Making one’s way by public taxi through Kampala’s packed streets is always interesting, but this time we were doing so with particular excitement. Our destination was the radio studios of UBC, Uganda’s national broadcaster, and our mission was to represent Challenges Worldwide live on air, to an audience of hundreds of thousands. UBC Radio reaches as far as South Sudan and Kenya.
After a quick group photo outside the compound, we made our way inside. It was clear our appointment was an important one when we were ushered quickly through security on mentioning the producer’s name. Prossy the radio presenter was warm and friendly as she ushered us into the recording studio and explained the procedure, but nerves were running high as we waited through jingles and advertisements for the microphone in front of us to buzz into life. Sharon, a former Team Leader, our Country Programme Manager Nicola, and current volunteers Lynna and myself sat at the desk and poured over our notes as we prepared our best professional voices.
The interview focused mainly on the ins and outs of the Challenges Worldwide’ programme in Uganda, with a particular emphasis on how local people can get involved. This was the topic most addressed in UBC listeners’ questions, which we watched ping in on social media between our turns to speak, but we also discussed our personal interpretations of the programme and, in my case, the experience of a muzungu (the local term for foreigner) living in Uganda.
We were also quizzed on our motivations, and whether I had signed up out of sincere belief in the importance of international development or simply to experience the beauty of the “Pearl of Africa” (in truth, a bit of both!)
Nicola was calm and collected as she expertly explained the details of our programme, and in the end her several pages of notes proved unnecessary, it takes far longer to cover the content than she had nervously imagined. Prossy turned her attention to the volunteers next, and we were able to discuss the help Challenges Worldwide gives to young people who need to develop skills and experience, and the impact we can see our work has on the local community. We were also quizzed on our motivations, and whether I had signed up out of sincere belief in the importance of international development or simply to experience the beauty of the “Pearl of Africa” (in truth, a bit of both!)
It proved a good opportunity to reflect on the differences between the two countries’ cultures, such as the tendency in the UK to work to the clock in contrast to more flexible lifestyles in Uganda, and the famous British reserve and politeness. Both ways of life have their disadvantages, as anyone who has almost been run off the pavement by one of Kampala’s ubiquitous motorbike-taxis (boda-bodas) will attest, but the more relaxed Ugandan lifestyle is good for the soul.
In the end, the hour passed by in a flash, and we found ourselves being thanked by Prossy outside the UBC studio and then shown to the door. Hopefully, our listeners found the experience as thought-provoking as we did, and at least one person is inspired to take up the challenge of global development as a result!
Are you more of an interactive learner? Not the biggest bookworm, or trying to cut down your screen time? A podcast may be for you! Perfect for on-the-go learners, podcasts are a free, quick, and easy way to give your brain a good workout.
Podcasts were never the most popular form of media. An improved interface, celebrity involvement, and programmes like Serial inspiring cult followings, however, have rocketed them into the mainstream. While listening for leisure is a great option, podcasts are also great for learning new information or skills. If you’re looking to be inspired, informed, or just want to see what the fuss is about, here are a few of our favourites.
Whether you’re looking to learn new skills to help you in the workplace, want to challenge yourself to be more socially aware, or are simply a curious soul, podcasts have a lot to offer. Even better, episodes range from under 30 minutes to over 2 hours. So, no matter your schedule, there’ll be a podcast to fill it. Have a listen on your lunch break, distract yourself during that workout, or zone out on your commute. Happy listening!
One of the beauties of the Internet is the availability of expert advice at your fingertips. With a wealth of opportunities to grow and evidence your skills base, improving your employability has never been easier. Here are a few of our favourite opportunities!
1. Learn to Code
…But not for the reason you think. Learning to code is not an easy fix. It is not a magical solution to unemployment and debt. As always, reality is more complex and a dose of scepticism is healthy! Don’t learn to code because it will land you a job as a developer (unless you seriously invest in it, it won’t). Instead, learn to code to understand the basics and improve your digital literacy.
Most companies have some type of digital presence. The more you understand how they work, the more effective you’ll be on them. You’ll be able to fix or prevent minor technical issues because you’ll see why they’re happening. You’ll have a better grasp on product development because you’ll know what goes into it. If you’re an entrepreneur, getting to grips with the code can help you build your site exactly the way you envision it. The great news is that there are a tonne of platforms out there to help you do it:
Popular with the uninitiated, Codecadamy is a classic
If you’re feeling committed: try FreeCodeCamp. (It’s recommended by James, our Comms Manager!)
Consider taking an online course with a reputable provider. It’s a great way to keep learning, stand out in your field, and earn certifications. Taking your professional development into your own hands requires a lot of motivation, but shows you have the discipline and drive to succeed.
With so many different sites, there’s a course out there for everyone. You could choose to learn something totally new or to deepen your current understanding of a subject – and levels range from broad overviews to ‘MicroMasters’.
Owned by the Open University, FutureLearn offers a huge variety of courses through partner universities and specialist organisations
EdX is a well-respected platform, with their MicroMasters recognised by industry leaders
3. Build On What You Have
You’ve been trained in it on your placement. You have the experience you need to pass it. You’ve trusted Challenges with your professional development for those three months – and you know we do everything we can to support your learning. It would be wrong to miss CMI qualifications off this list! Make the most of the work you’ve already done by converting your training to a qualification.
As you know, Challenges offers Level 5 CMI qualifications in Professional Consulting. In response to your feedback, we’ve also introduced Management and Leadership! M&L is targeted at Team Leaders, who will all receive training from now on – but can be done by anyone ambitious, entrepreneurial, or innovative. Want to prove you’re a natural born leader? Looking to learn how to manage others efficiently and effectively? A CMI qualification with Challenges can help you grow and prove that skill.
For more information, email email@example.com
4. Explore YouTube
YouTube is actually the world’s second largest search engine. It’s not far behind Google, and definitely not one to underestimate! It’s a rogue one on our list because it does not offer qualifications, but we couldn’t leave it out.
Not just a platform for beauty tutorials and mildly distasteful pranks, YouTube is full of videos on practically every topic imaginable. From TED talks to entrepreneurial workshops, ‘life hacks’ to motivational messages, YouTube is an incredible resource on a vast range of topics. It’s free, accessible, and the content comes in easily digestible bites! So why not procrastinate productively next time you’re browsing?
On this World Health Day, I was wondering about what to get for lunch. The Scottish classic of square sausage in a roll or something a bit healthier. The daily dilemma. Luckily for my health, I was inspired to go for the healthier option (and to go outside) after reviewing some of the Enterprise Recommendations presentations from our Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteers aka our Business Support Associates (BSAs) in Zambia.
Hi, I’m Lewis and I am one of the Portfolio Analysts at Challenges Worldwide and my main role is crunching the numbers that our BSAs produce during their placement. We then use these numbers to inform our strategy for Enterprise and Value Chain Development. This data is invaluable as our approach is unique in that we critically evaluate enterprises from within instead of surveying owners once and hoping the right information is given.
Umoyo Natural Health is one of the enterprises we are currently working with and specialises in providing natural health products; medicinal products, foods, supplements and cosmetics.
How does this relate to world health day?
Prevention is the best policy when it comes illness
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, so the saying goes. In 2016, close to half of the children under 5 were stunted (low-height-for-age) as a result of malnutrition with another negative impact being a decrease in academic performance.
How does enterprise development impact health?
Well, it’s about the long-term, we want a solution, not a plaster. There are 3 ways in which enterprise development will reduce malnutrition:
Increasing Distribution: By providing technical assistance the enterprises we work with will be in a position to approach investors, confident in the knowledge that they meet investment criteria beforehand. By expanding their business, Umoyo will be able to increase the number of people they can provide their health goods to.
Reduction in Price: As the enterprise grows, it will be able to benefit from economies of scale as the unit cost is reduced (the first car wasn’t cheap!) and consequently becomes a realistic option for people on lower incomes.
Increase Incomes and Demand:Umoyo has over 35 (19 female) employees and over 140 suppliers. As the business grows, enterprises must take on more staff, their demand for inputs from suppliers increase and they may need to find new suppliers. When you consider the women between 45 and 49 were surveyed their ‘completed family size’ was on average 6. Ultimately, it will be those in the household of employees that will benefit.
This is by no means a silver bullet (health warning for werewolves) and educated assumptions are always made, please see here, here and here. However, at the end of the day, if a parent’s income increases I’d bet it’s more than likely they will spend it on improving their children’s welfare. Why don’t you join us to implement lasting solutions?…and have a healthy dinner while you’re at it!
You can join us in supporting enterprises such as Umoyo by taking part in the Uk Government funded Challenges Worldwide ICS programme for 18 -25 year olds from the UK, Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia.
Complete your online application today and help businesses like Umoyo reach their potential for delivering positive social and environmental impact on the communities in which they trade.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” (Gandhi)
The key message received by volunteers in Kampala, Uganda on International Women’s Day, a national public holiday. Dressed in the day’s thematic colours of white and orange, our group of volunteers, Team Leaders and in-country staff joined many others at a conference partnered by Challenges Worldwide at The Innovation Centre in Ntinda. Armed with the globally trending hashtag “BeBoldForChange” our team were ready to gain first-hand insight into life as a working woman in Uganda.
The message was one which we can all relate to and received by both men and women. It was a day for not only recognising women in Uganda but recognising the changes that we as individuals can make to generate a more equal and inclusive society. Nonetheless, we learnt that 70% of the world’s poor are women and face many challenges in health, education and their role within society which for some women the consequence of their actions could be life or death.
Three inspirational women, two from Uganda and one from Afghanistan formed the panel discussion to commence the event. Godiva Monica Akullo, a feminist, lawyer and human rights activist encouraged women to stand up for change. She shocked the room when she spoke about one of her own experiences: working for a Ugandan law firm and attending a conference as not only the youngest but also the only female, she was approached by a male client who asked if she could pour him a coffee. As a professional and Harvard lawyer graduate she did not let this pass and made her opinions known. Since this day, she believes in empowering women to take action such that men feel their presence in the room.
Among the other panellists was Evelyn Namara, founder of Innovate and an ICT specialist, believing women can be better in technology advancement, breaking stereotypes and mindsets and advocating that girls should grow up with the same opportunities as boys. Captain Babra, a Ugandan army captain also stood up to encourage young girls to follow their dreams because nothing is impossible.
“girls should grow up with the same opportunities as boys”
All the women spoke with such passion and emphasis on how women in Uganda will continue to speak up about this topic until the day they are viewed as equal human beings. However, it was Betty Ogiel Rubanga, author of Against All Odds and an example of the life-changing benefits of education for girls and women, whose story truly inspired. Over ten years ago she was caught up in a road accident, crushing all dreams of becoming an athlete (being able to run 100m in 12.8 seconds, pathed out a potential career), leaving her partially paralysed down the right side of her body and with a speech impairment which would impact on the rest of her life. As she translated these memories into words and spoke of her experiences she moved many in the room to tears. Her message, however, was clear as she went on to discuss the five things that made her excel at life, without which she would not be the women she is today: 1. Working hard; 2. Making wise decisions; 3. Be yourself; 4. Be the author of your destiny; 5. Positive mental attitude.
So the question is: how are we being the change we want to see in the world?
As volunteers with Challenges Worldwide, we have already made this leap. Working to promote development through small-medium sized enterprises, many owned by women we are being active in making the change that we want to see happen in the world.
Inequalities exist all around the world and gender isn’t an exception to this reality. Women represent half the world’s population and yet account for 70% of the world’s poor. To make matters worse, women contribute approximately 70% of working hours in the world but only earn 10% of the world’s income. Hence, women in many countries face inequalities throughout their whole lives, from when they are born until the time they die.
From an early age, millions of women face gender-based stereotypes that discriminate them from having access to education. As well as not having access to education often young women are conditioned to see their only aspiration in life is to get married and have children. In the eyes of many societies around the world, having a well-kept home, a happy husband and producing offspring is the only worthy indicator of a successful woman.
Those who are able to overcome the first hurdle of accessing an education then grow up to face limited job or promotion opportunities. Often the job opportunities that are afforded are limited to domestic activities and service roles. Many women find themselves with little or no power to make decisions in their work and home and many others have to defend themselves from sexual harassment and gender-based violence, from which millions of women die every year.
In Africa, these realities occur every day and, although this has been recognised as a problem to be solved by most African governments, the transition has been much slower here than in other regions of the world. However, empowering women and girls is a key factor for economic development. Healthy and educated girls, with an equal access to opportunities, can help their families to get out of poverty, become leaders in their communities and make significant changes, like Wangari Maathai or Kaya Thomas have done.
What can we do to empower women to change the world?
The first step is to be informed; running away from the information won’t make gender injustice around the world less of a reality. As Minna Salami says, “it takes individual consciousness to create collective awareness”.
“it takes individual consciousness to create collective awareness”.
The second step is empowerment: working together to give women the real opportunity of making their own choices, especially the most vulnerable ones. But, how can this reality be changed? It isn’t easy peasy. Still, there are many people working for gender equality around the world. Here we’ll share some African enterprises that are encouraging examples of this:
Foundation for the Realization of Economic Empowerment (F.R.E.E)
F.R.E.E. is a social enterprise that works to reverse marginalisation of women in Zambia by providing them with opportunities that go from making jewellery to reducing illiteracy levels. It helps women, mainly single mothers and those who are in a vulnerable situation, to have a dignified source of income.
Ng’ombe Jewellery Project, for example, is one of their projects and is based in the Ng’ombe community. The idea is to teach woman how to make jewellery, from bracelets to necklaces, by using recycled cooper (which have generated many political, economic and social issues in the country), as well as semi-precious Zambian stones. As the cherry on top, each of these pieces is packed in a small chitenge bag, which are sewn by Vida and her sisters, who are disabled but talented women in the Ng’ombe community.
Is a skin care business that doesn’t only sell beauty products but builds opportunities for women in Ghana. In this sense, Ele Agbe is empowering women in rural areas to gain a sustainable livelihood by producing quality products for both the local and international market. This venture started making jewellery from recycled glass and then moved to shea butter products, thanks to the vision of their inspirational founder and CEO Comfort Adjahoe. But why attempt to tell the story if Comfort can do it better.
Another women-led enterprise based in Uganda that, contrary to the previous ones, isn’t mainly focused on empowering women but on creating jobs for young people. Decent work opportunities, not charity, as we’ve seen through all these examples, is a more powerful way to provide employment and dignified ways of income. Kampala Fair began with sewing lessons in Mette Islandi, who then teamed up with Louise Graymore from the UK and created Kampala Fair together.
Nowadays, Kampala Fair is a sustainable, profitable and fair trade business that sell their products for local and international markets. Everything in this clothing business is locally made, from the vibrant fabrics to the designers and tailors. We invite you to visit the web page, learn more from them and get lost among the beautiful designs.
Last October Challenges Worldwide volunteer and soon to be Team Leader Rosie Coleman spent a Friday evening with the Kumasi, Ghana chapter of women who code to lead a workshop on “excelling your career.”
The most interesting thing for me was to witness the similarities between the women here in Kumasi and those I’ve met back home in London during similar tech career workshops. The Kumasi women had the same fears and concerns about interviews and our feedback session focused largely on the same issues with self-confidence and belief in their own awesomeness.
Not only in the global South but also here in the UK
Here the gender inequalities aren’t as big as in other countries, however, we aren’t absent of this reality. One of the main issues is the “missing middle” in organisations. What does this mean? Even though at junior management levels both genders are equally represented, male managers are 40% more likely to be promoted to higher roles. This is the number one cause of the 23% gender pay gap.
You can join Challenges Worldwide by taking part of the International Citizen Service volunteer programme and help any of these enterprises to keep on empowering women or you can do your own bit to fill in the missing middle and join the Chartered Management Institute at an exclusive discounted rate for Challenges learners.
By joining many small efforts, challenges can be overcome and great changes can be achieved. Be part of this movement!
Take the chance and travel to Africa with us. Apply now!
In light of London and Paris Fashion Weeks, Challenges have been celebrating the fashion enterprises we have supported across Sub-Saharan Africa and the innovation of our volunteers in this sector.
African fashion and textile businesses are important!
A history of imitation brands within the Sub-Saharan African fashion industry, particularly in Zambia, has resulted in a gap in the market for local fashion talent and designers. Across the Sub-Saharan region, international aid has created patterns of dependency, and the provision of clothes from international donations has stunted the development of locally manufactured goods.
As part of plans to tackle the dependency cycle in Zambia, laws have been introduced to prevent the importation of textiles, encouraging instead the expansion of the local industry. As more young enterprises enter the African fashion industry and increase their outreach to a global audience, the added competition will drive new brands and local fashion talent. Dressmaking skills are in high demand and are an easy way of making a profit. Reaching into the global market could stop the pattern of imitation and boost the local economy.
At Challenges Worldwide, we recognise that sustainable economic growth needs to be achieved through the support of local products, and have been working with African fashion enterprises across Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda.
Atto Tetteh is a Ghana-based fashion company revolutionising the African menswear scene. The founder and Creative Director of the company, George Tetteh, aims to compete in the global menswear market with their high-quality clothing designs that have been inspired by local African culture.
Liberty Powers Footwear is a Ghanaian company, specialising in the production of hand-made leather shoes, and dedicated to increasing specialist skills for young people. Amos Osomi, the business owner of Liberty Powers, has created an apprenticeship scheme to train local youth in shoe production to increase their employment opportunities.
Kente Master is a fabric artisan company committed to promoting African culture, entrepreneurship, and economic self-empowerment. We do this by servicing and providing a unique inventory of premium Kente graduation stoles. With Kente Master, you’ll receive authenticity, customizability and choice that can’t be found anywhere else.
Buqisi-Ruux, meaning ‘Queen of the Village’, is a women’s footwear enterprise based in Kampala, Uganda. The company, founded and run by women, consider their African inspired shoe designs as “wearable art”, and aim to promote African culture and women’s empowerment through their work.
The Foundation for the Realization of Economic Empowerment (FREE) is an artisan business established to provide economic empowerment to women and to tackle gender inequality. The enterprise works with young women living in poverty, training them with artisan skills, such as copper jewellery production. Providing young women with a skill can help them gain the financial independence to better their own lives.
ZUVAA – A U.S based digital marketplace for African inspired fashion.
The Zuvaa Marketplace is a premier online destination to find unique and one of kind African Inspired pieces. Zuvaa works directly with emerging designers around the world to bring you the best selection of high quality, one of kind African Inspired pieces the industry has to offer.
At Zuvaa, We’re Shining A Light On African Fashion. The Zuvaa Marketplace Is A Premier Online Destination To Find Unique And One Of Kind African Inspired Pieces. We Work Directly With Emerging Designers Around The World To Bring You The Best Selection Of High Quality, One Of Kind African Inspired Pieces The Industry Has To Offer.
The KinzmenGh is a sunglasses business that has been created by one of our innovative return volunteers, Abel Ofoe-Osabutey. Driven to make a difference by his younger sister’s sight problems, Abel has built a Bamboo Eyewear Business to help prevent blindness. Abel’s experience with Challenges Worldwide connected him to those with relevant design expertise to support him in his entrepreneurial endeavours.
Return volunteer, Jack Fellows, has founded The Social Mercenary since finishing his Challenges Worldwide ICS placement in Ghana. Now working in Hong Kong, Jack’s platform provides entrepreneurs from the developing world the opportunity to market their products to a global audience.
In the long term, Jack hopes to invest in the businesses promoted through Social Mercenary to further their successes.
‘Challenges Worldwide give you a great deal of responsibility during your placement and so not only did I develop skills in market research, I also gained a great understanding of the operating procedures and the financial recording requirements that are vital to a business. Finally, and probably most importantly, the placement gave me confidence in my own ability’.
Following her Challenges Worldwide ICS placement in Zambia, Nifemi Oyebanji, has gone on to set up the Lagos Fashion Festival in Nigeria. Motivated by the vision to bring together young people and professionals within the fashion industry, Nifemi helps connect people from across the industry to showcase their work. Through workshops, talks and large scale fashion events, Nifemi is redefining a sense of pride in ‘Made in Nigeria’ apparel and encouraging young people to consider career routes into the sector. A percentage of ticket sales from Lagos Fashion Week also goes towards supporting mental health programmes in Nigeria.
‘I would say that 80% of my knowledge of business is from my placement and I am still using it all now.’
I started by purchasing 40 tote bags from eBay and then asked creative contacts for advice about producing images to print onto them. After seeking advice on ink printing and a talented friend kindly agreed to create some Ugandan animal illustrations, I purchased some carve rubber for handmade block prints and decided to use only the colours of the Ugandan flag – black, yellow and red – and letters from the word ‘Uganda’. With some help from YouTube and an evening with a couple of friends who helped me print in exchange for food and wine, I finished hand-printing the bags, each with a bespoke design. I documented my progress on a blog in the hope it would inspire more donations as people could see the research and work that went into each stage.
It was kind of spontaneous, I had a lot of colourful string at home that was just collecting dust so I figured I’d try and make something out of it. The inspiration came from seeing photographs of some bracelet ideas on Pinterest.
As you can see, Challenges work covers the entire spectrum of fashion and textiles. Our programme allows volunteers to utilise their creativity – whether that be through their fundraising before placement, their direct work to support African SME’s or during their work after placement. We are constantly inspired by the amazing work of the people and enterprise that we have had the pleasure of working with. We hope this blog has inspired you.
If you would like to get involved with Challenges work then visit our get involved page
Solar Energy for Africa’s headquarters and flagship store in central Kampala couldn’t feel further away from the glassy skyscrapers in the City of London. A lone bulb casts a dingy light over the office exposing an array of fading advertising material and a battered wooden counter. Set back from the traffic crawling down Bombo road, the space is quiet save for the whirring of a rusty electric fan and a news program blaring from an antique TV in the corner.
Whilst the environment might seem unfamiliar, the haphazard office space should not take long to get used to. Armed with a laptop, notebook and pen, any Challenges Worldwide Volunteer won’t find it too much of a challenge to set to work. Yet the different working culture in Uganda perhaps requires a greater adjustment. Here are a few things one might expect to encounter:
Roughly equitable to ‘on time’ plus 30 minutes to an hour. This is likely to cause immense frustration to newly arrived volunteers. Having set an early alarm and left extra time to allow for any disruptions during the rush hour commute, to be left waiting for hours on end for a meeting to start can easily make blood boil. As soon as you take a look outside, the tardiness isn’t surprising. The infamous ‘Kampala Jam’ can disrupt even the city’s most punctual without warning. A journey that often takes 20 minutes can be transformed into a sweaty 2-hour ordeal, cramped in the back of a fully packed taxi. If the heavens open, flooded streets cause maximum disruption. This combined with large scale road improvements, erratic driving and police traffic controls is a recipe for a timekeeping disaster.
Yet the attitude towards lateness is more interesting to consider. Whereas in the UK it feels that every second of the working day must be converted into maximum productivity, in Uganda work is a little more laid back. This is not to say tasks aren’t completed eventually, they just get done when the time is right and deadlines become a little more flexible. With European stress and anxiety levels at an all time high, a more relaxed working culture is perhaps something we should aspire to.
UGANDANS DON’T LIKE MISSING PHONE CALLS
Even when sat in front of the managing director, a slight pocket vibration (or in some cases a more embarrassing Rihanna ringtone) is a perfectly good excuse to pause even the most important meeting. With everyone active on Whatsapp, phones are likely to be on display and messages sent mid conversation. Mobile credit, known as ‘airtime’ is a highly prized commodity. Having to use it up to return a call is most undesirable.
GOD IS ALWAYS PRESENT
Meetings, however, small or insignificant, must start with a prayer. This may be a few quick words followed by a mumbled ‘Amen’ or a lengthier affair in which blessings are granted for all participants, the future of every stakeholder in the firm… the list could go on. In some firms with employees of different faiths, this procedure can be repeated to ensure all attendants are satisfied. Although this might appear a timely process, the sense of harmony and togetherness that pervades the room afterward can often make the meeting more effective. If prayers are ever not said, a backup is usually provided in the form of a Bible quote or religious teaching hung on the wall. It’s important to sit down to work with inspirational material readily available.
Expecting a superfast Wifi connection and a shiny kitchen space kitted with a machine offering 50 varieties of flavourless coffee? Forget it. With power cuts a regular occurrence, work can be halted without warning for hours at a time. If you’re lucky, the office may be backed up by a generator or even better solar power but don’t hold your breath. You can usually expect a ‘water dispenser’ (cooler might be an exaggeration) and a kettle but on the whole, furnishings are kept to a bare minimum.
A bustling office canteen or coffee shop is out of the question. The Ugandans can do better – warm lunch delivered straight to your desk. Orders are placed with the chosen ‘restaurant’ half an hour in advance and before long a steaming bowl of matoke and rice accompanied by a meat or vegetarian sauce of your choice is delivered directly to your workstation. The food may not always be piping hot but for less UGX 4000 (about £1) what could be better valued? The break can be a lengthy two-hour affair; giving you more than enough time to discuss yesterday’s Premier League results and enjoy the meal at your leisure. The only drawback: a rather slow afternoon whilst you digest the carbohydrate overload.
Love is a feeling that deserves to be celebrated, especially if it is shared
Throughout the years, we’ve been told that on Valentine’s Day we have to give our loved one’s chocolates, flowers, teddy bears or a surprise dinner. However, let’s just stop for a second and think about the environmental and social consequences that this massively commercialised day brings with it.
To be honest, I’ve never given it a thought, until a few days ago I started to look for information to write about Valentine’s Day. And the information can be a wee bit overwhelming. Around the 14th of February, the consumption of chocolates, flowers and cards increases worldwide. The first thought tends to be that we’re stimulating the economy, but more than that, we’re participating in practices that aren’t sustainable for the environment and enhances human exploitation.
So, let’s look at some of the activities or materials that go in to making this special day that comes about oh but one a year.
Let’s talk flowers
Given that red roses and love are totally interconnected, an industry scale production is needed to satisfy the world’s demand for brightly coloured rose petals. 83% of the cut flowers are from the Netherlands, Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Although there are certain controls, the environmental impact of this industry can’t be ignored. The first one that comes to mind is the chemical pollution, which deteriorates the soil, destroys air quality and poisons the water supply. Also, the carbon footprint related to this production is quite impressive. Only the Netherlands generates 35 thousand kilogrammes of carbon dioxide by growing 12 thousand long-stemmed roses.
In several regions, the massive production of flowers can cause more damage to the community than economic benefits. Some of the current main issues are the access to water for this type of plantations.
Also, this high flowers demand has led to exploitation in some countries. Colombia is the second largest exporter of flowers in the world. However, many of the floriculture companies don’t respect the rights of their workers, making them work up to 20 hours a day, with almost no breaks and very poor working conditions.
Paper gifts are also part of the problem
According to Hallmark, 141 millions of greeting cards are bought ahead of Valentine’s Day. unsurprisingly, most of them will end up in a bin, which leads to more wasted energy and pollution, even if they are recycled. Why not get creative and make your own? It is much more heartfelt!
Chocolate is not child-friendly
In 2013, it was reported that 40% of the cacao used by the chocolate industry comes from plantations in Western Africa, where child labour is still occurring. You can avoid this pitfall by buying fairtrade and checking the supply chain of any products you consume. Although not a romantic staple, the same advice goes for coffee!
Finally, this day, at the end, is all about sharing time with your partner. So one of the best gifts you can give are homemade dinner, watching movies together or just walking in the park. In other words, your time.
Life is not all about work and business. Leisure, celebrations, time for ourselves, are all needed for a happier life. That’s why today, on Valentine’s Day, we’re neither talking about outstanding business in Africa nor what can you do to improve them, but about how they celebrate the lover’s day across the world’s largest continent.
The truth is that it’s probable that many of us have never give it a thought. We might have taken for granted the flowers, chocolates, teddy bears and romantic dinners to celebrate it because that’s what we’re used to in most of the UK. But, it happens to be, that it’s not like that. Different cultures and countries have their own way to commemorate the love that couples share.
That’s easy to figure out. On the internet, you’ll find loads of articles that will tell you stories about how the tradition loterie d’amour (drawing for love) was banned in France or how in Philippines mass weddings ceremonies have become very popular during Valentine’s Day. Also, about how in Denmark women can receive funny poems or why Wales or Brazil celebrate this day on January and June respectively. However, besides the South African way to let men know their secret admirers, there is not much information about how other African countries celebrate Valentine’s Day, or even if they even celebrate it or not.
That’s why we decided to ask our team in Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda about their traditions on this date.
Valentine’s Day in Ghana
Happens to be that in this country Valentine’s Day is massively celebrated. Actually it is one of the most celebrated feasts, just surpassed by the Christian festivities of Christmas and Easter. The emphasis is on couple love, where ladies measure if they are really the #1 for their partner (if they’re not asked out, the inquiries start. So maybe better not to take that risk). Dressing red or giving flowers are not part of the tradition. As you might expect there is a boost in the sale of contraceptives around this time.
Valentine’s Day in Rwanda
In this country, this celebration does not follow a special African way. Going out for movie nights or dinner, as well as enjoying the special offers that business make for this day are very common activities among young couples. Also, to keep the meaning and substance of this day, the exchange of gifts between lovers cannot be ignored.
Valentine’s Day in Uganda
Here we continue with the western influence, so they celebrate in a very similar way to the UK. In this sense, Ugandans buy their loved ones’ flowers and/or chocolates, or they can also go out for a nice meal. Valentine’s promotions are all over the place, from shops to hotels and restaurants that want to be part of this celebration. Also, the red and black colours are important when dressing, especially in Kampala, just to mark the day.
Valentine’s Day in Zambia
Some people make a big deal about Valentine’s Day, some others don’t. However, shops, restaurants and streets accompany those who like to celebrate it with red, white and black decoration items. Like the others countries we’ve talked about, big sales and dinners are an important part of this celebration. However, if you don’t have a partner you don’t have to celebrate alone because affection is not only for couples. That’s why in Zambia is also common that friends and family get together to show affection to each other.
Valentine’s Day in many African countries does not differ that much from what we’re used to. It is being celebrated more and more every year. This could be a sign of globalisation and the increased exposure of young people to this western festival. As more people celebrate, of course consumption goes up.
So it doesn’t matter on which continent you are, the environmental impacts that this celebration has are the same. That’s why now we invite you to read and learn about how to celebrate the lovers’ day in a sustainable way.