Friday, 30 December 2011

The New Year wears hope

A new year is a new beginning! With a new found resolve to move forward in 2012, how can you be sure to achieve your resolutions, or goals?

And, more importantly, are you balancing all areas of your life that you want to see progress in?
 Some of us have realized that we did not manage to reach all the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the 2011.

We failed to execute them; setting and achieving a resolution requires determination, focus, effort, and commitment.

Changing old habits and developing new ones won't happen overnight.

 As we look forward into the New Year, it becomes increasingly important to not only focus any resolutions on your physical health, but also focus on your mental and emotional well being, your Body, Mind and Spirit.

But how many people are making New Year’s Resolutions?

Each new year I resolve I simply must try harder.” Try harder to be more organized, try harder to educate our children better, try harder to learn to care and love more those I hold close to my hear – my love, parents, brothers and sister and to my friends.

All I know to achieve this, I must be resilient to overcome all the trials, learn from the past as it guides my present which is today and above all to ensure all that I resolve to do is implemented.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the endEcclesiastes 3:11

Why? To forge new tracks across this year I will need more than simply sheer effort, gritty determination.
The day will be long, the way deep. Discouraged, we’ll be tempted to turn back to familiar, rutted paths.

I have to set, fixed, times to make certain tracks each day to allow for the wind to move me, for inspiration to surprise me. Sporadic creativity or intermittent commitment generally fails to forge a steady trail.

Commitment and consistency is all I need because people respond to others who are consistent in their messages. If you are constantly giving the same messages to people and acting in a consistent way, they will respond positively.

Today, more than ever, I need to have a solid idea of my options so I’m prepared for anything. I won’t let life or the economy sideswipe me or knock me around like tennis shoes in a dryer.  By lining up opportunities and having backup plans at the ready, I’ll feel more confident, less vulnerable, make smarter choices, and start to pay more attention to what really makes me happy and gets me closer to my goals.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Devolution, one of the most ambitious programmes in the world - World Bank

“Individual dreams, aspirations, needs and efforts when combined produce more beautiful, more inclusive and more sustainable results,” Anonymous.

Bungoma town.

Kenya must build political institutions that generate dynamic stability.  Just as the Assistant Minister for Planning and Vision 2030 Peter Kenneth says “Let’s define the kind of leadership that will work for Kenyans… to spiral the economy to the lowest level.”

The World Bank in its fifth economic update dubbed “Navigating the Storm Delivering the Promise” cut Kenya’s economic growth forecast for 2011 to 4.3 percent from its earlier forecast of 4.8 percent.

“This will be higher than Kenya’s long-term growth rate of 3.7 percent but still a full percentage point below the average projected for Sub-Sahara Africa,” the bank said in its latest twice-a-year report on east Africa’s biggest economy.

However, it projected its growth to rise to 5 percent next year and 5.5 percent in 2013, but this would depend on whether Kenya can navigate this year’s economic crisis caused by inflation and a weaker shilling, as well as have peaceful elections in 2012, implement the constitution and devolution which it said will “provide more equity and prosperity” if “ Government policies strike balance between redistribution and growth enhancing policies, service delivery and simple and transparent fiscal transfer architecture monitored and understood by the citizens for accountability purposes.”

Economic analysts say, Security, employment, infrastructure are some of the key areas that need to be checked.
Internal security must be guaranteed to enable a stable civil environment that upholds security of persons, property, access to and equality before the law. Governments must build social cohesion, eliminate conflict and ease the paths to self betterment for their citizens through equitable access to resources, services and opportunities that will improve earnings, consumer purchasing power, savings and investments.

Moreover, an efficient infrastructure network is the backbone of the productive sectors of the economy, which are key drivers of economic growth and social progress.

According to this view, economic infrastructure does not exist for its own sake, but rather to support various kinds of economic activity.

By efficiently moving goods and services to where they can be used most effectively, transport adds value and spurs growth.

Investments in infrastructure can also be used as a springboard to fight poverty through investments in agriculture, health and education services. Infrastructure development is also an enormous untapped potential for the creation of productive employment.

In addition, a well-developed economic and social infrastructure is an important indicator of the quality of a country’s investment climate for would-be investors, both local and foreign.

Road construction of the Eldoret -Malaba Highway in Western Kenya.

Snippets to the World Banks’ report on Kenya’s economic Outlook Navigating the Storm Delivering the Promise gives the following

  • 2012 will be a defining year for Kenya.  National elections, the establishment of a new system of devolved government, and the possibility of deterioration in global economic conditions will make the next twelve months extremely challenging.  At the same time, if Kenya manages these challenges well–peaceful elections and transition to a new government, successful introduction of a new system of devolved government and continued growth during a global financial crisis–2012 will set the foundation for a more prosperous future.

  • Kenya is navigating rough economic waters, which will lower growth prospects for 2011 and possibly 2012 as well.
  • High food and fuel prices, the drought in the Horn of Africa, and the Euro crisis have weakened Kenya’s external position, which was already fragile given the large current account deficit.  These economic challenges will lower growth to an estimated 4.3 percent in 2011.  For 2012, the World Bank projects growth to recover slightly and reach 5.0 percent, if Kenya succeeds in managing the risks.
  • Kenya’s constitutionally-mandated devolution is one of the most ambitious programs of its type in the world.  The bulk of decentralization reforms will be implemented in 2012 and will impact Kenya’s social stability, service delivery, and fiscal health for years to come.  In responding to the economic crisis, Kenya’s policy makers will need to find the fiscal space required to deliver on the promise of devolution, while protecting public investment.

Key Recommendations to respond to the economic turbulence

  • Remain steadfast in containing macroeconomic pressures, by reigning in inflation expectations while containing the debt-to-GDP ratio.  This will require maintaining tight monetary policies and fiscal prudence to manage the economy over the short term.
  • Guarantee a level playing field for all market participants and avoid regressive economic policies.  Price and currency controls distort economic activity and typically result in worse outcomes, namely higher prices and a weaker currency, while increasing opportunities for corruption.
  •  Enhance export competitiveness.  Kenya will succeed economically and be less vulnerable to shocks only if it balances its economy through stronger exports.  It now needs to move beyond tea, tourism and horticulture, where it is already performing strongly.  Kenya is well positioned to make new products (such as textiles, chemicals and automotive parts) and enter new markets (such as Asia) if it continues to improve its infrastructure and investment climate.  Increased domestic energy production, especially geo-thermal, would play a critical role, as it will also reduce dependence on expensive fossil-based thermal energy.

Key Recommendations to manage Kenya’s decentralization successfully

  • Ensure a fair distribution of national resources commensurate with county needs and capacity and balancing national interests.  This will involve clarifying the responsibilities of county governments and the process for transfering of functions will be phased over time.

  •  Devise a simple and transparent transfer architecture that promotes spatial redistribution without compromising growth and efficiency objectives.  While tackling geographic inequities is a central promise of devolution, this will need to happen over time, so as not to jeopardize future growth and existing service delivery.  The objective should be to equalize opportunities for all Kenyans, while recognizing that economic growth will be concentrated in certain areas.
  • Build capacity in Kenya’s counties, particularly the weaker ones.  Paradoxically, those counties that stand to benefit the most from devolution in theory (the more remote, least developed counties) could lose out in practice, if their capacity to manage devolved funds effectively and transparently is not sufficiently developed.
  • Get accountability right from the start.  Accountability should focus on both funds and performance, and systems should emphasize both central monitoring and reporting, but also maximize the involvement of citizens so they can hold their representatives accountable.
  • Ensure transition does not interrupt service delivery.  Effective coordination of the transition at both national and county levels will be crucial.  Urban services will be particularly vulnerable since the existing institutions in charge of urban services will be abolished. This will require a clear and inclusive decision on who is in charge of coordination and agreement on a high-level strategy for implementation

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Michelle Obama: when it comes to the challenges we face, we simply don't have time to sit back and wait.

It has been more than three decades, but those bullet holes in the ceiling, this broken altar still stand as vivid reminders of the history that unfolded here at Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, South Africa.

You all know the story – how 35 years ago this month, a group of students planned a peaceful protest to express their outrage over a new law requiring them to take courses in Afrikaans. Thousands of them took to the streets, intending to march to Orlando Stadium.

But when security forces opened fire, some fled here to this church. The police followed, first with tear gas, and then with bullets. While no one was killed within this sanctuary, hundreds lost their lives that day, including a boy named Hector Pieterson, who was just 12 years old, and Hastings Ndlovu, who was just 15.

Many of the students hadn't even known about the protest when they arrived at school that morning. But they agreed to take part, knowing full well the dangers involved, because they were determined to get an education worthy of their potential.

That June day wasn't the first, or the last, time that Regina Mundi Church stood in the crosscurrents of history. It was referred to as "the parliament of Soweto." When the congregation sang their hymns, activists would make plans, singing the locations and times of secret meetings. Church services, and even funerals, often became anti-Apartheid rallies. As President Mandela once put it, "Regina Mundi became a world-wide symbol of the determination of our people to free themselves."

It is a story that has unfolded across this country and across this continent, and also in my country — the story of young people 20 years ago, 50 years ago, who marched until their feet were raw, who endured beatings and bullets and decades behind bars, who risked, and sacrificed, everything they had for the freedom they deserved.

It is because of them that we are able to gather here today. It is because of them that so many young women leaders can now pursue their dreams. It is because of them that I stand before you as First Lady of the United States of America. That is the legacy of the independence generation, the freedom generation. And all of you – the young people of this continent – you are the heirs of that blood, sweat, sacrifice, and love.

What will you make of that inheritance? What legacy will you leave for your children and your grandchildren? What generation will you be? I could ask these questions of young people in any country, on any continent. But there is a reason why I wanted to come here to South Africa.

As my husband has said, Africa is a fundamental part of our interconnected world. When it comes to the defining challenges of our times – creating jobs in our global economy, promoting democracy and development, confronting climate change, extremism, poverty and disease — for all this, the world is looking to Africa as a vital partner.

That is why my husband's administration is not simply focused on extending a helping hand to Africa, but focusing on partnering with Africans who will shape their future by combating corruption, and building strong democratic institutions, by growing new crops, caring for the sick. And more than ever before, we will be looking to our young people to lead the way.
In Africa, people under 25 make up 60 percent of the population. In South Africa, nearly two-thirds of citizens are under the age of 30. So over the next 20 years, the next 50 years, our future will be shaped by your leadership.

I want to pause for a moment on that word – leadership — because I know that so often, when we think about what that word means, what it means to be a leader, we think of presidents and prime ministers. We think of people who pass laws or command armies, run big businesses, people with fancy titles, big salaries. And most young people don't fit that image.

But when it comes to the challenges we face, we simply don't have time to sit back and wait. True leadership – leadership that lifts families, leadership that sustains communities and transforms nations – that kind of leadership rarely starts in palaces or parliaments. That kind of leadership is not limited only to those of a certain age or status. That kind of leadership is not just about dramatic events that change the course of history in an instant. Instead, true leadership often happens with the smallest acts, in the most unexpected places, by the most unlikely individuals.

Think about what happened in Soweto 35 years ago. Many of the students who led the uprising were young. They carried signs made of cardboard boxes and canvass sacks. Yet together, they propelled this cause into the consciousness of the world. We now celebrate National Youth Day and National Youth Month every year in their honor.

Think about the giants of the struggle – people like Albertina Sisulu, whose recent passing we all mourn. Orphaned as a teenager, she worked as a nurse to support her siblings. When her husband, Walter Sisulu, became Secretary-General of the ANC, it was up to her to provide for their family. When he was imprisoned for 26 years, it was up to her to continue his work. And that she did. With a mother's fierce love for this country, she threw herself into the struggle.

She led boycotts and sit-ins and marches, including the 1956 Women's March, when thousands of women from across this country, converged on Pretoria to protest the pass laws. They were women of every color, many of them not much older than all of you. Some of them carried their babies on their backs. And for 30 minutes, they stood in complete silence, raising their voices only to sing freedom songs like Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica. Their motto was simple, but clear: "If you strike a woman, you strike a rock."

Ma Sisulu, the students of Soweto, those women in Pretoria, they had little money, even less status, no fancy titles to speak of. But what they had was their vision for a free South Africa. What they had was an unshakeable belief that they were worthy of that freedom –- and they had the courage to act on that belief. Each of them chose to be a rock for justice. With countless acts of daring and defiance, together, they transformed this nation.

Together they paved the way for free and fair elections, for a process of healing and reconciliation, and for the rise of South Africa as a political and economic leader on the world stage.

While today's challenges might not always inspire the lofty rhetoric or the high drama of struggles past, the injustices at hand are no less glaring, the human suffering no less acute. There are still so many causes worth sacrificing for. There is still so much history yet to be made.

[Young people] can be the generation that makes the discoveries and builds the industries that will transform our economies; the generation that brings opportunity and prosperity to forgotten corners of the world and banishes hunger from this continent forever; the generation that ends HIV/AIDS in our time; the generation that fights not just the disease, but the stigma of the disease and the generation that teaches the world that HIV is fully preventable, and treatable, and should never be a source of shame.

[Young people] can be the generation that holds leaders accountable for open, honest government at every level, government that stamps out corruption and protects the rights of every citizen to speak freely, to worship openly, to love whomever they choose; the generation to ensure that women are no longer second-class citizens, that girls take their rightful places in our schools and the generation that stands up and says that violence against women in any form, in any place — including the home – especially the home –that isn't just a women's rights violation. It's a human rights violation. And it has no place in any society.

Your efforts might not always draw the world's attention. The change may come slowly, little by little, measured not by sweeping changes in the law, but by daily improvements in people's lives. But I can tell you from my own experience – and from my husband's experience – that this work is no less meaningful, no less inspiring, and no less urgent than what you read about in the history books.

[People of conscience cannot be content with their own comfort and success when they know that other people are struggling.] As my husband often says, if any child goes hungry, that matters to me, even if she's not my child. If any family is devastated by disease, then I cannot be content with my own good health. If anyone is persecuted because of how they look, or what they believe, then that diminishes my freedom and threatens my rights as well. In the end, that sense of interconnectedness, that depth of compassion, that determination to act in the face of impossible odds, those are the qualities of mind and heart that I hope will define your generation.

As one of our great American presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, liked to say, I hope that you will commit yourselves to doing "what you can, with what you've got, where you are," because in the end, that is what makes you a lion. Not fortune, not fame, not your pictures in history books, but the refusal to remain a bystander when others are suffering, and that commitment to serve however you can, where you are.

Now it will not be easy. You will have failures and setbacks and critics and plenty of moments of frustration and doubt. You may not always have a comfortable life. You will not always be able to solve all the world's problems at once. But don't ever underestimate the impact you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.

It's what happens when folks start asking questions — a father asks, "Why should my son go to school, but not my daughter?" Or a mother asks, "Why should I pay a bribe to start a business to support my family?" Or a student stands up and declares, "Yes, I have HIV, and here's how I'm treating it, and here's how we can stop it from spreading."

Soon, they inspire others to start asking questions. They inspire others to start stepping forward. Those are the "ripples of hope" that a young U.S. senator named Robert Kennedy spoke of when he came here to South Africa 45 years ago this month. In his words, he said, the "numberless diverse acts of courage and belief which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

That is how a church can become a parliament. That is how a hymn can be a call to action. That is how a group of young people with nothing more than some handmade signs and a belief in their own God-given potential can galvanize a nation. That's how young people around the world can inspire each other, and draw strength from each other.

I'm thinking today of the young activists who gathered at the American Library here in Soweto to read the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King for their inspiration. I'm thinking of how Dr. King drew inspiration from Chief Luthuli and the young people here in South Africa. I'm thinking about how young South Africans singing the American civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome" in the streets of Cape Town and Durban. I'm thinking of how Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica echoed through university campuses in the U.S., as students – including my husband –planned boycotts to support students here in South Africa. I'm thinking of this church and how those stained windows depicting the struggle were donated by the people of Poland, and how the peace pole in the park outside was donated by people from Japan, and how every week, visitors from every corner of the globe come here to bear witness and draw inspiration from your history.

Finally, I'm thinking of the history of my own country. I mean, America won its independence more than two centuries ago. It has been nearly 50 years since the victories of our own civil rights movement. Yet we still struggle every day to perfect our union and live up to our ideals. Every day, it is our young people who are leading the way. They are the ones enlisting in our military. They're the ones teaching in struggling schools, volunteering countless hours in countless ways in communities.

In this past presidential election, they were engaged in our democracy like never before. They studied the issues, followed the campaign, knocked on doors in the freezing snow and the blazing sun, urging people to vote. They waited in line for hours to cast their ballots.

I have seen that same passion, that same determination to serve in young people I have met all across the world. If anyone of you ever doubts that you can build that future, if anyone ever tells you that you shouldn't or you can't, then I want you to say with one voice – the voice of a generation –-you tell them, "Yes, we can!"

US First Lady Mitchel Obama's speech on her recent tour to South Africa.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

You never know what life is like, until you have lived it. - Marilyn Monroe

As the year draws to a close it is nice to look back at what we achieved this year.

Both in our personal lives and at work, there is a great sense of excitement as the year draws to a close. We have to reflect on our accomplishments professionally, above all, we have to keep on striving to achieve our dream. 

Since child hood, dreams and goals shape our lives and motivate us to learn from our failures and success.

Dreams are important for all ages. Dreams encompass goals and more. They give your life purpose, direction, and meaning. They shape your life choices, help you build toward the future, and give you a sense of control and hope. They're an expression of your potential and give voice to your talents. They're a source of pleasure and help develop the self. And they can change the world –famous words from Martin Luther King, Jr.

To make up from our shortfalls, to achieve the change that is greatly desired, we also have to change the way we do things with regard to our attitudes, feelings no matter how persuasive our friends and close pals speak to us, and unless change comes from within us the change will be elusive.

                                          Photos/courtesy of!/crystalsimeoni

We should remain hopeful, calm and united despite our diverse opinions as 2012 draws near.

Above all, I am thankful for all the people I have always interacted with. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:  To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to leave the world a better place; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Friday, 11 November 2011

Keep on moving forward

A quote from the movie The Pursuit of Happiness - (An incredible depiction of a man determined to overcome the million obstacles in his abnormally unlucky life to put a roof over his head and his son's. )

"Don't ever letsomebody tell you, you can't do something... not even me. You got gotta protect it.People can't do something themselves,they wanna tell you, you can't do it. 
You want something? Go get it. Period."

But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that many face each and everyday. And what keeps me going – what keeps me fighting – is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism –

We have to be resilient, keep on pushing, to keep the dream alive

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” –Walt Disney
Mistakes are a wonderful way to learn and something that can easily be taught to others if shared. Examine your mistakes and do more than learn from them yourself, share them with others.

You can gain a lot of trust in sharing mistakes and help others learn from those actions before they make the same mistakes.

                                                           Photo courtesy  

Happiness is not something you seek, it’s not something you can find and its not something you can gain based on “if only…”, “when this…” and “as soon as this happens…” thinking.

Happiness is something you must believe you can have and you then have to choose to be happy. You can be happy with hardship and suffering all around you and under terrible circumstances in your life if you truly believe you have that choice.

For all those that need outside influences to be happy, you can provide that service and choose to be happy and to be an example of happiness for those around you regardless of the circumstances.

Above all, we have to thank God, for all that he does for us though we never seem to notice.

It takes great wit and interest and energy to be happy. The pursuit of happiness is a great activity. One must be open and alive. It is the greatest feat man has to accomplish.  Robert Herrick

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Being Somebody

Life skills worth noting in upholding ones's self esteem. [Photo/ Courtesy]

The quality of your voice and  your manner of saying things, people will deduce a great deal about your personality.

View every work of your hands as the best ever and above all trust in God. Let your weakness and failures act as your driving forces and not as discouragements.

As long as you think ahead, and are always finding ways to improve yourself at work you should be keeping the door open for advancement.  You need to show you are committed to the company, and are able to produce results.

But at the same time, you need to not come off looking like a show off.

Treat everyday like it will be a day you could get a promotion and you will be on the right track.

Strive to be somebody, go somewhere, be somewhere. Wisdom

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Expanding YourCircle

(Excerpts ) by JenniferKushell

I've noticed a lot of friends grumbling about how they're not meeting anyone interesting lately. It's a strange time of life, this twenty-thirty something period.  Especially if you're single.

So many things run through your head about where you are, where you're headed,who you're with (or not with), what you should be doing, achieving, what kindof people you should be hanging around.

Those "I should" voices in your head can really mess with your life and career choices.

Your social and career status has a lot to do with your environment and the influences you're exposed to on a regular basis.  If you're not happy with where you are, shake things up.  Meeting new people and expanding your social circle is so much easier than most people think.

First, let's look at a problem.  Just imagine yourself living in a bubble.  (Because we all sort of are to some extent). Everyone you know and interact with is in that bubble of yours.  How often do you step or reach beyond it?  Talk to someone outside?  Go somewhere foreign?  Engage with groups outside of that bubble?  Ifyou do this all the time, then this is more an issue for your friends than foryou, but there's a real opportunity here for all of us.
If you're one ofthose people who live safely in that bubble of yours – see the same people, dothe same things, over and over and over – you're really missing out.

it's time to start making some changes now.

And please keep in mind, ifyou're not the one who needs to get outside your own bubble more, think abouthelping your friends out by leveraging your own charm and social fearlessness!

1.   Look at the patterns you're stuck in. Where are you typicallygoing?  What are you doing?  Who with?

2.   Consider what's been stopping you from venturing beyond. Be brutally honest withyourself.  Is it fear, lack of confidence? Not knowing were else to go orwhat to do?

3.   Think about your objectives. What do you want to achieve by expanding your circle?  Newclients, better connections, more friends, more interesting activities, findthe love of your life, just have some fun?  Use your answers to focus yourefforts on new opportunities that are most likely to surround you with theright type of people.

4.   Consider all the places these people you'd like to spend more time aroundspend their time. From coffee shops, to restaurants, to stores, to athletic spots,conferences, etc. Pop in.  Get yourself there.  Bring a friend if youneed to for confidence.  Most of these places are no big deal to just walkinto and sit down.

5.   Start talking to new people everywhere you go. Smile more.  Open yourselfup to conversations with strangers (just not creepy ones!) Notice your bodylanguage.  Sometimes just your shoulder placement, direction of your head,angling of your body can send off strong signals to others that say "stay away"or "come say hi".  Don't shut yourself off from outsiders.  Startengaging more.

6.   Be strategic too. Mingle, bump into, plant yourself by interesting looking peopleintentionally.  Then do all the things I just mentioned above.

7.   Find a great wingman or wingwoman. Not just for prospective dates either! I do this with friends all the time.  The shy ones to tell me who theywant to meet and I go make it happen.  It's just happens to be easy forme.  But I would never know to offer "my services" if friends didn't openup to me about this in the first place.  A lot of people are actually somuch more timid than they look! Trust me, you're not alone.

8.   Talk to some friends and colleagues who are super connected and socialand outgoing. Tell them inconfidence what you're thinking, feeling, craving.  Enlist theirhelp.  Tell them you want to meet new people, do new things, and expandyour circle.  Explain your objectives.  Ask to spend more time withthem and their world.

9.   Start finding pockets of people, new venues, events, social andprofessional groups that you find intriguing. Find an excuse to go!  Checkthem out.  Wander in.  "Act as if" you belong there as much as anyoneelse.  Don't feel like an outsider.

10.   Stop saying "no" to new and different. Embrace them.  Startthinking about these little exploratory expeditions into adventures.  Somewill be strange or duds, but others will be interesting and evenwonderful.  It's all good though when you're expanding your circle andengaging with the outside world more.

Try it out.  Let me knowwhat you find.  Or how you're helping friends out.  I'd love to hearyour own experiences!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Wangari Maathai: Africa's first woman Nobel Peace Prize winner

She won the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 at the age of 64. A long time taken to be recognised for her deeds in making the world a better place to live.  She was revered by all who met her. She had a lot to say and wasn't afraid to say it.

Today, September 26, 2011, everyone woke to the shocking news of her demise now at 71 from 1940 when she breathed mother earth's beauty and for which she always lived to protect.

She met dignitaries from all over the world and in turn, introduced them to her calling...her people...her neighbors and friends that were:

"Today, Wangari Maathai, you are here in the Oslo Town Hall to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004. We share your joy with you and with your closest relatives and friends who are gathered here. We are also pleased to see so many Kenyans and other Africans in the Town Hall. We have all come together here to pay you our tribute.

Dear mama Wangari Maathai,
You have shown what it means to be a true African mother and a true African woman. Kenya admires you! Africa admires you! The world admires you! May your unceasing fight for the right always remain a source of inspiration for mankind.

I think the announcement has already changed your life. Your name will figure prominently in the history of the Peace Prize, together with the other African Peace Prize Laureates: Albert Lutuli, Anwar Sadat, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Fredrik Willem de Klerk and Kofi Annan. We hope the Peace Prize may be an inspiration for positive change in your beloved Kenya, in Africa, and in the many countries in the world that need to hear your voice. Congratulations on the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004.

You are the first woman from Africa to be honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize. You will also be the first African from the vast region between South Africa and Egypt to receive the prize. You stand as an example and a source of inspiration to everyone in Africa who is fighting for sustainable development, democracy and peace. You are an outstanding role model for all women in Africa and the rest of the world. You bravely opposed the oppressive regime in Kenya. Your unique modes of action put the spotlight on political oppression both nationally and internationally,"  said The Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee – Ole Danbolt Mjøs (Oslo, December 10, 2004).

Kofi Annan, "Wangari Maathai will be remembered as a committed champion of the environment, sustainable development, women's rights, and democracy. Her contribution to all these causes will forever be celebrated and honoured. Wangari was a courageous leader. Her energy and life-long dedication to improve the lives and livelihoods of people will continue to inspire generations of young people around the world."

The Norwegian poet Halldis Moren Vesaas  put it so beautifully in her poem "The woman is planting":

The woman is planting a tree in the world.
On her knees, like someone in prayer,
Among the remains of the many trees
That the storm has broken down.
She must try again, perhaps one at last
Will be left to grow in peace.

And this is how Moren Vesaas ends the poem:

She sees the hands outspread on the earth
As if trying to impose her calm
On its threatening tremors. Oh earth, be still,
Be still, so my tree can grow.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, "Once again, our country has woken up today to the sad news of the passing on of a hero of great standing, Prof Wangari Maathai.

Maathai’s death is one of such happenings that leaves a nation with little to say; that strikes at the core of our nation’s heart.

Prof Maathai has passed on just when the causes she long fought for were just beginning to get the attention they deserved as threats to the survival of the human race and that of our planet.

In Kenya, we have lost her at a time we needed real champions for the cause of environment that she long symbolised. We have lost Maathai when we needed champions for better housing and sanitation to replace our slums. 

We all knew her as a voice of reason, a lady who stood above our artificial divisions of race, tribe and region and championed the cause of humanity.

While we all struggle to come to terms with this most untimely tragedy for our nation, Maathai’s death should inspire us to struggle to do good and champion the human cause while we live.

We have many things to do, and one of those things is to complete our, my destiny, which is to teach others about the power of faith, courage, and determination.

President Mwai Kibaki mourns, " It is with a deep sense of sadness and sorrow that I learnt of the death of Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai. On behalf of the government and people of Kenya and on my own behalf I send you this message of sympathy, at this time when we mourn a global icon who has left an indelible mark in the world of environmental conservation.

With the passing on of Professor Maathai, the country and the world has not only lost a renowned environmentalist and but also a great human rights crusader. Indeed in 2004, the late Professor was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her contribution in environmental conservation, good governance, human rights and democracy.

As part of her environmental conservation efforts, the late Professor Maathai started the Green Belt Movement, an NGO that is involved in reforestation programmes throughout the country.
Professor Maathai was also a hardworking person who always had time for the less privileged in the country. In this regard, the late Nobel Laureate was at the forefront in advocating for women empowerment, especially at the grassroots level.

In politics, the late Professor Maathai will be remembered for the role she played in agitating for political reforms that paved the way for the country’s second liberation. In her quest to serve Kenyans in different spheres, the late Professor Maathai vied and became the Member of Parliament for Tetu and an Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do.” she Said.
The power of love for ourselves and for others and how we can make a difference in this world if we just only take a little time from our busy lives.

Prof Wangari Maathai (Nobel Laureate) – Her one regret, motherhood and why she never remarried

I wanted to enclose a few of my favorite sayings from Prof Wangari Maathai...who was big on family and making the world a better place starting from the home. 

On the occasion of the mini-Beijing Women’s Conference, Nairobi, 1995

“In the world there is a new collective force of people mobilising around the issue of peace but linking it to the need to protect the environment. But we must assert our collective vision and responsibility to shape that peace not only for our country but also for the whole of Africa.”

 On receiving the UN Africa Prize for Leadership, 1991
“It is not as if leaders do not understand the impact of the unjust political and economic systems which are promoting environmental degradation and promoting a non-sustainable development model. When will such business be considered unacceptable in the world community?…Africa’s challenges are being tackled at different levels, and some successes have been recorded. But not fast enough. The concepts of sustainable development, appropriate development models, and participatory development are not foreign. We are aware that our children and the future generations have a right to a world which will also need energy, should be free of pollution, should be rich with biological diversity and should have a climate which will sustain all forms of life.”

Africa is a paradox. It is one of the richest continents on the planet, endowed with oil, precious stones, forests, water, wildlife, soil, land, agricultural products, and millions of women and men. Yet most of Africa’s people remain impoverished. I continue to ask myself, “Why?”

One reason is that many Africans lack the knowledge, skills, tools, and the political will to create wealth from their resources. They are unable to add value to raw materials in order to sell processed goods in local and international markets and negotiate better prices and favorable trade rules. Another reason is that ordinary citizens suffer when debts are not cancelled, when financial assistance is not forthcoming, or when trade barriers are raised.

I have also seen the need for ordinary Africans to embrace a set of values, like service for the common good, and commitment, persistence, and patience until a goal is realized. We also need Africans who love Africa so much that they want to protect their countries – their land – from environmentally destructive processes. The transformation of grasslands into deserts due to deforestation, encroachment into forests for subsistence farming, overgrazing, and loss of biodiversity and soil threaten the entire continent.

Another value Africans must adopt is love and concern for young people. One of the most devastating experiences is to see youth wasting away because they are unemployed, even after they have completed secondary and tertiary education, or because their health has deteriorated. African governments should give priority to investments in technical education and HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support programs.

Without skills, people find themselves locked out of productive, rewarding economic activities, leaving them unable to meet their needs for housing, healthcare and nutrition. They get trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and, sometimes, crime.

Africa needs to prepare for the opportunities and challenges to come by deliberately working for peace and security.
Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai speaks in Copenhagen in a December 2009 file photograph. Photograph: Casper Christoffersen/Scanpix/Reuters

When resources are scarce, or so degraded that they can no longer sustain livelihoods, or inequitably distributed, conflict invariably ensues. In Africa, we need to manage our resources sustainably, accountably, and responsibly. And we need to share those resources equitably.

Otherwise, we will continue to invest in wars and conflicts, or in fighting crime and domestic instability, rather than in promoting development and thereby eliminating poverty. African leaders should govern and serve for the benefit of the people, not themselves.

But perhaps the most unrecognized problem in Africa, especially at the grassroots level, is the disempowerment of ordinary people. This is one of the main reasons why so many people are unable to take advantage of the many opportunities available in Africa.

Africa’s people must be allowed to gain confidence, dignity, and a sense of self-worth. They must also be empowered with knowledge, skills, and tools to take action. This is why debt relief is so important. It provides governments additional resources to invest in initiatives that can empower their people.

"I will be a hummingbird" - Wangari Maathai

But much must still be accomplished, by Africans and with Africa’s many friends around the world. As in the Bible story, when Peter and John said to a beggar, rise up and walk,” Africans are called upon to walk away from ignorance, inertia, apathy, and fatalism. To walk towards economic and political freedom. To walk to an Africa free of poverty.

Maathai: World mourns passing of true 'African heroine'

Friday, 23 September 2011

Is leadership change within sight?

We need a resurgence of national values to give a long term solution to the breakdown of social order.
Many say that, “politicians are the greatest violators of human rights” they are falling back on national healing and reconciliation.

It is clear to me that urgent corrective measures are required to forestall any further deterioration and devastation. In my view, the breakdown of our social order is the result of many factors that include:
A winner takes all style of leadership that results in the people allied to the leader benefitting more than other people, hunger for power and money among politicians which makes them use any societal cleavages however, evil to mobilize support and a culture of impunity that is evidenced by failure t punish culprits for wrong doing.

A closer look at current events is that our leaders have failed to admit they are unable to provide for the most basic need, food. Blames and pointing of fingers over the food shortage while many famers cry foul as their produce cannot be bought!

In my opinion, we need to re-examine ourselves. We have paid dearly.

Nevertheless let’s take a break, as many have said; can we really look away and pretend nothing happened? It would be to our shame as a nation and would be our doing. Justice exists for a reason, and we must exercise it to the fullest when face with crimes of this nature. If we carry on, regardless, one thing is assured: it will happen again if those who perpetrated it are never prosecuted.

I recall the United Nation’s Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung Wha Kang’s words that, Kenya has no option but to adopt and implement it in full for the sake of justice and democracy in the country and for the future.
"Lets hold ourselves into account as we hold our leaders into account" Njeri Kabeberi the Executive Director of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya.

“Implementation and action must replace invasion and denial…to bring to justice the perpetrators of the serious crimes will be a critical test of the Kenyan political leadership in the struggle to end impunity.”
What does this mean for us as those who will cast the vote? Our leaders need to inspire hope.

“In a true democracy, it is what happens between elections that are the true measure of how a government treats its people. Today we are starting to see that the Kenyan people want more than a simple changing of guard, more than piecemeal reforms to a crisis that’s crippling their country,” Barrak Obama the President of America in his lecture at the UoN .

It is a wakeup call, not to be swayed by our leader’s rhetoric. Politics is a completion, fact. A competion to enable us to sieve tribalism ideology and embrace politics based on issues and ideals.

Ideals that will quench the Kenyan’s thirst for real change and faster reforms. More needs to be done as we listen to an array of leaders in need for our votes.

As Kenyans, we have to work hard to get ahead. With a slight change of priorities we can make a difference.

To achieve the change that is greatly desired, we also have to change the way we do things with regard to tribalism and corruption no matter how persuasive our leaders speak to us, and unless change comes from within us the change will be elusive.

We should remain hopeful, calm and united despite our diverse opinions as 2012 draws near.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Can photojournalism observe a code of ethics while: Fulfilling the public’s “Right to know” what is in the public interest? Respecting the private lives of the individuals?

Photojournalism like print or broadcast media should inform, educate and entertain society. It also sets the agenda through its portrayal of images. Based on the above, Can photojournalism observe a code of ethics while:

Fulfilling the public’s “Right to know” what is in the public interest?
Respecting the private lives of the individuals?

Information is the oxygen of democracy. If people do not know what is happening in their society, if actions of those who rule them are hidden, then they cannot take a meaningful part in the affairs of that society. But information is not just a necessity for people- it is an essential part of good government. Bad government needs secrecy to survive. It allows inefficiency, wastefulness and corruption to thrive.

Information allows people to scrutinize the actions of a government and is the basis for proper informed debate of those actions. Information includes all records held by a public body, regardless of the form in which the information is stored (Toby Mendel (June 1999).

Role of pictures:

A good news picture is worth a column of words.  Therefore, any news item could be less informative, less complete and less attractive without pictures. Pictures not only supplement the text; they enhance and extend it by highlighting and pressing upon the reader important parts of it; they make it easier for the reader to build up a picture of what is being read.

Based on these, pictures therefore, illustrates the text and forms an element in the page design. Thus a good picture will be considered to be worth a good space. Its shape and size will govern the disposition of stories and headlines around it. It will become a fixed point in the design to which the other elements adapt, although it still has to fulfill its function of informing the readers since it is part of the day’s input of news (F.W. Hodgson: 1998).

Media critics and viewers question the use of gruesome images, dozens of photographers hounding celebrities, picture manipulations that present misleading views, visual messages that perpetuate negative stereotypes of individuals from various multicultural groups, and images that blur the distinction between advertising and journalism. What is happening?

What is new, however, is the spread of computer technology that allows practically anyone to produce and disseminate visual messages in massive numbers for a world-wide audience. Because images evoke almost immediate emotional responses among viewers, pictures have tremendous impact. With well-chosen words, visual messages combine to educate, entertain and persuade. But the flip side to such visual power is that images can also offend shock, mislead, stereotype and confuse.

Consider some recent examples: the debate on the composition of Mr. Kibaki’s family, pictures of emaciated hunger victims from all over the country, despair on the faces of children within the IDP camps. The stories featured above can be classified into five ethical concerns of most interest to photojournalism professionals: Victims of violence, right to privacy, picture manipulations, stereotyping and advertising/editorial blurring. Right to privacy as a major aspect in the lives of the people – public and private lives will be based on.

Invasion of privacy have developed along false light, private facts and misappropriates. Journalists need to understand that the public’s right to know often to be weighed against the privacy rights of people in the news. Inquiries into an individual’s private life without the persons consent are not generally acceptable unless public interest is involved. Public interest must itself be legitimate and not merely prurient or morbid curiosity. There are four types of violation of someone's privacy:

A quarterly publication of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press titled, Photographers' Guide to Privacy, is helpful in sorting out the areas of privacy law that affect news photographers. Privacy law is divided into four areas:

* Unreasonable intrusion into the seclusion of another,
* Public disclosure of private facts,
* Placing a person in a false light in the public eye, and
* Misappropriation of a name or likeness for commercial gain (Strongman, 1987).

Unreasonable Intrusion: Consent is the most important factor when dealing with unreasonable intrusion or public disclosure of private facts. Generally, anything that can be seen in plain, public view can be photographed. Pictures in private places require permission. A photographer must be sure that the person who gives permission has the authority to grant the request.

Disclosure of Private Facts: Trespass laws require that photojournalists have the permission of an owner of a property before access can be gained.

False Light: Dr. Michael Sherer (1987) of the University of Nebraska explained the concept of false light.

"Generally speaking," Sherer wrote, "A photojournalist can be found guilty of false light invasion of privacy if a person's image is placed before the public . . . in an untrue setting or situation". For there to be a false light decision against a photographer, the image must be highly offensive to a reasonable person, the photographer must have known that the image was false, or the photographer acted "with 'reckless disregard' (in other words, did not care) about whether the information was true or not". 

Misappropriation: The fourth area of trouble for a photojournalist in a privacy case is using a person's image for monetary gain without that person's permissions, a photographer may have the right to photograph anyone in public, but problems will occur when that image is published and is used to represent a class of individuals without that person's consent (Coleman, 1988).

When covering a news event, courts have ruled that photographers do not have to conform to rigid rules required for a subject's consent. Nevertheless, news media organizations are sometimes sued by individuals who argue that because the newspaper makes money, their violation of privacy case is valid. Most of these cases go in favor of the news organization on appeal because of the newsworthiness of the images. Freelance photographers, as Sherer (1987) noted, "need to pay special attention to the appropriation concept.

There have been cases in which the selling of a photograph without the permission of those in the image had been held to be an appropriation of the person's likeness".

Public officials and celebrities also feel that journalists sometimes cross that yellow journalism line in covering their everyday activities.

Historically, invasion of privacy issues are linked with candid photography. Limitations with the type of camera, lenses, and film in the early days of photography prevented many of the candid moments that are commonplace today. Once cameras became hand-held and lenses and film became faster, amateur and professional photographers were able to make pictures that previously were impossible.

It was rare when a photographer could capture a spontaneous news event. More likely, subjects in news and feature assignments were carefully composed by the photographer to create a static or stereotyped look. As Wilson Hicks (1973), author of Words and Pictures wrote, "Instead of picture consciousness, it was a time of camera consciousness. Practically everybody looked at the camera. . . .

When the photographer entered a situation of movement involving people, life stopped dead in its tracks and orientated itself to the camera".

Privacy violations would not became an issue if it were not for editors who were willing to publish the revealing, hidden moments. Magazine and newspaper editors once the halftone process became relatively inexpensive and aesthetically acceptable, were eager to fill their pages with photographs that were used, admittedly, to sell more copies. Hicks (1973) summed up the philosophy of the editors of the day with, "Get the picture-nothing else mattered". This was the era of the scoop. Competition was so fierce that photographers would go to great lengths to beat a rival photographer.

Some critics complain that deadline pressures and competitiveness are responsible for journalists sometimes trampling on the privacy of others. Zuckerman (1989) noted that "News organizations, driven by intense competition, rarely let concern for a victim's privacy get in the way of a scoop".
The Star Sinai fire photo: a matter of ethics,facts and truth

Consequently, photojournalists can observe a code of ethics while respecting the private lives of the individuals and fulfilling the “public’s right to know because it is the media's job to publish what is true. It is its job to give the audience news and that of truthful news. The most serious concern with the media is that what they reveal to the audience must be true because as a society we are greatly influenced by what we read, hear, and see through the press.

 The National Press Photographers Association, a professional society dedicated to the advancement of photojournalism, acknowledges concern and respect for the public's natural-law right to freedom in searching for the truth and the right to be informed truthfully and completely about public events and the world in which we live. To that end the National Press Photographers Association sets forth the following Code of Ethics which is subscribed to by all of its members:

“It is the individual responsibility of every photojournalist at all times to strive for pictures that report truthfully, honestly and objectively.”

“In documentary photojournalism, it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way (electronically or in the darkroom) that deceives the public.”

Publishing false or inaccurate information directly is the biggest and most devastating thing a journalist or media can do. That is the underlining factor of the two. Publishing private and true embarrassing facts may hurt someone severely, but journalists feel that it is a right for a person in the audience to know the truth. Ethically, the journalist must give the facts. Journalistic ethics understands that the worst possible thing is to give false information. Not only is it ethically wrong, but also, through the law, libel is a bigger problem. In actuality most initial invasion of privacy suits, especially in false light are changed to libel suits because they are more damaging.

Moreover, many readers react strongly to pictures that seem to violate the privacy of others, it is important to be clear on the legal and ethical issues surrounding the right to privacy.

A guiding principle for journalists in deciding to cover a story is whether the event is newsworthy. Newsworthiness is not determined by the number of cameras pointed through, but a concept with roots to unemotional, objective and reasoned journalism principles.

In 1946, the Hutchins Commission came out with a definition of news that still applies today: A truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day's events in a context which gives them meaning. Unfortunately, media officials under pressure from circulation or rating figures make decisions that sensationalize rather than explain complex stories of interest to the public. Live pictures for the nightly newscast of a speculating reporter in front of a brightly lit brick mansion increase the charge of sensational coverage by critics. In an ideal world, journalists tell stories in words and pictures that explain rather than cause a viewer to ask more questions.

Picture and subject manipulations have been a part of photography since it was first invented. But because of computer technology, digital manipulations are relatively easy to accomplish, hard to detect and perhaps more alarming, alter the original image so that checking the authenticity of the picture is impossible.

Computer technology did not start the decline in the credibility of pictures, but it has hastened it. Photographic darkrooms are quickly being replaced by computer workstation light rooms. But as long as photojournalists do not subtract or add parts of a picture's internal elements, almost any other manipulation once accomplished in a photographic darkroom is considered ethical for news-editorial purposes.

Two factors may guard against a further erosion of credibility in visual messages: Reputation of the media organization that publishes or broadcasts images and the words that accompany the manipulated picture.

Credibility is not an inherent quality of a particular picture, but a concept based on tradition, story choices, design considerations and reader perception of the company or individual that produces the image.

Words are also vital in assuring the credibility of a news organization and a picture. If a photojournalist or art director is tempted to combine parts from two separate pictures to create a third picture, the reader needs to know that such an action has taken place. The cut line for the image should include the details of the manipulation while the image itself should be labeled an illustration -- not a news-editorial picture. Such an addition would at least solve one aspect of the ethical problem -- letting the reader know of the illustrative technique.

In conclusion, photography is undergoing an exciting and challenging time in its history. Currently, the photographic medium is in a hybrid or transitional period between traditional film and computer technologies. It is reasonable to predict that by the first decade of the next century, photojournalists will no longer use film in their cameras or developer in their trays.

Print and screen media will also dramatically change as households are linked with fiber optic technology. Newspapers and televisions will be transformed into a medium that combines the best attributes of the printed page, telephone, television and computer. These will transform passive readers and viewers into active users with instantaneous links to text and images from sources anywhere in the world.

But no matter how the tools of journalism change, fundamental ethical concerns still apply.

Photographers are constantly defining reality. By selecting what stays in the tiny 35mm frame and becomes a picture, the photographer makes a conscious or unconscious decision to edit out a vast majority of the scene. Choices of film, camera, lens, aperture, shutter speed, angle of view, filters, lighting, and cropping can change a photograph's meaning. The reason why the principles of objectivity and truthfulness are so often stressed is because a photographer can easily lose his or her objectivity and not tell the truth.

Professionals, academics and students owe it to their readers to be sensitive to unethical practices that demean the profession and reduce the credibility of journalism.

Therefore, it is imperative that whenever and wherever possible, ethical issues be discussed by all those concerned about the journalism profession.