The right to shine

Not for saleWhat did you learn today?, I asked Jennifer, aged 9. We learned about child abuse, she replied. Bit of a conversation killer, that one.

I’m supposed to be blogging about human rights today – part of the global Blog Action Day. I’ve only been in the country three days, though, so I’m not exactly a voice of authority. But surprises – like the primary three curriculum – have given me some indication of what issues Ugandan bloggers might be discussing.

Like the scrawled not-for-sale signs on houses and plots nearby, defensive and angry at developers trying to buy their land. In some cases, they use fake documents to kick them off, I was told; people who can’t afford a lawyer are powerless.

Or the kid, maybe 8 years old, who asked me to help carry one of his two cans of water up the hill, (and of course, left me for dust).

Or the hard line taken on school fees: Those who haven’t paid, barked the teacher leading assembly, we will be sending home.

Inklings of more to be revealed, perhaps. In the meantime, I deferred to my students today – three young Ugandans keen to learn to make films, and set them an interviewing task based on human rights. We were in a bit of a rush (two of them turned up an hour late, the third two hours late…), and didn’t get much time to discuss the issues. But they did, fairly quickly, pinpoint the biggest concern in their country: the right to dignified and fairly-paid work. There was I, wanting to talk about the shockingly severe sentence for homosexuality in this country, or the increasing repression of civil society. For these three young people though, the chance to get somewhere in the world without being dragged down by nepotism is what they crave above all.

That, and the right to be movie stars.


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