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Aid and development are deeply complex and there are no easy answers. The physical donations of goods, be it food or clothes, often have negative impacts on the local economy. It would be far better for aid organizations to buy products locally. Aid shouldn't be about making North Americans comfortable with a culture of mass consumption and waste. It has to be actually making the lives of people in the recipient country better.
People were shocked by the photographs that show Ugandan police brutally grabbing Ingrid Turinawe's breasts as she cried out in pain. Sexual assault is a public taboo in this deeply conservative country. However, the very public and sexualized nature of the attack on Turinawe seems to have been a defining moment for the women's movement of Uganda.
What's the price of unemployment? In the case of Uganda which has the highest completion rate of primary school education in Africa, but where youth unemployment is at 80 per cent, many Ugandas pay the price of death. Just ask the family of Justine Nalugya who committed suicide in March because she didn't have a job.
Kampala has many advantages driving growth. It is resource rich. From a tourism perspective, the country is beautiful and, in comparison to Nairobi or Cape Town, it's quite safe. In some ways the country is well suited to lead Africa in economic development. Like being in the dark, literally. Unreliable electricity goes beyond being a mere hindrance; it can be life threatening.
New malls, expensive hotels and fancy casinos are springing up everywhere in Uganda. Ex-pats and middle-class Ugandans drive flashy four-wheel jeeps and you can get any food craving satiated. Indian, Italian, Mongolian, Thai: they have it all here. And yet, it is a large urban centre where goats and chickens still roam the streets and witch doctors ply their trade.
It's hard to see the logic in Obama's decision to reduce its aid budget. Even Bush -- and it is painful to eat these words as I write them -- was more of an aid enthusiast. And this is to say nothing of Canada, which has opted to freeze aid levels for the next five years.
While other major development initiatives -- schools, medical clinics, roads, human rights laws to protect women -- will take years to reach their potential, the digital age lies as a present powerful tool to assist women.
If the gender dimensions of the digital world -- in terms of access and use, capacity building, employment and potential for empowerment -- are explicitly identified and addressed, the result can be a powerful catalyst for political and social change for women, and the promotion of gender equality.
The crisis in East Africa has prompted Canadians to open their wallets and their hearts, but with the sheer number of government agencies, NGOs and private sector organizations responding to humanitarian crises, it remains difficult to know who to support and how much of the money will actually get there.
Those in the Horn of Africa who are in the midst of a famine are facing hunger and malnutrition on a scale few of us can comprehend. Even so, I've been dismayed by web-chatter to the effect of, "How long can we be expected to keep feeding these Africans who don't seem to be able to fend for themselves?"