Documentaries, Self, Society

Who’s Infringing Upon Men’s Rights?

My target audience for this blog post is men. I share my thoughts and questions so that other men can question their role in society and how to create a better world. For far too long, women have spoken out. It’s time for men to listen and act.

As a white man, I live a privileged life. I grew up without the fear of being persecuted for my gender or race. Society in Western counties (such as Canada, where I’m from) is shaped around white supremacy and male supremacy.

If you look at the people in power–politicians, judges, religious leaders, CEOs–you find that they are almost exclusively white and male. They look like me more than they look like you (if you’re a gender other than male and/or a person of color). Why is this? Continue reading


Equal Pay for Equal Work

Four decade ago, the women of Iceland decided to call for a “day off”. On 24 October 1975, 90 percent of women in Iceland, in both urban and rural communities, did not go to their paid jobs or do housework or childcare at home. They refused to work to raise awareness that women at the time earned over 40% less than men. “As a result, many industries shut down for the day,” writes

Newspapers were not printed since the vast majority of typesetters were women and there was no telephone service. Many schools were either closed or partially closed as the majority of teachers were women.

Flights were cancelled as flight attendants did not come to work and bank branches had to be staffed by executives as tellers took the day off.

Fish factories were also closed, with many nurseries and shops also shut or at reduced capacity.

Continue reading


First Days in Uganda

My first exposure to Uganda consisted of a midnight crossing of theKIHEFO international border that is shared with Rwanda along the three-hour drive from Kigali to Kigezi district. Along with KIHEFO’s driver Enock and four University of Calgary medical students, I filled out the appropriate forms and showed my passport, with a newly acquired East Africa Visa, enough times to make it through the gauntlet of road stops and gunned border agents. With the darkness around us and only a few stars above, we drove the short distance from the border to my new home of Kabale – a southwestern, hilly town of around 50,000 people.

I was thankful to be the first one in our van to arrive. It was 1:00 am and I was in desperate need of something other than a car or airport terminal to call home. My apartment companions Trina and Atayo greeted me and gave me the short version of their home tour before calling it a night. I was running on fumes, but took them up on the offer of a shower, as it would be my first in over 72 hours of travel, layovers, and a night asleep on the benches of Toronto Airport’s Terminal 3.

That first day of work – Monday – would set the tone for the rest of the week, as it was filled with continuous learning and interaction
after interaction. I met more students – these ones were American – who were here to learn about public health in a East African context; some of whom arrived a day before me. We started with a great presentation on the history and work of Kigezi Healthcare Foundation (KIHEFO), an organization that does amazing work in providing health care to the four districts of Kigezi. In addition to their permanent clinics – medical and dental care, HIV/AIDS, child nutrition – in Kabale, KIHEFO does several outreaches each month in surrounding communities. In the afternoon, we were able to actually tour these clinics and the town of Kabale. The town is flowing with hills, houses set into them like blocks, with stores and the artery roads running through the valley.

Over the next two days, we were given presentations on the health care uganda mapoptions in Uganda, which range from village health teams and traditional healers to formal national hospitals; and on the conditions mothers face in during their pregnancy, during childbirth, and while caring for children.

Thursday allowed me to start looking at the Village Nutrition Surveys that have been developed to find out what families face in Kigezi. With questions covering access to water, illness, foods consumed, and household assets, it will allow KIHEFO to have quantifiable data for future initiatives in their communities.

I was invited to add additional questions related to water access and sanitation facilities, so that information from these sectors could also be used in future planning.

The last day of the week gave all of the new arrivals, including myself, our first look at village life in Uganda, with a tour of a primary school in Ibumba. After speaking with teachers and having the most amazing welcome by their students, we traveled a short distance away with the school’s deputy headmaster to speak with a women’s group that she is leading. Together, this group of widowed and orphaned women have found strength. They farm together, save together, and learn together. They also helped us learn, by describing the challenges they face in their remote community.

The weekend gave me time to rest, relax, and do a few errands. On Saturday, I started the process of making some custom shirts with local fabric. Two yards of fabric, which comes in amazingly bright patterns, sells for 10,000 Ugandan shillings (or $4). This is enough to make a single men’s shirt, tailored to your exact measurements, costing an additional 20,000 shillings (or $8).On Sunday, I washed clothes. To hand wash clothes completely and in a reasonable amount of time is an art form; I am not there yet.

Looking forward, the second week will see me going out into communities and participate on maternal and child health surveys. There will also be the opportunity to discuss new ways of small-scale agriculture with local youth. Both of these projects have me excited to learn more about Uganda and the issues that people live with each day.

More updates to come.


Hand Wash Only

What is it like to wash all your clothes by hand and have no access to a washing machine. Mostly, it takes time.

Here is how I would wash a week’s worth of dirty laundry while in Nicaragua (or anywhere with a lack of machinery to do the work).

  • Bring your clothes to the local source of water. This might be a tap in your home or the nearby stream.
  • Fill a bucket, pan, or any other large container with clean water. Add detergent. This will be your equivalent of a ‘wash cycle’.
  • Place clothes in bucket to soak.
  • While these are soaking, fill a second container with water. This will be your ‘rinse cycle’.
  • To wash your clothes, you can use a washing board, like I found in my hostel in Esteli, but I prefer to do it the way I was taught in Ghana. The basic goal is to rub clothes vigorously over themselves to agitate and remove dirt. This is a long process as you have to clean each item, one at a time, repeatedly to make it clean.
  • For example, to wash a shirt: hold with your left hand, then grab a bit of it with your right hand and rub over your wrist; move the shirt up a bit and rub again; move it up again and rub. Do this two or three times by re-orientating the garment so that you have washed all of it.
  • Do this with each item.
  • Tip: ring out the water over your bucket first to save detergent.
  • Once you have completing washing, place clothes into the second bucket.
  • After they’ve had a bit of time to soak out the last bit of detergent, repeat the hand washing cycle again for an extra clean.
  • Once all items have gone through both cycles, they are ready for hanging. This is the equivalent of a dryer – using the sun instead of heat.
  • Give each item a quick snap of the wrist to get out some extra water and then attach to a clothes line with clothes pins. It will take several hours or up to the next day for them to dry. Watch out for the rainy season, as you may need to take items down and out of the rain momentarily.

In the end, this process would take me easily an hour to go through my own clothes after a week. Some shirts, a few pairs of socks, underwear, and maybe a pair of pants. It is intensive and draining.

Or, to avoid all this hard work (and time) throw everything into a washing machine and walk away.

This is the great privilege we have in the West, which is to have the money to buy technology to save us work, time, and effort with daily tasks. It allows us time to do other things, like further our education, earn more money through working, or have spare time to exercise and enjoy life. It’s easy to forget how labor intensive an activity would be if you’ve never had to try it, as many Westerners have been able to with laundry.

Hans Rosling (in his TED Talk embedded below) beautifully describes the power of the washing machine in opening up opportunities for the women and girls who would other have to do laundry by hand. I have to agree with him and say that the washing machine is truly an invention difficult to give up.