Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Racism . . .

At the workshop that I blogged about in my last post, I had an interesting experience. But first, some background. I am the only non-Ugandan and only white person that works with this NGO (AFLI: African Leadership Institute) here on the ground. My role is technical support and data analysis, so it makes sense that at the workshops, I present the methodology behind the scores that are on the scorecard (I am however training two of my colleagues to do this presentation).

So, after giving said presentation, I sat in the back of the audience with my colleague to watch the remainder of the workshop. Then a young woman, probably early 20s, about my age, approached my colleague, Teo, and then Teo said this girl wanted to ask me something. I said that was fine. She then came over next to me and as she began to speak, I could tell she was very nervous: I could even see here lip quivering and she was kind of stumbling over here words.

She started asking if our analysis was really correct and really did reflect the performance of an MP. I explained how we get our data (that it all comes directly from Parliament). Then she started asking why I gave the presentation. I then explained my role in the organization. She then asked why a Ugandan did not give the presentation, and I explained that Gerald had given the “Roles of an MP” presentation, and that I was the only non-Ugandan in attendance. She then began asking why white people feel they need to get involved in all of Africa’s business, that there are Africans that can donate and support other Africans but they don’t because they know the white man will do it, and that because of all of this, whites have made Africans lame and dependent. Now, these are all good points, and I think she speaks some truth here. I believe that much aid is causing a culture of dependence and the way in which it is given, presented should be changed (but that is an issue for another time). I tried to explain to her that AFLI for example is both Ugandan-originated and Ugandan-run and that "we whites" try to give support to it rather than control it.

She didn’t seem to want to listen. She continued with her diatribe and began saying that whites upset her, etc, etc. Then she said “And me, I DETEST whites. I DETEST them.” I then looked at her and said “I don’t want to talk to you anymore,” and I turned away from her. She then left, and I did not see her the rest of the time. It was really the first time anyone has looked directly at me and said they hate me. I didn’t really know what to do, and I could feel that all to familiar heat-anger flowing through up into face (I blame that on the Harris in me), so I simply ended the conversation (which would be the Bybee in me).

I realized that she had planned to say that to me from the beginning which is probably why she was so nervous when she began talking to me. She must have had some really negative run-ins with white people in the past to make her want to say that to me (someone she did not even know). It just goes to show, hate spreads hate.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Another Workshop!

My organization has finally managed to conduct another dissemination workshop! To refresh people quickly: we are created a report card for each MP (Member of Parliament) and then doing dissemination workshops to give that info to the voters. The workshop from this past Friday was awesome!

We were presenting the scorecard for the MP of Bamunanika County. This MP did not do particularly well: he only went to 9 of the 80 sittings of parliament and attending none of his committed meetings. His grades were: F in Plenary (the full sittings of Parliament), F in Committed, and E in Constituency. The MP himself did not attend the workshop, but he sent his assistant and there were about 110 of his constituents in attendance.

After I finished presenting the methodology of the scorecard and his specific scores, the MP's assistant was given time to respond. The assistant was amazing: he admitted that the MP had not performed up to par and went step by step explaining how the MP would improve and how he would help him improve (now whether or not the promised improvements will come to pass is a whole other issue, and he better get his act together before the elections in 2011). The assistant could have gotten angry, said that our data was flawed, that we were out to get the MP, etc, etc, but he didn't. It was a beautiful political move!

Then the audience asked questions and gave comments demanding change etc, etc. It really was democracy and politics at its finest, really! It is quite amazing, because the average Ugandan does not have many channels through which to voice their concerns, so it was great to see them take advantage of this and to some extent force the MP to be responsive to their concerns and needs!

We have 2 more workshops planned over the next 2 weeks, so we'll see how those go. We plan to do 118 workshops (about half of the constituencies in Uganda) before next year's elections.

The bottom line of all of this is to increase good governance, and it is great to be a part of that. And the cool part is that we have a systematic, randomized-trial based way to evaluate if we are in actual fact increasing good governance in Uganda, so once we are finished with all the workshops we will see the effectiveness of the scorecard system of evaluation . . .