Odiirah Kemerwa: Communications and Promotions Officer for Pentecostal Assemblies of God, Uganda. #TFBloggers

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Odiirah (right) with Nora in Ogongora.

So, yesterday afternoon, I finally grabbed that promised chat with Oriidah, who has been our local contact for the trip in Uganda.  I was interested in the route she’d taken to get to the role she’s in now, and what her role consists of … I then asked some further questions about ‘digital Uganda’ which will form another post for this afternoon.

Training

Odiirah undertook a BA in Journalism & Communications at Kampala University, where she majored in writing for print  – typically the most popular specialism as there are a lot of newspapers in Uganda. Most others do broadcasting, although a few do PR, but PR is not big in Uganda, and if you have trained in print or broadcasting, you can still do PR.

The course lasted for three years, with all studying the same material in the first year (including economics), whilst students specilise in the 2nd and 3rd years.  Odiirah finished four years ago (June 2008), and those specializing in print often find work quite quickly, as there’s a lot of vacancies, although originally, as many do, she only got taken on as a freelance writer – paid per story that is printed.

In her 2nd year holiday Odiirah worked with some newspapers as a trainee (The Weekly Observer), and stayed for year whilst still at university, only dropping it in the final semester when there was too much research to do.  As she already had experience she was able to go to a bigger newspaper – The Daily Monitor, where she wrote features.

I asked whether there were any stories that she particularly remembers writing – and Odiirah said that anything to do with compassion and people in need were the ones that she found most powerful. She wrote a story about a lady with breast cancer (not common in Africa, therefore misunderstood) for cancer month, who was demoted from a senior position – it appears simply because she’d had a breast removed. The woman has had to continue in that role, looking after her brother who is paralysed. (Apparently there are unions in Uganda, but they are not that active… because labour is so cheap).

Another story that Odiirah particularly remembers is that she visited a school for the dumb and the deaf – the only one in the country. She followed a family with four children who were all both deaf and dumb – there’s no help from the government for them. Social Security is available in Uganda, but only for those who are working, e.g. Odiirah pays 5% of her salary in, and the company pays in 15% – if one doesn’t have a salary, one can’t save, and if one earns less than 150,000UGS there’s no security plan available.

Six months after graduation, Odiirah took the job of Communications and Promotions Officer at PAG

PAG Work Role

As in most departments at PAG there’s just one person in a department .. and many are spread across the districts of Uganda. Odiirah was mainly hired by Tearfund to undertake work for the Connected Churches initiative – where churches in the UK are connected with churches in Uganda.  Odiirah’s job was to gather information across the churches. She’s now more fully involved in PEP (The project that Tearfund’s involved in that we’ve come out to see).

Odiirah now collects stories of impacts from communities involved with PEP. There’s too many to collect from all, as she visits each district twice a year for three days. Initially there were 10 districts, with 14 communities in each, and there are now a further 3, with 3 communities in each). Stories are sent as reports to Tearfund – monthly, quarterly, mid-year and annual. Other stories are placed on the website (the blog is new and has not yet evolved), and there is now also a page on Facebook, where further stories are shared. An annual magazine Goma is produced, just going into its second edition, which highlights new projects, and is intended for PAG churches in Uganda. Odiirah intends to develop the blog to share more stories, although Twitter doesn’t yet feature much for Ugandans.

How has the digital affected Uganda in general? See this afternoon’s later post.   

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