First day at work & first Ugandan press conference

1 12 2009

I started work on Monday and quickly learned about Ugandan time.  One of my co-workers (the only man in the office) Eriya (also called Kamya) was supposed to meet me at 10am and arrived shortly after 11.  It was really nice to have the time to sit on the street and just observe all the surrounding activity.  When we arrived at the NGO, I was told there was a press conference at 11am.  I went to the conference room (literally a shed in the back) and was greeted by a roomful of stares.  At first I was asked if I was media and when I said no, I was with the NGO I was introduced to the Executive Director (my new boss).  The press conference was fascinating and a wonderful introduction to the work I’ll be doing.  A few observations to share from the press conference:

  • The press conference took place in an open-air shed, around a conference table.  People shared seats and crammed onto benches – there were about 25 people there (considered a large attendance).  Media arrived late including a few texts today wanting to know when to come.
  • The press release was dated three days before the press conference. 
  • Media was invited via emails, calls and text messages.
  • The press conference began with a verbal reading of the press release, followed by commentary from the three speakers and then questions from the media.  It lasted more than an hour and people hung around afterwards continuing to ask questions.
  • In Uganda, it is customary practice to lure media to your press conference by offering them food and transport money in exchange for their attendance.  This doesn’t mean they have to write a story about the topic but they are still compensated for their presence.
  • The media appeared to be very young and a mix of men and women. 
  • Most of the questions started very pleasantly, then diverted to the reporter’s personal opinion on the topic and was followed by at least two questions for the speaker.  As the speaker would answer, reporters would rush to move their cassette tape recorders in front of the speaker to capture word for word their answers.  Clearly, in Uganda there is no such thing as a 10 sec. sound byte as all the answers were long and quite detailed. 

The topic of the press conference was a coalition asking the government to prioritize housing for health workers especially in rural areas.  There is a huge shortage of health care workers in Uganda.  The coalition’s message was that by offering accommodations close to work, it would greatly assist in recruitment and retention of health care workers.  Oftentimes, the poor quality of healthcare is because there are not physically enough health care workers.  The pay is poor, exposure to infectious disease is high and health care workers often have to travel great distances to get to work because they can’t find housing they can afford near the health care center.  Also, there is a brain drain problem in that many doctors and nurses are leaving Uganda and headed to other places where they can make more money.  I still have a lot to learn about this topic but it was a great way to start off the work week.  The Internet has been out at the office for two days so it has been difficult to do much more than talk to co-workers, read past reports and start creating my work plan.  My goal is to blog at least once a week about some aspect of working here – whether it be a specific topic the NGO is working on, insights on workplace culture or communications/advocacy specific I’ll continue to share as I learn more.

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3 responses

2 12 2009
Rachel

Allison,
I’m just getting caught up on the blog. Sounds like things are moving along nicely for you. I look forward to keeping up with your adventure. How’s the food over there? and the weather?

Love,
Rachel

2 12 2009
Auntie M

Alley-cat, great job writing, describing and reporting.
Are they in need of any lab techs?
What does your apartment look like?
What about the food?

We are going to miss you on Shabbot and Uncle B’s gonna miss picking on you during Sunday’s football game.

Love ya and miss ya. When can we skype?
m

3 12 2009
Joel

glad you are there and you are safe!

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