Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Held Hostage by your phone? Learn some Phone Etiquette

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about email etiquette and the readership was wide. I also received a couple of private messages thanking me for sharing what seemed obvious yet many continued to abuse their emails.  I have since realized the need to write another on phone etiquette and why, despite the advancement in telephony, many of us continue to be blinded by these gadgets and loose respect for those who offer their time to be with and around us.

I must admit that I am writing this from my own previous experience(s) of disrespecting people around me as a result of unnecessarily using my phone. I was so lucky to have a very bold friend who once told me to either put my phone down while she talked to me else she threatened to walk away. I first thought that she was being overly emotional but it all made sense one day when she taught me what it meant to partially pay attention to someone’s presence or conversation regardless of it’s level of importance. The fact that the person chose to speak to you and not call you, meant that they need your attention and some respect.
Have you ever been in the company of your peers and you notice how they endless caress their phones and giggle or make utterances such as “Oh my Gosh”, “Hell noooo” then giggle again? In an attempt to remain polite, you smile as if you are aware of what caused their reaction.  This makes one wish that we never got to this level where almost every urban dweller owns a ‘smart’ phone? I wonder why they are called Smart phones? They seem to have made human being loose the sense of “social’ and respect. They seem to make us dumb and not smart at all. 

We sit in the same room and find it difficult to speak to each other yet it is so easy to send each other whatsup messages, we find it impossible to verbally compliment someone for something positive but have the guts to send a tweet praising this person and tagging whoever cares to know. When we visit parents, friends and family, we are more comfortable sharing the updates of these meetings using our phones on social media platforms instead of enjoying those moments when we are physically with them. Some of you take your disrespect to flights, you are told to switch off your phones during take off  and taxing yet all you do is start-taking selfies on board. Well, these are some of the basic, yet not so obvious things you need to avoid when using your “Smart Phone”

Phone in silent mode: When you find this sign "please keep your phone in silent mode" or  "switch off your phone" please respect that. It's for a reason.  In most cases, it’s for your own safety and security.

Sound and Flash: Deactivate sound and flash from your phone when taking pictures in crowded places, hospital settings etc unless you are a professional photographer on assignment such that removing the flash could compromise the quality of your work.
Family and Friends: When with family or friends, please talk to them, laugh, Joke, play etc. You can only achieve this by putting your phone away and being part of the conversation and the physical activities.
Returning Calls : When unable to pick your phone call, endvour to send a message indicating that u will return the call. Alternatively, ask request the person to call you at a time of your convenience. Ignoring a call or going silence is so yesterday.

Speaking with one person at a time: When speaking on phone, desist from speaking to other people around you. It's disrespectful & annoying to the person on the other side as they receive different messages and could create confusion.
First time calls: When you call someone for the very first time, be polite and introduce yourself before you are asked who you are.  There could be Apps that help you identify new callers such as “TrueCaller” but not everyone has a smart phone to take advantage of these. It’s an issue of politeness.
Tone Control: Control your tone when speaking on phone, regardless of how you feel. Whether sad, excited, angry etc. Tame your voice. Someone on the receiving end can easily tell your mood from your tone. Try to smile as your speak, the person on the other end will feel it. Unless the reason for the call is sad, you loose nothing when your smile.  You instead prolong your life on earth.

Remove Ear/Head phone: Have some respect when talking to someone by removing your earphones from your ears. It's rude to speak with earphones on. This has become a common trend with teenagers who consider it “Cool” to have earphones plugged in your ears. Hope you take time to occasionally remove the wax.
Phone Music/Videos/Games: When playing music, video or games, do not interfere with those around you. Use your ear/headphones when necessary. The assumption that people around you will enjoy your music and therefore playing it loud is not an issue is wrong. If they have not asked to join you in listening, then they definitely don’t need it.
Speaking to people physically: When speaking to someone, respect them by putting your phone away & maintaining eye contact & other non-verbal communication.  This creates mutual respect and enables meaningful conversations with the least destruction.

Web Photo
Smile on Phone: Whenever you can, do smile when speaking on phone, the other person can tell from tone. It could be a game changer to the conversation. Just try and see the magic.
Meetings: When meeting people for an activity, partnership, or work plan, please put your phone away and LISTEN. People do take note of so many things. The success of your meeting could depend a lot on your phone etiquette.
Chats as cheap: The fact that we have Apps that have made communication easy, convenient and CHEAP does not meat that we should never make phone calls to people we care about and only opt for whatsup, GTalk, Viber. Sometimes, people want to know that you can spend some money on them by calling and talking to them and not relying on “FREE” services to get in touch.

Unfamiliar phone numbers: When you receive a call and it’s from an unfamiliar number, politely inform the caller that it’s a wrong number and hang up. Do not abuse the call, threaten them or pick the call and say nothing in a bid to make them spend money on airtime.
Checking other’s phones: Have you ever given a friend, spouse, workmate or even your sibling your phone (For whatever reason) only for you to discover that they opened it and checked your chats, social media platforms including private messages in the inbox (es), SMSes, who called, when, why etc? Now, that sucks so bad if it was done against your will and without your knowledge. Well, it is bad manners if you are one of those people who do that. STOP IT!!
Using phones on the Road: Where as there are still so many points to share, my last and most important is to people who continue to use smart phones while driving. You not only endanger yourself but also those who get affected by your reckless actions on the road.  You get obstructed in all sorts of ways but mostly Auditory destruction where by you move their attention to the sound of phone/conversation instead of road environment.  Get the message “DON’T TALK OR TEXT WHEN DRIVING”.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Life is Sexually Transmitted

“We are all products of sex and we should not feel ashamed talking or reporting about it”. These were the opening words of Lisa (Not real Name). She was speaking to Journalists and Communication officers at a training on reporting health at Voice of America (VOA) offices during the AIDS2012 conference in Washington DC, which I was privileged to attend. Lisa was HIV positive and she said that she was not happy about the little attention that’s given to reproductive health issues by mainstream media. Her argument was that; many people are not comfortable talking about SEX.  Asked why, she said that’s her mission now, to find out the big “WHY”.
Well, there are thousands of Lisa(s) where I come from. The mention of the word SEX is received with suspicion, discomfort and pretense. Sex has been given all sorts of names such as “bad manners”. Parents in many African countries find it very challenging to talk about Sex to their teenagers. I cannot blame them because, I bet they weren’t talked to either and only found out about it on their own. The only time that many young people in Africa learn about something related to sex is in higher primary when they are introduced to a topic on reproduction. Of course there are few exceptions who learn from parents who have little respect for their children to an extent of having sex in places that are easily accessible by curious children.

This lack of Sexual and reproductive health information gets worse for the Girl Child as she grows older and at puberty. She never understands why she has to bleed every month, why her hips are expanding, breasts developing and why her mother keeps on telling her to stay away from boys. When a mother or guardian sees her around boys (Innocently playing) she makes utterances such as “If you get pregnant, I will disown you. You cannot embarrass this family etc.”. To start with, the teenager has no knowledge about pregnancy let alone how one gets pregnant. Yet none of the parents is courageous enough to explain this. It gets worse when fathers think that sex education is purely a mother’s role. No it is NOT. It takes two to tangle, so raising and educating the children should be done as a team.

Times have changed now, with the technological advancement, access to smart phones, emergence of social Networks, lots of information and relatively affordable Internet access, teenagers are wasting no time finding out about this mysterious thing called “SEX”, It’s now a click away and parents need to up their game. They cannot afford to sit and pretend that their children are Innocent. And those who have, have had to pay dearly through cyber bullying, trafficking and addiction to pornography.  The earlier you take the bull by the horns and talk to your children about sex, sexual and reproductive health, the better for you as they grow.  Because whether you like it or not, they will find out about sex, they will engage in it and it will have an impact on them depending on the decisions they make. It’s better if they have prior knowledge. The statics on Child Marriages, Abortions, drugs, brothels, Teen pregnancies, prostitution etc would be history or close to that. 

This piece was inspired by UNFPA youth Hackathon, which took place in Kampala Uganda from 21st -24th July 2015, for which I was a judge along side Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, UN secretary General envoy for youth, Dr. Bruce B Campbell, Director of Technical Division of UNFPA in NYC, Dr. Kenneth Paik a research Scientist and Lecturer at MIT and Dr. Dorothy Okello the director of Resilient Africa Network (RAN).  We were looking at Apps that had been designed by young people to address the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) challenges facing adolescents and youth especially the vulnerable ones. Read more about it here 
The Judges discussing after Pitches from the Hackathon Teams
The fact that these young developers could identify exiting SRH issues and seek to find solutions for them was encouraging. The choice of the winning team depended so much on what the APP could achieve and the fact that it was addressing day-to-day issues. Most importantly, it had to be one that could be replicated in all continents and used by the target group regardless of geographical location.

In UNFPA’s Executive Director’s tweet, he emphasises the need for sex education. And it start with you the parent.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Kiss from a Giraffe

Growing up, I was privileged to live in a couple of National Parks in Uganda. This was so, because my dad was a Sr. member of staff at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). This meant that for every work transfer, we moved along with him as a family.  We lived in some of the best National parks in Uganda like the Murchsion falls, Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori National Park among others. We often went for game drives, Safaris and camping and learnt a lot about flora and fauna with training to preserve and conserve nature from a very young age.

I remember my dad telling my siblings and I endless stories about the park and how animals are beautiful ‘people’ and that if we didn’t interfere with the ecosystem, we could live in peace and harmony with all creatures.  We were never allowed to tamper with any creature by destroying its habitat or killing it for no reason. Over the years, I have learnt to respect other creatures and appreciate their role and value in the ecosystem. For me, nature has always been part of my life.

During  a recent  Thomson Reuters  media training on "Sustainable development in a changing environment" which took place in Nairobi,While discussing the Sustainable development Goals that are to replace the MDGS, I learnt that for anything to be sustainable, it ought to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising those of  the future generation to meet their own needs. I am afraid that in the wake of a changing Climate, characterized by deforestation, destruction of wetlands, human settlement in national parks and poaching, a lot of the future needs have been compromised.  And something has to be done.

As I plan to embark on an afforestation project in Uganda, I have decided to travel around Kenya visiting parks and reserves to appreciate the fauna. My first trips were to the David Shedirck Wildlife trust found within the Nairobi National Park, dedicated to saving baby elephants and taking them back to the wild once mature and the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi dedicated to Giraffes. In the video below, I was feeding a Giraffe as I learnt more about its life and value within the ecosystem. What you observe is the famous “Giraffe Kiss” received by lucky and courageous visitors to the centre.

I also did visit the Orphaned Elephants and learnt about their sad stories and how they ended up at the centre. It is mainly as a result of Ivory Poaching. A human activity endangering African elephants for their tusks.  Read more here 

A baby Elephant being fed at the David Shedrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya.

How can we move from being addicted to “breaking news” and focus more on sustainable development issues in a changing climate?  Maybe we could start by being kissed by a giraffe so that we can appreciate the value of our flora and fauna. Human beings need to stop being greedy. Just because animals cannot speak they get hurt and when they do, humanity is endangered. This piece was not about being kissed by a Giraffe but rather about the dangers of compromising the needs of the future generations through our selfish acts of destroying flora and fauna. You can do something to change this. What are you going to do today to stop further destruction of our environment? Plant a tree? Report deforestation to save birds? stop reclamation of land for wrong reasons? save those flowers to bring the bees back? what action will you take today? The ball is in your court!