David Moses Okello a Programme Manager, Young People Interventions at ActionAid Uganda writes about his experience working remotely from the 23rd March 2020.
Was it some sort of unexpected chilling moment? heaven sent leave ? so many questions ran through my mind creating an atmosphere of confusion.
Soon reality set in , there was work to be done ,deadlines to be met ,staff zoom meetings to coordinate and attend and a template for weekly work plans to design for staff
The mental honey moon flew out in no time and the stern reality that being in a lock down requires more innovation stepped in !
At this point, every engagement came up with actions that required my work time
Together with colleagues in my Unit, we ventured into reaching out to our partners, the young people organizations including Restless Development, Faraja Africa Foundation, Centre for Policy Analysis, Youth Line Forum, Open Space, RDP Uganda, IDEA, Global Platform Uganda and ActionAid among others.
At the beginning of the meeting, we shared both personal and institutional experiences of Covid 19 response mechanisms. From the insights shared, you could feel the cold feet among young people and their organizations as most of them seem to be grappling with how to operate and deliver their respective and solidarity mandates within a rapidly fluid environment.
The purpose of this convening was to inspire young people and their organizations to seize opportunities to respond to this global pandemic with focus on young people constituencies.
Another interesting participatory learning was the “whatsapp rally” for the Alumini of the 2019 YouLead Summit to discuss the response mechanisms, the gaps in response and the impacts of Covid on young people in Uganda. Through the Youth4Uganda whatsapp group, young people deliberated comprehensively and generated useful reflective pieces that keep shaping ongoing conversations.
A look at the impact of Covid 19 on young people and their organizations is so far characterized by the following observations;
Negative impact on livelihoods of young people as most of them derived their income on daily basis, majority of young people have lost employment from which they derive livelihood.
Increased incidences of gender-based violence in some communities ,refugee camps and other host areas with cases of sexual violence and domestic violence is affecting mostly young people and young women in particular.
Growing crime rates perpetuated by young people especially in urban areas and trading centres caused by idleness and economic hardships. Some like the boda bodas have violated government orders in order to earn a living. A number of human rights abuses on young people is highly observable as security agencies implement government directives.
Lack of access to education and other essential reproductive health services including sanitary materials for women and girls. The problem is exacerbated by lack E-learning services in the country and therefore students are not able to continue with learning. On health, some communities have raised concerns of essential drug stockouts.
Cost of internet continues to be high and the OTT tax is affecting organizational operations. At the unit, we have also shared guidelines on working remotely with young people organizations. We continue to have vital conversations around youth elections that have been postponed due to Covid 19 and the upcoming general elections of 2021 where young people are tipped to shape its outcome and the shaping the governance equation of this country.
The post Covid 19 policy debates is a huge opportunity that young people have started to engage by sharing ideas on the post Covid economic policy recommendations to government. Actions towards campaigns against OTT tax and a long-term post Covid E-learning campaign shall be undertaken.