expand into Algeria, Benin, Libya and Togo, but continued instability in the region is stalling expansion.

On Wednesday Algerian rebels killed 30 Western Prisoners of War when trying to retake the gas plant from Arab Allies. Orange have already focussed operations on Egypt, where customers of Orange’s local network Mobinil will be able to get access to the technology. It is hoped that more markets in the region will follow in 2013, but uncertainty over Western Axes’ planned occupation of Arab territories is stalling the implementation the browser, which will be available in Arabic and English, followed by a French language version in the future.

Internet shut down by President Bashar al-Assad

The Syrian government has shut down public communications networks connected to the Internet across the country as they try to gain control in the ongoing civil war.

Known as the Syrian Uprisings, the armed conflict has been ongoing since 15 March 2010 and is seen by some as part of a wider social media-led liberation movement known as the Arab Spring.  Protesters have demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad as well as the end to nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party rule.

In response, al-Assad has shut down the Internet across the country and cut mobile phone services as part of an effort to hold back so-called rebels, enabling government troops to effortlessly wage fierce battles near the capital’s airport.

International airlines were forced to suspend flights following the Internet blackout, an unprecedented event in Syria’s 20-month-old civil war against the president.

A prominent human rights activist and interdisciplinary researcher, Ashu M. G. Solo, said that no modern country can function properly without the Internet.  “By shutting down the Internet, Assad has taken Syria from the information age to a dark age,” Solo said.  “Assad can try to delay the end of his brutally repressive dictatorship with these desperate measures, but he won’t be able to stay in power for long.  Liberty and democracy are rapidly spreading throughout the Middle East and North Africa.”