Not being antisocial, they just have differing priorities

Been meaning to write about this for some time now.  I have literally had to put sleep on hold so that I could do this right now as opposed to putting it off yet again.  In case I make any typos, the excuse is already given.  I’m writing this under the influence of sleep.

I am wondering how many persons out there have had to deal with being referred to as being antisocial, sometimes even resulting in to them losing out on being considered for a promotion or even a post deserving of their skills and abilities in relation to their job. This can only be comparable to situations where persons, usually women, complained about being passed over for jobs or promotions simply because those in charge of consideration of such promotions or allocation, often belong to gentlemen’s clubs such as  golf, where females (unless they are of  service or the entertainment variety) do not partake.

A recent observation brought this practice to mind.  Most work places hold what they term – social gatherings, mostly on Fridays when salaries have been paid.  This entails employees along with senior persons or employers congregating at some chosen venue – usually a drinking hole/pub.  It is meant to be a social gathering encouraging work persons to socialise.  I have absolutely no qualms about such and if I were to bring up my file from younger years, I’d probably rate as one of those pioneers to such gatherings.  Mind you, in my younger working years, any social gathering was welcomed with open arms.

Thing is, some persons priorities to such gatherings with work colleagues can differ.  There are persons to who their work or job defines all that they are about such that everything they breathe and live is interwoven with their job/work.  This is admirable – especially if it gives the person practicing it, joy.  It does not however translate that everyone feels the same. For most persons, they work at a job simply to pay the bills or keep the bailiffs at bay!

On a serious note however, it does cross boundaries of disrespect when persons who define their lives in accordance to their job or work; expect everyone else in their employ or working environment to mirror their passion or zeal.  Writing off fellow colleagues or workers as being anti-social simply because they will not hang out with you at a social event and to later use this as reason for not hiring or promoting them to reflect their skills, I think is just plain petty and stupid.  Their inability to join you in to these social situations may just be down to their personal priorities outside of work requirements.

Just as you don’t have time to take in to account their personal situation, you don’t have a right to dictating how they should spend the time when not contracted to be working with you or for you.  Perhaps if these social events were clearly defined as being work related and paid for accordingly, then clarity from the onset should be done and observed.

Work colleagues or employees have differing domestic and cultural settings.  These factor in how they priorities their time, when out of working hours.  So keep in mind, just because a fellow colleague cannot join in with everyone every other Friday of the month down at the pub, it does not translate that they are antisocial. They simply have differing priorities for their time in relation to yours.

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Where value of life is determined by economics

“In school you get the lesson and then take the test… In life you take the test and then get the lesson.”
— Unknown Source

How is a problem in your life really an opportunity?

Problems invite us to go inside to recognize a bigger picture of ourselves and of life. This bigger picture brings meaning to what is unfolding.

When you feel trapped in a problem, see if you can shift your perspective. Ask yourself, “What am I being invited to learn from this situation?” The answer will always revolve around a quality or value, like gratitude, freedom, compassion, love, will, humour or acceptance. The answer will also always promote union rather than separation.

As soon as we find the meaning in our challenge, our resistance to it melts away. Often, awareness of the lesson is all that is needed to resolve the problem. If not, the awareness brings us courage and ways to work through it.

This week has been a great mental challenge to me, with emotions ranging between rage and disgruntled acceptance of the injustices met out to those most vulnerable in the global system.  Not long after witnessing a clip involving an armed protestor outside a factory in which he had been working. He had suffered an industrial accident that had cost him some of his fingers leaving him with infected stumps that still required medical/surgical treatment he couldn’t afford. For his peaceful means of protests, the owners of the factory called some rogue police officers who descended upon him brutally to beat him up before bundling him away to some police post.  It is anyone’s guess as to what else was done to him when they finally got him where cameras couldn’t show.

Mukwano Industries of Uganda by name prides itself in being a friendly company going by the interpretation of the meaning of mukwano in the commonly spoken Luganda language in Uganda.  Mukwano Ind. showed no mercy or friendship to this ex-employee when it stood by allowing dog-like police officers to administer such brutality on this man no doubt as payback for daring protest to bring to light the paltry compensation settled for his injuries sustained on their work premises.  When the spokesperson for Mukwano Industries finally graced the media after almost a week had passed – he not only failed to comment on the conduct of the his company’s actions in relation to the call-out police’s actions but blamed the ex-employee for being the aggressor.  A smear campaign was soon initiated by the unions which are supposed to be defenders of workers. Your guess as to who was bankrolling their stance.  Incidentally the police officers who were called to man-handle this  man (Suuna) for some reason opted to operate out of their jurisdiction.

Thing that bugs me the most is that so many accidents happen and will no doubt continue to happen in such companies similar to Mukwano Industries in Uganda. One is left to question if any safety reports or checks have ever been done in relation to any cited or reported accidents – and the viability of their sincerity if they were done.  But the real reason as to why such companies or persons feel they can do as they please is down to the country’s lack of enforcing it’s legislature of virtually any laws.

The main cancer is that of corruption where officials are paid off in exchange of ‘brown envelopes’ to cover up unsafe practice, intolerable cruelty and abuse of workers  which sometimes even leads to loss of lives.  The lives of people are only valued in respects to their economic viability. If you are an investor or can pass yourself off as one in Uganda, you can do just about anything and get away with it.

No sooner had my spirits gotten used to this harsh cruel reality on hand, than when reports of a gang-rape of a young lady come by me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUfcyNjCvNk

Now don’t get me wrong. Rape is rape – no matter who or where it happens. Lord knows absolute horrors are done by fellow Uganda men on fellow women etc. The anger that this rape elicited was from the excuse the police officers who this helpless young woman ran to for help and justice gave her before accepting a bribe and shelving her report of the account that took place. This raised history of a gang rape case involving a young male not long back in a Kampala suburb again involving Asian perpetrators who in a similar manner were also allowed to get off scot-free leaving the the victim to suffer in agonized silence – to date.  No follow up was made of this young man to date…  So pardon me for not mincing my words when I advocate for Ugandans to boycott investors who rape!  This is the excuse paraded to victims that have suffered at the hands of corrupt officers when their reported cases have been spirited off and justice remains an unattained dream.

Well; out of the ashes, rebirth happens. The genesis of raising awareness to persons over their rights as human beings.  Sexual offenses shouldn’t be blamed on victims any more than rapists should be glorified with excuses. (Yes sadly, there’s still some way to go in Uganda to educate persons that rape is not the fault of the victim!) It is time to raise this awareness and educate persons to differentiate between consensual acts and forced or coerced acts. To raise awareness in how grooming persons occurs in relation to the existing economic factors that are fertile ground. To demystify the laws regarding sexual offenses in Uganda in relation to all walks of life ranging from abuse of trust by care-workers/teachers/guardian/employers, to human trafficking of persons in to sex-related slavery.  Ignorance and economics is what those who exploit, thrive on…

For me, this is the opportunity that has come out of the challenging events on ground in Uganda.

Where and when did humanity depart?

I am compelled to write this simply out of human empathy towards the injustice done by fellow humans towards each other in our everyday lives without even pausing to spare a thought of consideration for the effects of our actions.

In the early hours of Monday morning, around 3am, a pregnant female tourist from Spain sought to find directions to a public toilet within Hammersmith bus station. Now this is a bus station that is in operation 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. I am presuming the staff within this bus station are not on a voluntary basis nor positioned there as prisoners of war. They are paid to offer customer service to users of the bus services which are running through their premises. You could be pardoned for thinking this is not the case.

Yet this pregnant female tourist upon alighting at Hammersmith bus station to connect sought to use the public toilet facilities before continuing on her journey, but instead was rudely escorted to board her connecting bus. To make matters worse, the station supervisor on duty who did this to her was a fellow female. Ironically it was a male bus driver who took pity on her situation after observing her distress while on board and stopped the bus for her to find a suitable place to relieve herself.

Now I know there often is office politics in most work settings, but seriously when persons lose the ability to carry out a service they are in a paid position to do, it really gets my goat! Irrespective of how tired the supervisor may/may not have been, when did her humanity depart from her soul?

I implore Transport for London executives to please look in to the customer care service of your staff on ground because it is really leaving much to be desired for the general public who pay to use your amenities/services and instead are left frustrated on many levels. The lack of access to public toilet facilities is a poor show to visitors who come to London but also it encourages anti-social acts when persons seek to relieve themselves on streets etc… which can result into public health issues.

What happened to this woman at Hammersmith bus station was completely unacceptable and should not be allowed to be the norm.

Are we serious about addressing gender imbalance in accessing male dominated professions such as science?

earth-2 Science-and-Technology-Some-advantages-and-disadvantagesSo if we want to address gender imbalance in science and other professions in society, what supporting infrastructure is being laid?

Situations arise at every turn in our lives which unravel the mind to question or look at things in a different light.

Last week at work brought us new enthusiastic young people whose dream of stepping in to a world of academic science gave them hope to fulfill personal ambitions and dreams.  All these young persons from different walks of life, are female and in their last years in secondary education.  Their goal at this stage is to prepare for their Nuffield education award by undertaking work experience during their summer break from school.

The application process for these sponsorship or awards can be quite arduous on its own.  The next challenge is in obtaining work placements within academic institutions. This can vary and can often be disappointingly frustrating for the students and their would-be host supervisors. images (1)

indexMost academicians are quite willing and happy to take on school age budding scientific minds.  It is the conditions and requirements imposed by institutions in order to avoid any legal issues which may arise, for example such as inappropriate adult versus minor interaction, that prevent would-be supervisors from undertaking this.  The stipulations are often quite stringent: female supervisor to supervise female student(s), any meetings with female students where a male supervisor is leading, to be held in an open office or area. In an academic/laboratory setting, this is simply not as often feasible.  After all, students often are quite keen to work within the laboratories to put to experiment  ideas as opposed to soaking in theories from textbooks or journals.

Now I’m not being funny but anyone who has worked with “serious”/genuine science professors/academicians will back me up on the fact that these guys, (and mostly they are males), are for the greater time, only interested in what goes on in their Petri-dishes.  The highlight of their conversation peaks when discussing discoveries or results of what has been crossed with what and how long it may have been spun in the centrifuge etc…

photo_co_lab_lgI have been working on the academic side as their ‘office person’ for years – I still don’t know what the pretty images are in their submitted academic papers or what they mean by gene expression let alone hybridisation of mRNA!   They give new meaning to the term computer-widow.

Now we forget; a student that seeks work placement/experience at this late stage in their academic pursuits does so out of their keen volition: to cement their academic goals.  They actually want to be there to explore, and learn, as opposed to law requirement that they be.  It is not the same as attending school out of duty/fear, such that you turn up to school and take it out on the teachers or establishment in general, behaving like an absolute jerk at any opportune moment.

The other issue we forget is that not all females actually enjoy working with fellow females as their seniors.  Not everyone is from a culture where segregation of genders is the norm nor is it the case that all male species are just waiting to jump on any available female species they set eyes on. Believe it or not, some men are quite able to control themselves and are respectful to females.  This idea that all men are to be seen as sexual predators is proving to be quite damaging in many areas of society and commonsense really needs to come back to earth.

Further irony to these work-placements in scientific institutions that have such stringent criteria is that of claiming to address the gender imbalance in society in order to encourage females to pursue science or other currently male-dominated professions.  How in the hell is this going to be facilitated if the persons within these professions who are mostly male are not facilitated with supporting personnel to oversee supervision?   Are we to live in a future where segregation is the only mode of interaction for either gender?

Surely these stringent conditions albeit understandable but borne out of fear for legal issues, are more harmful to the ideology of voiced encouragement to address gender imbalance in professions such as science et al.

From experience dealing with young persons, I often find that seeking their take is far more conducive and productive to what we adults assume is correct.  Has anyone asked would-be-students, their take in all these measures  in order to obtain a workable solution that does not leave many young female budding scientists, loose out?

Why solidarity is a challenge among some in the African communities

building in progressThe idea to pop in to our nearest DIY shop only took on out of being asked to wait for another hour to get the car’s headlights aligned in order to have it pass its annual MOT.  Otherwise, given the fact that I felt like death warmed over and the weather outside further compounding the pitiful situation, my bed would have been the better alternative straight after the necessary car service.

Topps Tiles is not a DIY shop I’ve frequented before although I have heard of it and seen their TV adverts.  Normally we head down to Homebase if we need to work on anything around the home.  But this time round given the vicinity to this particular one to the place our car was being serviced, and the awful weather, we found ourselves dropping in. It was purely out of curiosity on my part – but also to get out of the rain and cold I must admit.

I have to say, this “window shopping” episode turned out to be quite an eye-opener. I am not saying I’m leaving Homebase – that would be silly given that they do have more of a range on offer in their stores.  But when it comes to specialisation in the tiles or wood flooring, I am won over by Topps Tiles.  We were very impressed by the range of services they had but more so, their sales staff who went out of their way to give us full attention, guidance and advise, even throwing in a free DIY DVD that trains you how to lay tiles etc!  It is a pity the costs of exporting most of what we want to use abroad in another building project outweighs our budget, but if this wasn’t the case, I would most definitely buy and export.  Still we were very impressed by all we learnt and saw.

The sales person giving me a set of business cards for people who could come and lay the tiles down for us after purchase brought me to recall a fellow Ugandan in the diaspora who is in this line of work.  I was about to start searching through my contacts when something my husband said stopped me. You see, being a very private individual, my husband is very cautious about who he allows in to our home – especially if they happen to be from Uganda. Experience has made him evolve to guard his private dealings.  Some of this caution I have come to appreciate stems from the lack of confidentiality or inability to isolate in a professional manner what is work, from social affairs of discourse.

Perhaps it is a cultural thing from having lived abroad for so long by both us in that it is disconcerting to head to a shop to purchase something and for the owner or sales person of the shop to lay claim to knowing you so well that he/she will happily share this knowledge (sometimes imagined or assumed) with whomever pops along or cares to listen. Or to expect you to know so and so in the Ugandan community, the current politics of this and that etc…basically the assumed social elements that appear to be so natural but which unfortunately come across as intrusive if not inquisitive.

My guess is that this is why most Africans shy away from utilizing their kinsmen. This, or the old adage: familiarity breeds contempt.  It is easier to pay someone to come do a job you’ve contracted them to and not worry about them using the opportunity to fill up on information for their social networks as to who is who and what they do or have to anyone willing to give audience.

Lack of professionalism in relation to undertaking work of any kind remains any to some persons and sadly this is not just in contractual work of this nature alone, but in other areas such as in nursing and beyond. It is partly why most persons in the African communities would not share the causes of their illness or any social issues.  This is costing Africans solidarity in being able to pool together resources, skills and finances that would bring about sustained positive empowerment and development.

I would dearly love to utilise the skills of my fellow kinsmen but how can I obtain guarantee that their only stake in working the job given is to ensure it is restricted to just that without coming across as being a snob or a pompous individual?