Talking about the level of poverty in most African countries is not new to many of us, but many of us still tend to ignore that Africa can be among the richest regions in the world. We live in the reality of poverty, blinded to the potential of our wealth.
Today, when you go deep into the villages in Africa and give a woman or young village girl $2, she will often have mixed feelings and won’t know what to purchase. Will she buy food, water, a book for her child? What about sanitary towels? Paraffin or school tuition?
In my daily activities, empowering and mentoring young people and the community at large, I have countered village girls who were not going to school due to their menstruation cycle. Without money to purchase sanitary towels, they had little choice but to stay home. It was very hard to hear their stories and I could not hold back my tears. Indeed, I felt worse because I did not know how to help.
The incident stayed with me and I later shared it with my friends, who were also deeply moved. After they listened, they began to count the ways they would waste their own money... squandering while someone, somewhere, was suffering. One of my friends admitted, while crying, how he had wasted over $70 drinking with friends the week before.
From that day onwards, Tatu Reginanald and myself came together and founded the Narudi System Initiative. This initiative ensures that young girls are able to return to school during their menstruation. We gather donations from our groups of friends and use those funds to purchase what young girls need in order to stay in school.
It is all about getting friends to donate a little of what they have in order to purchase sanitary towels, which will later be distributed to needy girls in village schools. This is an initiative that can be easily replicated in any place within Africa as long as the founder has passionate friends who are willing to recognise the needs of their community and take steps to help.
We request all those reading this article create a similar initiative in their own communities. I believe there will always be a need for us to ensure young girls stay in school and we can all contribute to eradicating the reasons they stay home.
By Michael 'Vuvuzela' Khasindu
Below, Edward E. Gboe from Liberia recounts his recent experiences with Ebola in his community. The Africa Alliance of YMCAs calls for solidarity from all our partners and member YMCAs during this difficult and still frightening time by contributing resources and financial support to the prevention activities of the affected YMCAs.
“The toll on lives and the resulting social and economic difficulties as a result of this health emergency are obvious for the long haul. We are making some efforts and reaching out from realigned budget lines under existing health projects and have a presence [amongst] all national and local civil society and sector coordination groups. We however need to begin thinking beyond awareness and bracing ourselves for peace-building and food security interventions. Liberia is a food deficit country with only 10% of the stable food produced locally. 90% of rice is imported. Already, early and continuous rainfall before the Ebola outbreak [left] rice fields, including mine, unplanted. Jobs and businesses have shut down and income lost. There was an economic recession prior to the health emergency.
The general level of poverty in the country need no further emphasis. Quarantined communities are lacking food, water and basic supplies and therefore threatening to break out of quarantine. The government is overwhelmed and the health care system overly stretched to breaking point. Nearly all health facilities are closed except for ebola treatment centers. Aid has not begun to come. A small batch of technical support groups or experts have arrived but breaking the chain of infection remains the greatest challenge as this largely rests with the individual persons and communities.
The fragility of the state is being stretched further by the health crisis. There is high level of distrust in the public sector. Communities are polarised along political, tribal and religious lines leading to conflict and rumors of insurrections in the midst of the health emergency. A state of emergency is imposed and nationwide curfew [is] in effect (9pm - 6am). The military has been deployed.
By these notes, you realise that the situation is tensed. The government alone can't manage the extent of the crisis.
Thanks for your concern."
By E. Edward Gboe, National General Secretary, Liberia YMCA
God of life lead Africa to peace, justice and dignity
1 Corinthians 12:25-26: “... that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it...”
It is with a heavy heart and deep sympathy that we write this message of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have been affected by the Ebola pandemic and are battling the outbreak of the Ebola virus that has already claimed the lives of over 1000 people and left many families devastated. The untold grief wrought to the people by the Ebola disease is beyond description. Indeed, this is a catastrophe that is challenging the well-being and dignity of humanity.
On behalf of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), we assure our brothers and sisters in the affected areas of our prayers trusting in the GOD OF LIFE who is our source of hope and from whom we derive our dignity.
We commend the tireless efforts of the nations concerned, churches, medical personnel, and the international community in alleviating the suffering caused by this disease.
We thank the Sierra Leone Council of Churches, the Liberia Council of Churches, the Council of Churches in Guinea , and the Christian Council of Nigeria for keeping us informed and updated.
We request AACC members and the ecumenical family to dedicate Sunday 24th August 2014 for special prayers for our brothers and sisters infected and affected by the pandemic.
We also encourage you to express your solidarity with churches in the countries affected through the contact addresses indicated above. We strongly believe in the power of prayer.
Our prayer and conviction is that we shall all find consolation and strength in God through the risen Christ who gives humanity a new beginning with hope and dignity.
By Rev. Dr. Andre Karamaga, General Secretary
A graduation ceremony was held recently for 578 trainees in the Liberia YMCA computer programme at the Liberia YMCA gymnasium on Broad Street in Monrovia. The keynote speaker at the program, Montserrado County-District No. 8 Representative, Moses Acarous Gray, told the graduates that Information Technology has given a number of advantages to young people in the region. “Information technology has impacted offices and technology,” Representative Gray said.
Speaking on the theme: “The Impact of Information Technology on the Economy of Liberia”, Representative Gray said that there are an increasing number of technology related job opportunities around the world, especially with the introduction of cell phones.
During the ceremony, Development Secretary of the Liberia YMCA, Timotheus Kamaboakai, told graduates that it was important to advance oneself in the area of information technology, but that their graduation was just the first step and challenged them to take the opportunity to advance themselves in other areas like video editing and web design.
He revealed that the 21st cycle of the computer programme will become more flexible with the addition of night classes and that the YMCA had also acquired 350 used computers.
“We will work with young people in different ways to acquire skills for their advancement,” he said.
Earlier the coordinator of the computer program, Derrick Barshell, told the gathering that the computer center was established for young people to learn skills for the 21st century.
Mr Barshell announced that 11,613 persons had been trained since the programme was established. Among these, 53% are female while 47% are male.
The trainees were made up of beginners, intermediate and advance levels. Some of the courses offered during the training included Introduction to Computer System and Window-MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint. While at the intermediate level trainees undergo courses in Database Management, Layout Design, and Graphic Design among others.
Meanwhile, registration for cycle 21 has already begun.
Source: Liberia YMCA
On Wednesday, August 6, 2014, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf proclaimed and declared a-90 day state of emergency which was endorsed by two-thirds membership of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The state of emergency was declared and proclaimed as a result of the uncontrollable outbreak of the Ebola virus in Liberia, which rapidly spread from Guinea to Liberia and now greatly affects Sierra Leone; with few cases reported in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Since the discovery of the Ebola virus in March of this year (2014), the virus has metamorphosed into an epidemic due to poor health care system in affected communities, religious and cultural practices, misconceptions amongst the citizenry, and poor coordination and response on the part of the government.
The government of Liberia and its partners must collectively combat this epidemic. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and its partners must develop an Ebola Communication Strategy and enhance its support to the ministry’s outreach and community mobilisation team to effectively communicate the right messages on the causes, effects and prevention of the Ebola virus.
President Sirleaf’s declaration of a state of emergency evidently conforms to the Constitution of Liberia. Article 86 (b) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia enumerates that a state of emergency may be declared only where there is a threat or outbreak of war or where there is civil unrest affecting the existence, security or well being of the republic amounting to a clear and present danger.
The clear and present danger that the constitution and its framers point to, is not only war; but also an uncontrollable epidemic (like the Ebola Epidemic) that is devastating the population of Liberia, stagnating the Liberian economy and creating pandemonium amongst the citizenry. These situations justifies the declaration and proclamation of a state of emergency by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
But, what are the legal limits of a state of emergency as proclaimed and declared by the president?
Article 87 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia unambiguously states that the emergency powers do not include the power to suspend or abrogate the constitution, dissolve the Legislature, or suspend or dismiss the judiciary; and no constitutional amendment shall be promulgated during this (a) state of emergency.
In the article supra, it also limited the recess of the Legislature (in the event that they are on their Legislative recess or on other break) by outlining that where the Legislature is not in session, it must be convened immediately in special session and remains in session during the entire period of the state of emergency.
Another limitation of the state of emergency is that the writ of Habeas Corpus will never be suspended during this emergency period. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (Page 778), a writ of Habeas Corpus is a writ employed to bring a person before a court, most frequently to ensure that the person’s imprisonment or detention is not illegal.
Article 87 (b) of the 1986 Constitution limited the scope of the President’s state of emergency by clearly stating that the writ of Habeas Corpus shall remain available and exercisable at all times and shall not be suspended on account of any state of emergency. It further states that this writ of Habeas Corpus shall be enjoyed in the most free, easy, inexpensive, expeditious and ample manner; and it clearly concluded by providing a legal remedy in case of any violation of this writ. Article 87 (b) concluded that any person who suffers from a violation of this right may challenge such violation in a court of competent jurisdiction.
In conclusion, the limitations of a (the) state of emergency fall squarely within the ambits of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia. The constitution will never be suspended or abrogated, the Legislature will not be dissolved, there will be no constitutional amendment promulgated during this period of a state of emergency, the writ of Habeas Corpus will remain available and exercisable at all times and certain rights and liberties will not be violated or trampled upon.
By Alvin W. Yelloway, Liberia YMCA
Nairobi — Mary Wacu lived in the Rift Valley region for 10 years prior to the 2007/08 post-election violence that rocked Kenya after a disputed general election. "My husband was shot with a poisoned arrow, and my children hacked to death. Everything was burnt to ashes, I barely escaped with my life," she tells IPS. According to human rights organisations, the violence in this East African nation left an estimated 1,500 people dead and resulted in the rape of 3,000 women and the displacement of 300,000 people.
From her shanty in the sprawling Kibera slums, in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, Wacu follows the proceedings of the cases for crimes against humanity levelled against President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands.
But here in Kenya, like many who bore the brunt of the unprecedented violence, justice remains beyond Wacu's reach. It is a scenario that is all too familiar in Africa's conflict-prone countries like Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Against this backdrop, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Africa as well as international ones working on the continent, have opposed the recently-adopted Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights by the African Union (AU) member heads of states in June.
The protocol extends criminal jurisdiction to the African Court, and offers immunity to serving heads of states and all senior government officials during their term of office for serious crimes. The African Court was established by African countries to ensure protection of human and peoples' rights on the continent.
A source from Malawi attending the just-concluded meeting to promote ratification of AU treaties, which was held in Nairobi by the AU Office of the Legal Counsel on the 25 and 26 of August, explains to IPS that the amendments include an immunity provision for heads of states or governments and certain senior state officials for serious crimes against humanity.
The contentious article 46A categorically states that no charges shall be commenced or continued against any serving AU head of state or government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity. "Lifting immunity for sitting officials for serious crimes committed is an assurance to African leaders that they are above the law," the source says.
AU officials at the meeting, however, refused to comment to IPS on the protocol. Malawi has taken the lead in mobilising other CSOs across Africa to tell their governments that the immunity provision is a blatant disrespect for human rights. The source says that with a number of African leaders already under the radar of the ICC, "an immunity provision is offering African leaders the licence to abuse their people. It will further entrench dictatorship since many leaders will be afraid of being indicted when their term ends." The civil society community says that the African Court was moving in the right direction, until now.
Edigah Kavulavu, of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, tells IPS that the adopted protocol is the first legal instrument to extend a regional court's authority to criminal jurisdiction "regional courts often deal with human rights issues, which are matters of a civil nature."
It is estimated that 1 out of every 20 jobs on the African continent is related to tourism, especially in key tourism countries and attractions such as those found in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Egypt, Mali, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. Being a predominantly male-dominated industry, however, with a high male patronage, tourism needs to be held accountable for its impact on women in varied and serious ways.
In this month’s Karibu - Voices from the South, Ms. Omega Bula of Zambia explores the implications and impacts of commercial tourism on women’s rights and dignity. She argues that the ‘good news’ from tourism today lacks a class, racial, and gender justice analysis, and is hence not true for the majority of impoverished and marginalised women working in the tourism industry in Africa. This situation therefore demands life-giving economies and theologies that secure gender justice in the tourism industry in Africa, as well as the wider Global South.
The text consists of excerpts from Omega’s chapter in the newly published book, “Deconstructing Tourism: A Theological Reading from the Global South” (2014).
This talk begins with a personal story of sexual violence that may be difficult to listen to. But that’s the point, says citizen journalist Meera Vijayann: Speaking out on tough, taboo topics is the spark for change. Vijayann uses digital media to speak honestly about her experience of gender violence in her home country of India — and calls on others to speak out too.
The queen’s young leaders programme is searching for inspirational young people across the commonwealth who are making a difference in their communities.
Exceptional people aged 18-29 will receive awards for leading the way where they live, in honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth. The awards will support them to do more life-changing work.
Grants will be made to organisations in selected Commonwealth countries that can show they are improving the lives of young people. The grants will help individuals gain new skills, employment and a voice in their communities.
The AAYMCA encourages all Change Agents, S2C Ambassadors and other youth involved in the African YMCA movement to nominate themselves or people they know for the award. The work the YMCAs do in Africa is crucial to the advancement of youth development and it would be great for you all to be recognised for the remarkable impact you have on your communities.
Taimanda Shalhona, the General Secretary of YMCA Jos has been asked to deliver a speech at the 4th International Young leaders assembly being held from August 11-20, 2014, in the USA. The assembly is themed, “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Service, and Entrepreneurship”.
Below is the text of the speech:
“Let me Dream for the young African Leaders and for them, let me speak… Today, I speak to you, my friends, representing no race, religion or nationality. I have come to you driven by the dictates of my conscience to which humanity is beyond all nations. I have chosen to be here to share with you what I know, what I feel and more importantly what I believe about Africa, the World and leadership.
The Africa that I know is the world’s second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. Spread over 30.2 million km including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth’s total surface area and 20.4 % of the total land area. With a billion people in 61 territories (54 countries) it accounts for about 14.72% of the world’s human population.
The Africa of my imagination is endowed with vast natural resources like Gold, Diamonds, Bauxite, Oil, Coal, Uranium, and several other rare minerals. It is blessed with around 85% of the world’s known reserves of platinum and chromium. It has 60% of reserves of Manganese and Cobalt. It also accounts for 10% of the world’s Oil’s reserves.
This very land of my dreams is enriched with countless commodities that earn huge quantum of Foreign exchange -Oil in Chad, Angola and Nigeria, Copper in Zambia, and Tourism in Kenya- continue to fill the coffers of these countries. Five countries dominate Africa’s upstream oil production. Together they account for 85% of the continent’s oil production and are, in order of decreasing output, Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Angola. Other oil producing countries are Gabon, Congo, Cameroun, Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). More exploration is taking place in a number of other countries that aim to increase their output or become first time producers. Included in this list are Chad, Sudan, Namibia, South Africa and Madagascar while Mozambique and Tanzania are potential Gas producers.
The Africa of my thoughts contains many lakes and rivers, allowing in some small fishing industry. The deep rivers of Africa have significant hydroelectric value. Lake Victoria is Africa’s biggest lake. Lake Volta in Ghana is the world’s largest artificial lake. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans allow further enterprises such as: fishing, mining and offshore oil drilling. Its coastlines are teeming with fish and other sea life.
Source: YMCA Jos