The forgotten tribe in Uganda

Here is the video I did about the Batwa tribe in Uganda. Below the link where you can help them. I launched a campaign on gofund me, where I am collecting money to buy them land.  Any donation is highly appreciated!

http://www.gofundme.com/9b8op4

 

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Covering a story in the field

When I was at the university I wrote my dissertation on the Role of the Media in Conflict based on Rwanda and Darfur. I interviewed many journalists that covered both conflicts. I always thought it must be very difficult, challenging but exciting to cover a story in Africa. I wanted to try it myself. After working in Europe and Asia, this year I finally got the opportunity to go to the black continent.  I got a grant with the European Union and Minority Rights Group International. I went to Uganda- pearl of Africa to cover stories connected with minority rights issues. I focused on the homosexual rights as the President has just signed the anti gay bill that allows imprisoning people for seven or fourteen years if they are homosexuals. My second topic was Batwa tribe, which is a minority group in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and DRC that was evicted from their forests in early nineties and now they don’t have their own land and place to live.

Field visit

The project started as an online course. Once you finish with good results the six lucky participants are offered a face to face training in Uganda. Me and 5 other European girls from Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland really enjoyed the first two days  of training that prepares you how to report on minority rights and more importantly how to talk to the community. As a freelance reporter I’m used to the news environment, which is quite fast, and very often you need to work under pressure. I found it quite difficult to conduct interviews with those people. There are some rules you need to follow in order to get the information you need. Those people have been threw a lot in their life so you need to first gain their trust and talk to them without camera before you start interviewing them. On our first day visit in the community we didn’t have much time so I was running around with my camera trying to capture as much as possible and I didn’t have much time for interviews. I was quite frustrated even when talking to people, which doesn’t have a good effect on the people you interview. But the second day was much better. I could actually spend time with community listen, observe and talk to them. They opened up in their interviews and were very interested to tell you their story. Also it was the first time I had to work with translator, as the people there don’t speak English. This was another challenge, as you cannot really ask follow up questions and is more time consuming.

Be professional but if  you have to – cry

Working in the field is difficult. You don’t always have the logistical arrangement that you have in the city. You always depend on other people like fixers, interpreters etc. Apart from that you usually talk about difficult topics like rape, poverty, malnutrition, death. It was very difficult for me when I was interviewing one of the Batwa women who told me that since she was evicted from the forest and living in the slums she doesn’t have food for her child or for herself. She needs to either beg or collect plastic bottles and then sell them. She is also quite ill and can’t  go the hospital. When I was talking to her and recording her on the camera tears came to my eyes but I tried not to cry and be professional. At the end I gave her some of my clothes and money. She hid them in her hat and then cried. She said to me” Thank you angel you just save my child” This was truly the best moment in my career. This amazing feeling you get that maybe with your story someone will see it and make a difference in those peoples lives. To cover a story in the field you need to be sensitive to other peoples feelings and let them tell you their story, you should not rush them or interrupt them. Be their friend and not a journalist.

Africa is not Europe

 Africa is not an easy country to work from but once you will get a story there you can get it anywhere. I feel that even after this short 2 weeks I learnt really a lot not just from the MRG training and their professional team but also from the local journalists. When being in Kampala and covering my LGBT story I was lucky to meet two local journalists who explained to me that the western world very often describes Africa with their own eyes without even asking Africans for their opinions and misinterpreting many things. They made me sensitive that I should look at my story not just with my own eyes but with eyes of local people. This was very precious advice and helped me a lot when writing my stories.

Changing the world is fun

Being back in Europe I look now at everything from different perspective. As a person and as a journalist I m starting appreciating more little things that previously didn’t matter. And as my personal motto is “changing the world is fun” I know I won’t change it from one day to another but at least I can try.  I have now a mission that I want to accomplish and make people more aware of the problems in Africa. It is something I promised to the Batwa people- to share their story with the world.

 

 

 

Heart-pounding whitewater rafting at Nile

When my friend told me you should go water rafting at Nile in Uganda, I was a bit skeptical cause I have done it last year in the north of Thailand and it was not so  crazy as I expected it to be. But I decided to follow my friend advice anyway and spend my last day in Uganda doing white water rafting at Nile and it was simply AWESOME.

The bus picked us up at 7am from Kampala and we drove to Jinja, where the rafting was taking place. We had a nice breakfast and after that we got 30minutes training already in water. We were six people from Germany, Poland, Canada and Belgium, our guide was from the USA and he was rally funny and at the same time professional.  We started with the first rapid- grade 5. I thought when seating in the front I will have better chances to stay on the boat but nothing more misleading. I fell into water and the current took me away. Luckily there are guys in kayaks around your boat who can help you once you are in water. After this flip I thought to myself that wearing bikini was not the smartest idea. Once you are in water you need to remember to hold on to your paddle but if you have a choice between holding to your paddle or your bikini I chose of course the second so I lost my paddle. But the kayak guy brought it back to me.  So after this we were paddling for some time and we got another rapid. This time 3 other girls fall into water. Its scary when you fall but you have to laugh really hard as its great fun, you just need to be careful not to hit someone with your paddle or not to hit a rock. After happily drowning in the utterly enchanting view of the scenic and gorgeous river base of Nile we stopped and had delicious lunch

With lot of energy we geared up  and put some sun cream on, wich was preety useless cause the water will wipe it off but we still did it. The first part was preety easy in comparison with the second one as the time between the  rapids was only five or ten minutes. We had to paddle really hard in order not to fall into water but of course two of us fell in again.

All prety tired and still paddling we were reaching the “bad place” it’s a place where you really don’t want to be as the current is quite strong and you can be under water even for 20 seconds. Luckily we were all really good paddlers so we made it without going to the “bad place” We almost reached our destination, there was only one rapid left. “We didn’t flip the boat yet” I thought to myself  but I didn’t really want to experience it. We were following our guide orders and got into a really strong current, suddenly a big wave came and I saw our guide falling into water and one second later we were all under water and our boat has flipped. As scary as it was we all found each other safe and the kayak guy was chasing our paddles as the girls were holding to their bikinis. We flipped our boat back and climbed back in.

In total we had 1 full flip, 4 flips for me personally , 0 bikini bottom lost and 2 paddles lost.

We finished the day with bbq and watching our pictures and videos, crying from laughter. We were burnt, super tired but extremely happy. I had an amazing time and can recommend Aidrift to do this fun day with.  I am sure if I ever come back to Uganda this is going to be on me to do list.

First day in Uganda – I survived!

I always dreamed of going to Africa and cover a story there. Now the dream became a reality. I am in Kampala- capital city of Uganda and according to my friends,who have lived here and a guy in the Embassy in Brussels” it’s preety safe city”. Unfortunately my experience today was very different.

I decided to go to the city center and explore. I also needed a pair of sun glasses. I took the local taxi which is kind of a bus very crowded but quite cheap. I went to exchange the money and I asked the guy who worked at the exchange office where is the closest market, so he directed me to Owino. The market was very crowded but there were many interesting things to capture so I took my camera out (which is quite big cause I need it for work) and started to take pictures. Out of a sudden some guy grabbed my camera . Thanks to another good man who shouted at him and said something in language I didn’t understand I managed to leave the market without any damages apart from the psychological ones. Luckily nothing happened but I realized after a while I was the only white person at this market so I guess taking out my camera was not the best idea.

I got really stressed out. I finally got my sunglasses( in a shopping mal) and went back to the hotel. After complaining to my friend on skype, I listened to his advice and went to chill at the Speke Resort , which is a big Hotel Resort where all Expats go to on Weekends. Yes I know I should spend time with locals not Expats blabla.. but that is  all I needed: a swimming pool, drink in my hand, peace and quiet and no stress that someone will steal my camera.

So it’s a good thing I got a full pass insurance because I will probably need it. I still have two more weeks ahead and visits to the north and south of the country and 3 stories to cover so wish me luck. But something tells me it will be great two weeks.