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Part 1 of 2: Team blogging – part of the media training in sunny Kampala

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It didn’t take too long to warm up to Kampala. So much of the city felt familiar, reminding me of parts of my home country Sri Lanka. The tropical climate, dark greenery, papayas, mangoes and pineapples. The laidback, friendly, warm culture… sorry… I may be getting carried away here. I am at work, I must assert! (Just for the record and also as my bosses will read this.) I am in Uganda for a five-day media training for community activists, to help them to promote their stories in the international media. By Farah Mihlar

MRG has for many years worked with some of the poorest and marginalized communities in the world, who face constant issues of discrimination. They often share with us poignant and hard-hitting stories about the realities they face, but they have very limited means to get these stories across in the media. The training in Kampala is the first of nine trainings that we are conducting regionally, in Asia, Africa and Latin America – phew…. no pressure at all. ( I won’t say how stressed our Africa Regional Information Officer, Mohamed, looked on the first day.)

The activists were being trained to write press releases and news stories, film and edit video footage, edit audio and use the internet by creating their own websites and also using social networking sites to publicise their issues.

Five days on, as I write, I have to say the results have been exceptional. The motivation and interest from all of the team was always high – despite some of the sessions being very technical. Note the reference to a team – this is because, throughout the five days, all of the participants have both worked and played together (the latter I will explain later). Many of us have become friends. We have learned not just media skills but also about various different communities in Africa, and understood deep and challenging human rights issues affecting each group. Ten of the participants are from Uganda and eight from other African countries, including Ethiopia, Somaliland, Nigeria, the DRC, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Despite the diversity in origin, culture and nationality, the common characteristics of being from a minority community and having an interest in the media has connected everyone.

Minority Rights Group Training in Uganda
Group work on designing a webpage

Learning about blogging and how to write a blog was one of the final sessions in the training. As part of the whole learning experience, we thought we would try out an interesting experiment of blogging as a team. To avoid confusion let me explain a few basic points:

Technique – I am writing the blog. Participants comment and share views, all of which are typed out. The written content is projected onto a screen so everyone knows what is being written.

Structure – the blog appears in two parts.

Content – I will fill in the background and explain some comments where needed. The blog also includes some further commentary from me, which was added as we wrote together.

Contributors – See below the full names of all participants, the communities and organizations they represent. Anecdotal information on each of the participants has been added in, in the process of writing.

Let us begin… drum roll…

After five days of intense media training, the team first talk about what they gained from the training. Thomas, who works with a small pastoralist community called the Endorois in Kenya, is the first to respond:
‘The web,’ he says.
‘What about the web,’ I ask.
‘It is going to help me a lot in terms of creating our own website for the Enderois. The new editing software was useful to know.’
The Endorois have been evicted from their traditional homeland in Kenya’s Rift Valley to make room for a national park, which is visited by thousands of tourists from Europe every year. MRG has, for years, partly through its Trouble in Paradise campaign, advocated for the community to have access to their homeland and for a share of the tourism revenue.

Rahel, dubbed the Ethiopian beauty, says: ‘Writing a press release… it was very hard for me to do it earlier, I had to get two or three people to approve. Now, I am confident. I can write it on my own.’ Rahel works for an umbrella organization of pastoralist groups in Ethiopia.

Mukthar, who everyone sarcastically refers to as ‘shy guy’ (apparently he was for the first part of the training, until he transformed in the nights out) makes the following list:

  • How to write a good press release.
  • How to develop a blog.
  • Edit audio video.

On the last evening, we organized a cultural event. All participants were asked to bring something that represented their culture and they were asked to speak a little bit about it. Mukthar, turned up in an ‘I love Somaliland’ T-shirt. Some of complained that it did not look very original, but then he explained the T-shirt had a picture of a camel, which is an integral part of the culture of Somaliland. Since he couldn’t bring the camel along, he wore the T-shirt.

Minority Rights Group Training in Uganda
Team photo at cultural night

Joan, who works with cow-herding communities in Western Uganda, was referred to as the Queen of Banyankore last night (see picture). ‘We used to write press releases, but I understand that they were not up to standard. This will help me better it,’ she says, in reference to how the training will help her with her work. ‘I never thought I would one day have this opportunity to learn video/audio recording, interviewing techniques, being behind a camera – it took me to the next level and I gained confidence out of the whole experience,’ she adds.

Albert, always subtly humorous and very colourful last night (see picture) says, ‘I learnt how media can be used to advocate for the rights of minority groups. I also learnt how to use some equipment – like a video camera and to write a press release that can be used for advocacy.’ Albert works with the Karamojong community, in northern Uganda. Karamojong are pastoralists, who are rich in culture and tradition but suffer from inequality, discrimination and are also affected by a conflict that affects the region.

Timothy works with the Batwa ‘pygmy’ community in South Western Uganda. For our cultural evening, he showed us some impressive dance steps practiced by his tribe and based on rhythmic jumping. As he speaks, the team comments that they would have liked to see him jump higher. Ben, another Ugandan participant, says he curtailed himself out of respect for the roof, which may have otherwise blown off. For Timothy, the plus points of the training were how to reach the media through press releases and press conferences and website development. ‘We already have a website, which is in poor shape, so we learnt to make it more user-friendly and use it to promote the situation of Batwa.’

Minority Training in Uganda
Mitiku, Joan and Albert at the cultural evening

Agnes, our champion of women’s rights, who charmed all the men with her beautiful Nigerian attire, adds: ‘Everything about this workshop would put Bette women in the international scene. It makes me very excited that very soon a lot more people will hear about our community and women.’ Agnes works to strengthen women’s rights in the Bette community in Nigeria.

On that note I will end part one of this blog. I admit, it all does sound a little too positive. This is not because I was a trainer (even though I would love to believe that was the reason). It was just a cumulative positive experience for everyone– it is true!! As if not enough positivity, Mohamed adds: “This has been a great team to work with. There has been a super blend of team dynamics.”

I promise to highlight a few more of the contentious issues in the next part. See you then.

Read Part 2 here.

Contributors

  • Agnes Ingwu, Abanbeke Development Association, Obudu City – Nigeria
  • Albert Lokoru, Karamoja Agro-Pastoral Development Programme (KADP), Karamoja – Uganda
  • Drake Nyamugabwa, Masindi Pastoralist Group, Masindi – Uganda
  • Faith Nzilani Musinga, Centre of Minority Rights and Development, Harare – Zimbabwe
  • Mohamed Matovu, MRG Regional Information Officer, Kampala – Uganda
  • Mohamed Mukhtar, Media and Rights Somaliland, Hargeisa – Somaliland
  • Mitiku Tiksa, SOS Sahel Ethiopia, Addis Ababa – Ethiopia
  • Mugabe Herbat Joram, Pastoralist Women to Break Cultural Chains, Kiboga District – Uganda
  • Niwagaba Joan, Mbarara Development Agency, Mbarara – Uganda
  • Omunga Benjamin, Katakwi Urafiki Foundation, Katakwi District – Uganda
  • Peninah Zaninka, United Organisation for Batwa Development, Kampala – Uganda
  • Rahel Negussie, Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia, Addis Ababa – Ethiopia
  • Sandra Nassali, UgaBYTES Initiatives, Kabalagala – Uganda
  • Samuel Kaweesi, Nakasongora Pastoralists Association, Nakasongora – Uganda
  • Tuteene Kusimweray, Action pour la Promotion des Droits de Minorites Autochtones en Afrique Centrale, Bukavu – DRC
  • Thomas Kiptiony Chepsoi, Endorois Welfare Council, Nakuru Town – Kenya
  • Mpalanyi Michael, Uganda Land Alliance, Kampala District – Uganda

This article reflects the sole opinion of its author and does not engage MRG’s responsibility.

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