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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Human Rights house and Minstry of Health

Today, we visited the human rights house in Kampala. The bus dropped us off a-ways from the commission, so we had an eventful walk to and from the house. We saw two cows wondering along the street, a few cute dogs, people burning trash, and Quint even found some dumb bells to pose in front of. We also heard a lecture from Michael Muyonga of the Uganda Health Ministry later in the afternoon.

The executive director, Sewanijana, of the Uganda Human Rights House lead a very interesting lecture regarding human right topics in Uganda and then focused on how mandates of human rights can be carried out. He mentioned problems with the judiciary system leading to violations of prisoner’s civil rights, problems with parliament, violations of health human rights, violations to the right of children, and violations of the right to education, just to name a few important topics discussed.

We heard his perspective: only Ugandans can solve the problems existing today, such as these problems involving human rights. Issues of governance are solvable by the people here who stand up and say, “enough is enough”. This is hard to come by because Uganda lacks a strong civil society due to high levels of poverty and high rates of unemployment. How can the civil society in Uganda be strengthened? Do you think these solutions are plausible within the current governmental framework existing today?

Michael Muyonga came to MUBS in the afternoon to discuss the Health Ministry in Uganda. The Ministry has many programs such as malaria prevention, promotion and education, surveillance, childcare, and nutrition. Michael focused his lecture on HIV/AIDS, a very serious epidemic here in Uganda. As a behavioral scientist, he had a lot to say regarding prevention and comprehensive programs designed to combat HIV/AIDS. One important part of this program regards confronting the HIV/AIDS stigma. How has your stigma changed after having heard these lectures and after having visited TASO? What can be done to reduce the negative stigmas associated with HIV/AIDS?

Later in the afternoon, we had a fun 11 v 11 game of soccer! And oh yes, victory for Drake!


  1. I appreciated the human rights presentation as much as any other session we have seen thus far. The Director, Sewanijana, had one of the most organized and interesting presentations we have had. The most impressive part of what I learned dealt with the breadth of the information he provided. He talked about each part of the government (ececutive, judicial, and parliament) and how they all in turn prolong or intensify civil rights violations in Uganda. His view was wholistic, and it showed how many factors combined to create the impoverished living circumstances in Uganda today.

    Even though he was very informative, there were some downsides to his presentation. He talked about the policy and policy inforcement necessary for sustainable developement, but he did not cover what the current government policies are now. So, it was hard to tell how far Uganda has to go to have funtional policy and policy enforcement. I am also interested to know what action are being taken by the government to create and enforce these policies.

    The HIV/AIDS presentation in the afternoon contained a lot of information. He was the first person we talked to from the government, and I was surprised to see that he had a powerpoint presentaion. It was good, but with the opportunity to talk to a representative directly from the ministry of health, I would have liked to learn more of a broad overview of the ministry of health, its mission and vision, as well as a summary of programs and initiatives.

    The soccer game was great! It was the first time I engaged in physical activity since the school year concluded, and it was refreshing. But my MUBS opponents wore me out!

  2. Shannon asked how the civil society in Uganda can be strengthened. I think the answer is education. According to Sewanijana, the answer to Uganda's problems is good governance. Uganda has a just constitution and money to spend, but the rights guaranteed are not carried out and the money is spent wastfully and is subject to corruption. To have good governance, you must have good leadership. In Uganda, leaders are elected by the people (members of the civil society). If these people are not educated, they cannot make informed decisions in the voting booth. I think that this is one of the main reasons why the current administration is has remained in power for so long. The people must be liberated. They must be educated..

    I agree with Eric- the soccer game was a lot of fun. Thanks, Fred, for making that happen for us!

  3. It took me by surprise when Sewanijana said that the Ugandans need to be held accountable. It made me think about how we are here studying sustainable development, but the reality is, many of Uganda's citizens are not thinking about how to sustain their own country. It is unfortunate that all of Uganda's citizens are not as informed as the MUBS students when it comes to the things that hold their country back. Honestly I am not sure of a solution to strengthen the society and get them to ban together, though we all know that that's what it will take for any dramatic changes to occur. The biggest problem lies within the infrastructure of the government because they hold all of the power.

  4. In response to Shannon's questions about HIV/AIDS, I must say that there were only a couple things that I had already not known about the disease. One thing that really struck me (and that we also talked about earlier at TASO) was the fact that married couples are now at high risk for AIDS, largely because of infidelity.

    Educating the rural areas about the truth of HIV/AIDS remains a large challenge, but there is progress being made. Just yesterday, I saw a large sign promoting condom use in a small village, and that was encouraging. I think there will always be some negative stigmas, but the important part is education and awareness which seems to have improved quite a bit over the years in Uganda.