How feminism is making it worse than better for women in science and technology

Gender equality means women and men being treated equally. Certainly, both groups are different in many ways such as emotional state and physical appearance. However, these differences are not magnified enough to make both groups very different. As humans, we all think and feel alike. Maybe gender segmentation is permissible in other areas such as religion and health matters. When was gender introduced into science and technology? Since when did female and male scientists think differently? Why are women treated differently from men mentally? Do women and men do math differently? Where did women exclusive clubs come from?

Solving the differences between gender imbalance and warped perceptions against females is not going to be solved by cocooning women into one group as if to present themselves as a misunderstood group. It only feeds the misogynist views towards women as being incapable to be part of the male clubs. Women should be allowed learn, work and compete alongside and treated equally if any progress against. How will women be appreciated if the seclude themselves from men and “do their thing” as women? How shall we understand each other? Or are women presenting themselves as the misunderstood party?

I have always heard the phrase “you don’t understand what it is like being a woman in a man’s world.” Yes, I don’t and I won’t assume to understand. However, I don’t think by playing the victim solves anything. It only presents you as the weakling who finds comfort among his equally weaker peers. I don’t write this in an argument against all areas of life or workplace. I write this as a technology and science enthusiast. Gender bias against women in all areas of life does exist. However, why should we fuel this bias by setting ourselves apart?

Gender has no place in science and technology. These “girls” or “ladies” exclusive clubs are not helping women and young girls except presenting them as different or sublimely unprivileged to males. After all, your brain is all that is needed not your body.

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Why Africa needs more rebels and less conformists.

Joseph was a dreamer who ended up on the wrong side of his brothers because he stood by his calling. The proverbial phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth” in certain situations can be borrowed.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of being a part of many communities ranging from technology to social change movements. However, I always leave these communities the same way I came and oblivious of the change these communities aim to inspire. In the past, I wrote about how most innovation/social change communities in Uganda are by large social gatherings of closely knit circles.

It should be understood that being part of a team is by no means very important and most beneficial to its members. However, in most situations it can be an obstacle to nurturing personal ambition. Many revolutionary ideas in the history of the world such as Thomas Edison’s light bulb to Microsoft’s Bill Gates all owe their existence to a single pursuit of achieving their ambitions. The limitation of a team is that is comprises of a collection of minds and individual perspectives to the set objectives at hand. Therefore, the time spent deliberating over a common understanding and a way forward may limit individual contribution and stifle genius.

In such a situation, breaking off and going solo would be the best idea one can make. Teams normally work well when all its members seek to solve a common problem faced by everyone such as a medical condition, physical resources, ethnicity, religious background and level of intellect.

“Thinking out of the box” cannot happen in a community driven environment as competition opinions and differential opinions deny that. Therefore, I suggest that if you are to join any community whether tech, social development or financial management, going solo would do you much better. A community is only beneficial in gaining insights about your environment, what challenges exist and also provides a platform for launching your idea.

However, if you seek these communities to nurture and develop your ideas, way of thinking, approach of working and mode of communication, you have committed individualism suicide. This is partly the reason why aspiring African change makers, innovators, social development messiahs are chocked by the obligation they pay to these communities.

Being a Joseph will alienate you and some may accuse you of thinking you are being better than them in the same was as Joseph’s brothers accused him. But remember that his refusal to abandon his individualism made him the greatest man in a world he did not grow up in, much less belong to.

Of choosing thorns over roses: the year that was 2017.

The end of every year comes along with self reflection on achievements and failures. 2017 on my part has been one of stagnation brought about by laziness to make effective decisions. I have come to learn that with disenchantment comes responsibility in having to deal with the burden of its consequences which tends to end in a spiral decline if no definitive action is taken to radically transform one’s mindset.

Absence of any blog posts since the beginning of the year was due to personal battles in my life which could have been won only if I had not pitied myself. I took upon responsibilities that have become a proverbial “thorn in the flesh” and robbed me of flexibility and full commitment both in mind and body.

One the other hand, I question myself on who is the best teacher, time or experience?  This not to state that I have been overshadowed by personal struggles the entire year, on the contrary I have been watching the news, reading the papers and seeing the events that unfolded over the year as prominent in assassinations, political “comedy”, moments of national pride and shame, unforgettable social media trends, outstanding individuals, awe-gaping revelations and not forgetting the Trump’s , Abriga’s and Bobi Wine’s.

On a political note, I observed how the present regime strengthened is hold on power only for the opposition to help in this undertaking by exposing their weakness in sacrificing the greater good for personal aims. I will for long scratch my head trying to discern  how Kizza Besigye let down a politically experienced, exposed and seasoned ally in Mugisha Muntu by supporting a unknown and failed parliamentarian Patrick Amuriat to lead the nation’s biggest political opposition group and possibly the presidential flag bearer for the next elections. Only because of the latter’s diplomatic approach to politics which was viewed as leaning to the incumbent regime by the former.

The Ugandan Police was my worst public organ this year summarized in failure to curb serial murders in Entebbe and instead demonstrate acumen in witch-hunting political gatherings and opposition leaders. The exposures that came with the brazen murder of AIGP Andrew F. Kaweesi which revealed the  deep rot in the force culminating in the arrest of senior police officials for criminal activity ranging from armed robbery, torture of civilians to obtain false testimony, repatriating political refugees and unnecessary use of tear gas and bullets to quell every civil gathering or village disagreement.

Togikwatako in reference to the ruling party’s intentions of amending the constitution in favor for extending term limits and removal of presidential age limits was trending both as a political event of the year which saw a fist fight in parliament and as a social media war that divided the nation into “red” and “yellow” camps.

Bobi Wine’s ascension to politics by winning the Kyadondo South parliamentary election was welcomed by many although I have lost interest in his cause which seems to be lost in a blinded assumption that we all live in some sort of dictatorial regime which has by the way indirectly contributed to his success. My friend without the freedom brought by this regime, would we have known you? As much as we acknowledge this are not entirely working out politically in terms of service delivery, we should understand that this is bred democracy; along with it come the consequences of corruption, capitalism and bureaucracy. If in fact we were a under a dictatorship, the state of affairs would be much better and the social and political ills you decry would be almost non-existent.

On a social note, nothing much stood out with the exception of growing moral decay in society of near nakedness dressing, embarrassing bivulus and the ninja fighting, flock devouring and feet kissing pastors.

Technologically multiple innovations stood out such as the Pneumonia-Detecting Jacket known as Mama-Ope (Mother’s Hope) developed by Brian Turyabagye. However, it would make an even exceptional year if these ideas where embraced by the private sector or government so as live beyond the media acclaim they receive and instead make meaningful impact of those that they are intended for to use, enjoy, save, benefit and assist.

On the whole, 2017 seemed like a year of promise which did not eventually fulfill while on a personal level it was one of greater self realization. It is human nature to always remain hopeful for a different tomorrow and so in concluding this year, I move with this anticipation in mind yearning to see and experience what the next year brings and eager to overcome the tradition of making resolutions and crafting at least a definite constancy.

 

Trying to understand Uganda’s new feminists

2016 will be the year of the feminist. Spurred into the mainstream media by the infamous protest of notable academic researcher Stella Nyanzi, the educated “middle class” women of the nation jumped on the band wagon of the feminist cause. Women all over the world are faced with marginalization although it is more of a daily struggle for the continent’s women. The treatment of African women by the societies and communities they live and work in is all but uninspiring.

The sudden interest taken up these seemingly educated clique of women as manifested by endless proverbial references, one-sided perspectives and meaningless hashtags reveals a shallowness in understanding the plight but is also an expression of the misplaced vision among this promising yet disappointing section of the public. To begin with, these voices are always vocal when it comes to issues that can make them a “worthy mouthpiece”. By this I mean how far these women become on matters dealing with presidential term limits, parliamentary bills, and the isolated workplace drama.

In no way do I claim to understand the plight of women but surely I don’t think the culture of “no chips nor hips” or the spike in prostitution more so among the nation’s young women is not a “plight” enough to make national headlines or trend on Twitter.

Where are these feminists when the moral decay of the nation silently eats away at the young women of the nation? Or has the moral decadence of the African woman become so common and trendy that it is no longer worthy to speak against. Exactly how does lifting of presidential term limits stop the near pornographic dressing of women on the streets of Kampala or stop defilement of young girls in schools?

The voices supposed to speak for or against such subjugation have instead put on trousers and joined the men to join the political conversations and fairness at the workplace. My fellow Ugandan sisters on social media have adopted the western consumerism and celebrity culture that took the tragedy of the Chibook girls and reduced it to Twitter hashtag,”#BringBackOurGirls”. Or to our own backyard with the infamous Invisible Children campaign and its misinterpretation of the war in northern Uganda.

Instead, feminism has been hijacked by a clique of young women with theoretical notions, biased tendencies and a Twitter account to claim to be the definition of a feminist. It seems remaining relevant and being retweeted or tagged is the main concern irrespective of whether you make sense or not. Or whether you believe and understand the cause or not.

Is it selfish to give up ?

It has been a struggle to write down anything. I seem to have fallen victim to the attitude I despise. I don’t blame myself however but rather the people that surround me. You alone are the cause of my seeming resignation. I lost the battle and accepted the reality of the world I live in. Maybe I give up so easily. Am I too perfectionist, if there is such a term ? Or have my naive expectations been shattered by the brazen mediocrity that surrounds me ?

I cannot even seem to write down my mind as I repeatedly second guess and rubbish every thought.

Dear reader, this is not a rant but a plea for inspiration.

In this jungle, are you a lion or an antelope ?

Trying to understand human behaviour and interaction is much harder as it is to study animal behaviour and interaction. This is because humans have undefinable forces that shape their thoughts, actions and behaviours. Some human behaviour can be called at best basic animal instinct. Traits that define the fabric of nature as it is is best illustrated by Charles Darwin’s notorious observation on human evolution.

This became a quote commonly known and used and known and yet also so truthful and applicable in our interactions and experiences as humans.

Survival for the fittest.

This world is a jungle and in it exist all kinds of beasts and animals. Some live independent from the jungle while others live off other animals. In all, these animals need each other to survive in this jungle. We have lions, kings of the jungle, proud masters, feared, admired and loathed by the antelopes and bucks that always get snared, eaten and destroyed.

It is as if their sole purpose in this jungle is to be food to theses kings. These bucks and antelopes are weak and mediocre, always moving in herds and afraid to be different or to move in the other direction.Those that try to move away from the herd are snatched away by the firm teeth of the jungle kings.

We do what we do then? It seems deep down we are all just bucks and lions in this jungle. The lions are kings and the bucks get eaten.

How “kafunda” styled restaurants can help us understand the way communities are built in Kampala.

Popularly known as “kafunda“, Kampala’s informal restaurants are a refuge to the capital’s unemployed and low income earners. Known by some as “ toninyilila these eat outs are a myriad of encounters and gaping insights. The term “kafunda” is derived from the small spacing that characterizes this environment, simply translated to mean “narrow” or “do not step on my toes” by some. To the creators of such structures, makeshift is the modus operandi.

Social demographics states that communities are defined by the people that inhabit them and not their structures. However, Kampala’s informal restaurants define its people through their structures.  Take for instance the Egyptians who are well known historically mostly for the structures they built, the Pyramids. In spite of their rich cultural heritage, scientific intellect and governing systems, their structures have remained as a resonating image of who they were. This begs of the question, what do Kampala’s structures tell of its people?

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To begin, when it comes to constructing these restaurants consideration to permanent structures is secondary and held as sort of a luxury. Instead attention is mostly directed to the availability of equipment in which case are the cooking saucepans, plates and other paraphernalia. Even serving customers in the open air is a compromise that can be reached. Such disregard for standards is not ignorance to the comfort of their customers, but rather a choice of affordability.

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The prices at which these meals are bought allow for mere sustenance of operations. After deducting the amount of money needed for shopping tomorrow’s menu all that is left is distributed in daily wages to the struggling waitresses and cooks which leaves a meager profit.

Building standards for these restaurants are characterized by one room styled building with the entrances serving as the cooking area. Seats are provided for through benches leaving no room for back rest, which also means the number the number of customers that can be seated, operates within the approach of “filled to the maximum.” According to my first hand experience, the meals provided fit the definition of a balanced diet. However, the negligence to hygiene outweighs the attraction to supposed “healthy meals”.

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The temporary nature of these structures should in no way dispel the permanent state of existence they tend to build. Keen observation shows that most communities in Kampala, mostly urban tend to show initial growth characteristics that are informal. Simply put, they are not planned. It is not a surprising sight to see a once lush swampy groove on the outskirts of a town being taken over by these informal communities.  In this same way of planning and settlement of most homes in Kampala, we see a borrowed mentality in the establishment of these eat outs.

These informal eat outs normal crop up in areas that cater in employing a largely unskilled labour category such as construction sites, boda boda stages, taxi parks and pretty much any location that brings the food service closer to its clients. This reveals considerable information to how communities are built in Kampala. First comes the activity which is followed by services that sustain it.

We can take the analogy of a construction site. It begins with the work crew that sets itself up in an area. Food is an obvious need and so those who provide it come in. As the construction operations move on, the need for certain amenities arises such as basic consumer goods provided by small retail kiosks. We can now see how a small community has been forged so far. As the small community thrives, the need for transportation arises as the shopkeepers need these services to transport their goods and so do the construction workmen as they commute to their temporary homes. This introduces the boda boda stages. From then on, the potential to build an even larger community sets in. This is because the need for more services will arise, more shops, more rental houses, a school maybe and of course more restaurants to cater for the growing population.

Some may dispel this conceptualization as being non-impactful in the sense that these informal eat outs already find communities built and so simply set themselves in place. Yes, this is agreeable. As in the analogy of a construction site, it was the work crew who initiated the “soon to be” community and not the restaurants. What one may need to understand is that communities are normally built around meeting points which means a construction site is not inclusive of everyone in an area. However, a restaurant is a meeting point that brings together the foreman and the porter. It is through such collective gathering that highlights how these eat outs build communities.

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A simplified mind can look at this in this line of thought; these eat outs largely employ women meaning the likelihood of growing small families is unavoidable. These new young families will not move to another location to start a new life, but will instead begin to forge a new life closer to the source of sustenance which is the economic activity that employs the mother and father.

Besides being a service or need provision point, the eat out will serve as a meeting point for the given members of the community. Sort of the same way one can look at a religious site such as a church or mosque being the focal meeting point of the community.

Elementary social studies define a community as a group of people that live in the same place and have a common characteristic. The common characteristic in this case is the kafunda that serves the need for every one which is food.

To define them as restaurants is somewhat misleading since the structure of operations and setup does not meet the levels of what can be called standard. Informal is the term that best describes them for they provide a service that is quick and basic. No attention is paid to detail, guidelines, quality, service or impression. Sort of the same way Kampala’s communities are built with a lacking of organization and standard.