May 27

You are worthy of love

Great time today supporting my good friend Winnie Ainembaabazi and the Girl Power Foundation. Today we met with girls aged 14-25 in Kihihi, South West Uganda, many of whom were young mothers. We explored communication, self-esteem and how to set goals for all the different areas (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) in our lives. 
The biggest challenge for the girls was the idea that they are worthy of love and that this is true despite any challenges (Loss of parents, early pregnancy, loss of job, poor education) that life might through at them. In the end I held one of the girls’ beautiful babies and asked them: 

“Do you see this beautiful baby? Is she worthy of love?”


“Does she have a job?”


“Does she have money?”


“Does she have success?”


“Is she worthy of love?”


“We are all born equal and equally worthy of love. This does not change with time, no matter what challenges we face or mistakes we make, we remain worthy of love”
Then, because it felt like what was needed in that instance, we all turned to our neighbours and told them (in the local language) “you are worthy of love”.
This was quite a powerful moment, and many of the girls reflected afterward that it never occurred to them to love themselves and that they were worthy of love. 

Sadly too many girls grow up thinking that their worth in life is only relative to the money they can bring in to their families or the marriage they can achieve. Too many girls spend their lives being judged on their physical looks, or preconceived societal notions of what it means to be “female” but not on the person they truly are. No matter who you are, you are worthy of love.

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May 13

What it means to be humanย 

Yesterday I had to ask a patient to leave my GP room as they were being physically and verbally aggressive and I feared for my safety. They were angry because they wanted a service that I did not think it was safe or right to give. Some people would say “what a terrible person they must be” or “what a piece of scum” or “[insert expletive] layabout scrounger”. This was the first thought that flashed through my head. Before I stopped to think…

I would like to challenge these kind of reactions. This person was none of these things. This person was a human being, once an innocent child like the children in your life that you love. 
They, like so many others, have been ravaged by physical and mental health challenges, let down by an overstretched underfunded system that never has the time to really stop and listen.
They have had “quick fixes” and short term measures thrown at them until they became dependent on the next “quick fix” because they were never offered the compassion and support needed to find a long one.
They have had a spiral of negativity thrown at them, judged, stereotyped and stigmatised at every turn until the outside becomes the inside and they turn to judging, stereotyping and stigmatising themselves. 
Then the shame, the fear, the malignant guilt kicks in… so they numb it with [insert here drugs, alcohol, food, religion, gambling, shopping etc] and/or they project that pain back out into the world and the cycle of decline continues. 
So no I am not angry with this patient, I am not piteous of them either, because that would be insulting and missing the point. This could happen to ANYONE. I am disappointed and frustrated with a system and society that never gave us the time or the opportunity to really make a difference in that persons life. I am motivated to speak out for change. 
I implore you to think beyond your immediate reactions and question how someone really reaches that point of breaking? Question how it is possible that with all the wealth and prosperity thrown in our faces every day we as a society can allow such a spiral of decline for the many to go unchecked in the interest of further bettering the already better lives of the few? 
None of us are where we are in life because we are special or better than anyone else. We are where and who we are because of the exposures, experiences and opportunities presented to us. We know this from scientific research, we even use it to predict disease/risks and design medication and treatment regimes.  
Yet we rarely apply it in the reality of social interactions, preferring instead to blame individuals for the state of their existence. This is a misconception we buy into at our own peril and at the peril of the progress of our societies and our species. This belief segregates and isolates those most in need of care and opportunity. It holds us back from enlightened social progress and demonises and degrades the most vulnerable.
Elections are coming people… stop. Take a breath. Think. Try to think past what will benefit you to what will benefit the most of us. Try to think past protecting yourself and your loved ones to protecting the most vulnerable. Try to think past your opportunities to the opportunities we could bring to those most in need. Try to imagine what you would vote for if you or one of your loved ones was isolated, marginalised and vulnerable through no fault other than the risks of being human. 
And then, only after you have tried to consider this truly, then make your decision. The future is not written, it is what we make it…

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Jun 10

Classic #TIA day!ย 

Classic #TIA day! 

First I find out that due to other unavoidable commitments, I will be presenting alone at the MOH today without my Ugandan colleagues… Okay no big deal, I’m prepared and I have done my fair share of tough speeches before. 


But then…Arrived at ministry of health after having travelled 100’s km from Bwindi to present at the Maternal Child Health Cluster, only to discover:

1) the venue had been changed to a hotel the other side of town!!!

2) the start time had been changed to start 2 hours earlier!!!

3) the meeting had been merged with the Strategic Monitoring Evaluation and Research meeting?!?

Turns out they left us off the circular email! 


So I hop on a Boda Boda (terrifying motorbikes but the only way to get across Kampala traffic in a hurry) and make it to the Hotel. Upon walking into the room full of 100 Ugandan reproductive and child health movers and shakers, I quickly scan the agenda on the registration desk wondering if I missed my slot. 


Imagine my dismay when I discover despite following to a letter the procedure to submit for the agenda and being directly invited to attend, I can’t see the USHAPE project on there anywhere! 


By this point I think I might spontaneously combust! I travelled by car, bus and plane to make it here for the opportunity to present, left reduced clinical cover at the hospital and stayed up all night to sliding the perfect presentation only to find we are not on the agenda.


HOWEVER… After some schmoozing and charming the secretary, the chair and the commissioner I am given a 15 min slot immediately after the tea break! Smashed the presentation,  comprehensively handled all the questions, got several big smiles and nods around the room and have had several requests for further information and collaboration! 


Now I find myself sitting through the most tedious endless presentation on district league tables and scorecard harmonisation! 


This Is Africa…one minute you think disaster has struck and it’s all over and the next minute you are on top of the world with opportunities abound, then you blink and find you are trapped in one of the most boring moments of your existence to date!

The mind boggles! ๐Ÿ˜

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