Summing up the Blogging Year 2016 – From VR to #GhanaDecides

What a year!

I started a project on virtual reality in the classroom with colleague Kabiru Seidu. I taught Social Theory and Written and Oral Communication.

I had my PhD viva and graduated. Whew!

I brought my readings and my kids to the blog which celebrated 10 years.

I was interviewed on a podcast and featured by Pulse in a video and wrote an article for a major Swiss newspaper (I am Swedish, not Swiss, so this I think is an achievement!)

I traveled to Dakar, Cape Coast, Sweden (twice, writing from an amazing xmas get-together in the cold just now!), Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

The world experienced Grand Bassam, Trump, Seinabo Sey, and Ghana its election.

Now I need to rest and come back in full force next year! See you in 2017! 

My Children on the Blog

So in-between blogging, researching, and teaching, I do have a private life. The main part of that life is my two children. I have mentioned them every now and then here on the blog, like when they were born: Selma in 2011  & Ellen in 2014, and in a post on our racialized lives “You are yellow and I am brown” and in a post on how to carry a baby Ghana style (one of my few videos). 

2016-08-23-07-31-39

However, I would like to write a little more here on the blog about my children, things we do together, and challenges we face as a family. I will do so under the category: Parenting.

While some might feel one should not “expose” children online, I see my online life as a part of my life and it feels strange to “hide” them away from my blog. Also as my children grow and frankly become more fun to hang out with, I think I have more to say about them, their activities, and about life with children more generally. I am mindful of that they are their own people who should get to tell their own story, but until they start their own blogs (oh, what a dizzying thought!), I think I can say quite a bit more without compromising their integrity.

If you have ideas on topics you’d like to read relating to life with children, do leave a comment!

African Fashion Week in Sweden #AFWS2016





14188586_946147242163470_9208120836886791545_oIt is the time of the year when otherwise gray and black clothed Stockholmers can OHHHH and AAAHHH to beautiful wax print, refined raffia, and curve hugging colour!
The African Fashion Week Sweden is on its third year and growing strong! Founder Ayesha Jones who also started the Gambia Fashion Week, explains in a blog interview why she started the week:

“I felt Sweden was lacking a platform for black/African creativity to be uplifted and celebrated. In a society were people are so diverse and multicultural I don’t understand why no one did this before me and I’m a strong believer of not pointing out flaws if I don’t have suggestions on how to adjust them.

I also wanted to do something that hopefully would leave an impact in the world and create a legacy that the next and future generations can be proud of and enjoy.”

I have my agents out and hope to give you more info after the main event today, 3rd Sept.

As a Swede living in Africa, I am so happy the fashion conscious but very conservative Swedes finally get a flavour of African fashion!

 

Top Three: My Best Podcasts from Ghana and Beyond

This evening, BloggingGhana is doing an event called “PodCast – the New Blog?” (free if you sign up in advance by following the link) and because of that, I wanted to list my top three podcasts out of Ghana. 
File 2016-01-23 00 17 47

In Ghana, there is still not much to choose from, but  these have made a great effort and are podcasts I return to:

  1. AccraWeDey. A chilled conversation between the guys (Joey, Pokuaa and Nii) and a guest on popular culture, whats new on Twitter, and in town. Great intro song and vibe, but maybe sometimes too much friends just chilling?
  2. Hagtivist. A serious podcast that discusses news in Ghana from a well needed humanist angle. This is definitely an activist pod, but could it be available on iTunes? Have fewer hosts or segments that made listening a bit easier?
  3. The cocoa pod? I can’t even find three…Soon that will change hopefully!

My top three English speaking podcasts are:

  1. Startup by Gimlet. All Gimlet shows are hyper produced and great, but the idea of following a company through their start up process has some original drama to it.
  2. The Tim Feriss Show. I love-hate this pod. It is too much of everything, too American, too much focused on personal improvement, but I also learn great deal when ever I am in the right mood.
  3. Voices of VR. I have just started to listen to this pod, but it embodies something that is inherent to the promise of podcasting. In short 15 min episodes, you can create a universe for people with the same interests, here Virtual Reality, and just nerd it out.

My top three Swedish speaking podcasts are:

  1. Hanna & Amanda. Queens of mixing ordinary talk with adverts and tips, much like AccraWeDey is heading towards I am imagining.
  2. En varg söker sin pod. Articulate “friend-pod” on popculture focusing on film, books, news and other pods intertwined with the lovely flow of intelligent discussion between two best friends in the Swedish creative industry.
  3. Kära barn. A podcast where people ask a midwife and psychologist questions relating to children ages 4-18. The expert’s tone of voice always makes me so calm! (Although I would maybe mot follow all advice)

My secret is I would love to have my own podcast, but can’t seem to get it together. I am hoping to learn from the experienced podcasters this evening what it takes!

This is the first in a series of Top Three on my blog. More to follow soon!

My Reactions to the Swedish Turn-Around in Refugee Crisis

In shock and disbelief, I read that the Swedish governing coalition has more or less closed Sweden’s boarders. From the initial “Refugees Welcome” attitude to closed doors. The reason is taking in 80 000 refugees over the last two months (!) has stretched Sweden’s infrastructure and services.

In addition, the EU neighbours (except for Germany) are not pulling their weight and Sweden’s PM said he hopes this will send a signal to them. In detail, the following was announced:

“Sweden’s new asylum regime will apply for three years. Temporary residence permits will be granted to all refugees apart from those relocated to Sweden under the EU’s quota scheme and families with children and unaccompanied children who have already arrived.

Sweden’s border police also announced a doubling of officers on Sweden’s southern coast, where most refugees arrive. Since the imposition of border controls on 12 November, the average number of asylum seekers has fallen from 1,507 per day to 1,222, according to immigration officials.” (the Guardian)

As a Swedish citizen, I feel disappointed with my politicians (I voted for the current PM) and was hoping for a less reactive and conservative leadership. Especially toward the background of Sweden being extremely stable financially – to the point on negative interest rates(!) and according to Swedish Central Bank Director Ingves, Sweden could even benefit economically from a large scale inflow of migrants/refugees as that would grow the economy, increase jobs and make the ageing population younger. Many solutions to infrastructure and service limitations have not been tested!

After several discussions on social media and at home, I have arrived at the same basic question over and over again:

Where do you draw the line when helping others?

Sadly, its a question with no easy answer. Because how do you make sure your help is sustainable, that you do not sacrifice yourself or your values in the process? But also, Sweden cannot take in all 11 million Syrians fleeing, so no restrictions at all can also not work? However, I feel, and this is based more on feeling than fact, I admit, that Sweden drew this line too soon. One of the richest countries in the world could lead by example – there are already so many great stories in Swedish media on families taking in refugees, schools working collaboratively with Swedish training for newcomers, and citizens contributing with what they can –  I feel there was more to build on there, instead of quickly closing the boarders as soon as the going got tough. As Swedes mobilize to demonstrate the new refugee policy, I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

Extra Toothbrushes in Ghana: AIDS, Orphans and My Daughter’s School Uniform

As I came across the Varje Tugga Gor Skillnad (“every Bite Counts”) campaign for dental health education in Ghana, run by a chewing gum brand in Sweden, my mouth opened with surprise at an image of my daughter’s school SOS Tema as the recipient of education and free tooth brushes!

Children at SOS Nursery School in Tema, Ghana. Photo credit: Extra
Children at SOS Nursery School in Tema, Ghana. Photo credit: Extra
IMG_6904.JPG
My daughter on first day of school. Photo credit: Me

I think what just happened was “them” and “us” melted into one. When aid projects are initiated, an important aspect is to create that difference between “us and “them” so that people will see why giving is necessary. Now when I think of that last month, I went to buy just that school uniform for my daughter, of course I find it difficult to see why those kids need a toothbrush!

Where I was expecting to read about dental health, the campaign states further that:

“Drygt en miljon barn i Ghana har förlorat en eller båda föräldrar, 160 000 av dem på grund av aids. Dessa barn är särskilt utsatta för barnarbete och människohandel, något som utgör allvarliga problem i landet. Majoriteten av människohandeln drabbar fattiga barn från landsbygden.”

(“More than one million children in Ghana have lost one of both parents, 160 000 of them due to AIDS. These children are especially vulnerable for child labor and trafficking, something that constitutes serious problems in the country [Ghana]. The majority of the trafficking concerns poor children from the country side.”) (my translation)

I felt tired that orphans and AIDS was what was on campaign makers minds – was this not about toothbrushes? – and felt their numbers were a bit high. Ghana’s population is 25 million and one million are children without one parent? 160 000 due to AIDS? Anyway, its a good opportunity to learn more about HIV/AIDS in Ghana. The Ghana AIDS Commission reports for 2013:

“The National HIV Prevalence in 2013 is 1.3%

An estimated 224,488 Persons made up of 189,931 adults and 34,557 Children (15%) are living with HIV in Ghana. There were 7,812 new infections, 2,407 in Children 0-14years and 5,405 in adults. There were 10,074 AIDS deaths being 2,248 in Children 0-14 years, and 7,826 adults Estimated Children Orphaned by AIDS is 184,168.”

This suggests, despite the horror hidden in these numbers, that Ghana still reports one of the lowest rates of HIV in Africa. The number 160 000 mentioned above is a total number for all years since AIDS was discovered. Currently, many individuals diagnosed with HIV are also on retroviral medication, which means the virus is slowed down and life expectancy goes up again.  (By chance, a famous HIV ambassador in Ghana this week told media she never even had HIV! But that is a different story…)

This campaign has been a very interesting learning opportunity for me: I have meditated on “us” and “them”, learned about the low HIV rate of Ghana, but I am also saddened my new home country has to be portrayed in this sad light, just for a chewing gum/ toothbrush campaign.

What do you think, is it right to highlight the worst to make people donate?

Read also WHO: 10 facts about HIV and this article explaining why a HIV-infected man was acquitted of charges of unprotected sex – he posed no threat to the women he slept with.

Kajsa in Horisont Magasin

Some weeks ago, I was interviewed for the Swedish magazine Horisont (=horizon in English) about my life in Ghana. They focussed on Ghanaian politics and my personal adjustment to a new country – mixed with full spread photos. Now “my” issue is out!

Here is a sneak peak.

 

IMG_0302.JPG

IMG_0305.JPG

IMG_0304-0.JPG

 

The feeling of seeing one’s own words as captured by a journalist in print is hard to describe. My father sometimes talks about how our time is one of celebrity or wanting to be famous. I guess something like this then is a jackpot. On the other hand, it becomes very clear – when on this side of the magazine – that even those interviewed over colorful spreads of glossy paper are mere mortals.

Want to read the whole article?

If in Sweden, here is a list of places that sell the magazine. You can also order Horisont.

Nordic Africa Days 2014: My Report

During the weekend 26-27 September, I took part in the Nordic Africa Institute biannual conference Nordic Africa Days. Here is my report!

  1. Hi there! I'm on my way to #nad2014 @NordicAfrica &looking forward to meet tweeps @finnowl @ulrichtadajeu @JamaMusse http://t.co/meVFzTGvKW

    Hi there! I’m on my way to #nad2014 @NordicAfrica &looking forward to meet tweeps @finnowl @ulrichtadajeu @JamaMusse pic.twitter.com/meVFzTGvKW
  2. As I am the food for my small baby, she had to come along. She demanded we started with the Youth and Politics panel…
  3. In Panel 22 on Youth & Politics, Akin Iwilade challenged the notion of “marginalized youth” and who becomes a militant #NAD2014
  4. Next @nannajordt told us about "hustling" for environmental rights in rural Kenya #nad2014 http://t.co/KrjUEtSM3Q

    Next @nannajordt told us about “hustling” for environmental rights in rural Kenya #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/KrjUEtSM3Q
  5. My @Ashesi colleague Joseph Oduro Frimpong presents political cartoons & photoshop pics from Ghana #NAD2014 #Woyome http://t.co/CQMQFmVEZs

    My @Ashesi colleague Joseph Oduro Frimpong presents political cartoons & photoshop pics from Ghana #NAD2014 #Woyomepic.twitter.com/CQMQFmVEZs
  6. Q&A “It is easier critiquing power than formulating an alternative…does that distinction matter?”, asks panel chair Elina Oinas #nad2014
  7. How a two-month old fares at #nad2014? She is now asleep forcing me to stand up/rock gently in the back of the room.. http://t.co/YujTbzVwR1

    How a two-month old fares at #nad2014? She is now asleep forcing me to stand up/rock gently in the back of the room.. pic.twitter.com/YujTbzVwR1
  8. In 1,5h @Mo_IbrahimFdn will talk on “Why governance matters” #NAD2014 If you are not in Uppsala, follow @NordicAfrica or watch it online…
  9. The talk can still be viewed online. I followed it on Twitter from my hotel room while breast feeding!
  10. The first day ended with a lovely conference dinner in one of the old student clubs in Uppsala. Next morning the sun was shining…
  11. Sunny and windy walk to the conference venue (Yellow building in back) #nad2014 http://t.co/kqUOG6KPFc

    Sunny and windy walk to the conference venue (Yellow building in back) #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/kqUOG6KPFc
  12. My first panel is about African Studies in the 21st century: @wikipedia & open access hosted by @ASCLeiden #nad2014 http://t.co/zwdS3wICA5

    My first panel is about African Studies in the 21st century: @Wikipedia & open access hosted by @ASCLeiden #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/zwdS3wICA5
  13. Great tip for researchers to make our research more accessible: write abstracts of all your work and put online! #nad2014 #opendata
  14. Find @ASCLeiden repository with free downloads, among the most popular a book on Boko Haram,  https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/12483 … #nad2014 #openaccess
  15. Find @ASCLeiden repository with free downloads, among the most popular a book on Boko Haram,  https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/handle/1887/12483 … #nad2014 #openaccess
  16. @kajsaha >50,000 publications on Africa, mostly #openaccess from >90 repositories via  http://www.connecting-africa.net 
  17. @kajsaha Africa country portal ASC Leiden (in beta): portal to information resources on >50 African countries  http://countryportal.ascleiden.nl/ 
  18. “As a researcher you have to look at contracts and make sure you have the right to your own work!” – Jos Damen @ASCLeiden #nad14
  19. Information on what resources are available online for free for African researchers via @ASCLeiden  http://www.ilissafrica.de/en/howto/OpenAccessGuide.html …#nad2014
  20. Next came the keynote, I had been looking forward to.
  21. Now the keynote I've been looking forward to: @MJerven "Knowledge and Governance" #nad2014 http://t.co/ve379JXjFu

    Now the keynote I’ve been looking forward to: @MJerven “Knowledge and Governance” #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/ve379JXjFu
  22. Outline of the speech 1. Validity, 2. Reliability 3.Governance 4. Conclusion. I'm such a nerd to be excited! #nad2014 http://t.co/EtJFATFHmL

    Outline of the speech 1. Validity, 2. Reliability 3.Governance 4. Conclusion. I’m such a nerd to be excited! #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/EtJFATFHmL
  23. “Scholars are mistaken when they trust @worldbankdata, but not, say, Sudanese state data. It’s the same!” – @MJerven #nad2014
  24. “There is an unhealthy academic divide: accepting GDP data at face value vs. dismissing the measurement” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  25. To illustrate 'poor numbers' @MJerven uses Ghana's entrance into middle incomes status on Nov 5th, 2010. #nad2014 http://t.co/Y7R41tMaRZ

    To illustrate ‘poor numbers’ @MJerven uses Ghana’s entrance into middle incomes status on Nov 5th, 2010. #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/Y7R41tMaRZ
  26. On governance: “in order to have evidence based policies you need…some type of evidence” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  27. Next @MJerven critiques the #MDGs as they take away from national data collection resources. #nad2014
  28. “It’s not so much about tempering with statistics, but more ignorance of the importance of statistics” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  29. Then an interesting debate started on Twitter.
  30. @kajsaha how come it doesn’t feel like we’re a middle income country? Or it’s not about feelings eh? #Ghana 🙂 @MJerven
  31. @nas009 @kajsaha @MJerven I guess it’s about paper feeling. Good in books, worst in reality.
  32. @kajsaha @nas009 @MJerven @BloggingGhana #Ghana is not poor neither is it a middle income country!
  33. @kajsaha @kofiemeritus @nas009 @MJerven @BloggingGhana Its not. The poorest is one who can’t afford to laugh. Take a good look at Ghana.haha
  34. Back to the keynote.
  35. “Presidents are elected based on delivering jobs, but there is no data on the labor market!” – @MJerven #NAD2014
  36. Wrapping up with constructive ideas 1. Data can come with warnings if based on guesses @MJerven #nad2014
  37. 2. Development agencies coordinating not just goals, but data collection as well #nad2014
  38. 3. Incentives and human resources in statistical offices #nad2014
  39. Multitasking mother and researcher @kajsaha frequently tweeting from the Key Note Speech #nad2014. @NordicAfrica http://t.co/FH7TuVeg1F

    Multitasking mother and researcher @kajsaha frequently tweeting from the Key Note Speech #nad2014@NordicAfrica pic.twitter.com/FH7TuVeg1F
  40. Final panel was my own. My topic was “Have you ever seen a plane seat before?” Migration narratives among university students in Ghana.
  41. ooohhh Godd luck! RT @kajsaha: Wish me luck! Panel chair introducing me! #nad2014 http://t.co/klV7yrWRTU

    ooohhh Godd luck! RT @kajsaha: Wish me luck! Panel chair introducing me! #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/klV7yrWRTU
  42. In my panel Tekalign Ayalew talks about Ethiop-Eritrean Migrants to Sweden. #nad2014 http://t.co/fEolENrWn9

    In my panel Tekalign Ayalew talks about Ethiop-Eritrean Migrants to Sweden. #nad2014 pic.twitter.com/fEolENrWn9
  43. Last panelist at #nad2014 is Viveca Motsieloa who is presenting a self-reflective paper on being mixed-race in Ghana. http://t.co/mLYetMOPu5

    Last panelist at #nad2014 is Viveca Motsieloa who is presenting a self-reflective paper on being mixed-race in Ghana. pic.twitter.com/mLYetMOPu5
  44. Then the conference was officially over! Hope to come back in 2016!
  45. Chairs are stacked, whiteboards are cleaned & people in prints are discussing where to have drinks. #nad2014 is over! Thanks @NordicAfrica !
  46. This drink is for @ulrichtadajeu! Next time you'll join us in the flesh! http://t.co/RhHPSNrwa7

    This drink is for @ulrichtadajeu! Next time you’ll join us in the flesh! pic.twitter.com/RhHPSNrwa7
  47. A cool think was the Camerooninan student that was following the conference on Twitter. He got this (photo of a) beer from me for dedication to academia!

Ghanaians Going Places: Journalist Umaru Sanda

IMG_4842I first met Umaru last summer at his workplace radio station Citi FM in Accra. I was much impressed with his work (cool when phones start to ring non-stop, quick when to determine what big man or woman to follow up with, a good discussant on critical issues, wide smile) and glad to hear his efforts have been acknowledged internationally.

 

Umaru Sanda has been invited to attend World Water Week in Stockholm to accept the WASH award given for outstanding reporting on water and sanitation issues. With the current cholera outbreak I don’t know what other topic than the (relentless) quest for clean water could be more critical at the moment.
He received the award based on documentary Water Wahala which you can listen to here:

 

I have been upset about this issue before and how there seems to be no political will what so ever to change it. Here are posts from 2011, 2010 and 2009.

 

I am happy this fine journalist also got to see my native Sweden. Ayekoo, Umaru!

 

Photo: Umaru in the back, hand in the sky! July 2013 
 

Headphones in Sweden

Headphones Top Earcups

When I am away from Sweden, things change.

One year, I came back and everybody was wearing ugly glasses. Last year, when I came back, cash was suddenly not an option when riding the bus (you buy an SMS ticket or charge some kind of top up card). This year, I came back and wherever I looked, people were walking around sporting oversized, colorful headphones – like they were DJ:ing a rave party.

It looks ridiculous – really, are you a grown up walking around with purple, giant disks over your ears while doing errands in town?

It is very anti-social – hello, excuse me do you know where I can..? (response: blank stare plus head-bobbing).

It is strange – you go to town to…listen to your favorite song?

But then a month passes and actually no one talks to me anyways, it is pretty cold, especially for my ears and my favorite song is just very good when walking from the bus.

Where can I get a pair of hot-pink, big-ass headphones?

Hello?

Anyone?

Image borrowed from here.

 

One Month At the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden

Today was my first day as a guest researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden. I have been given the opportunity to stay for a month and will be spending the time writing on and thinking about my dissertation.

My first day was great and hoping to get a lot done!

20140526-213707-77827560.jpg

20140526-213707-77827058.jpg

In the first photo the NAI Director and administrator with my PhD colleagues in the park just outside our building, the second photo an interior snap shot from the lunch room!

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Trade Minister on Visit to Ghana

Tomorrow, Tuesday, the Swedish second person to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria will be paying a visit to Sweden.

Victoria mars 2014The Princess arrives together with Minister of Trade Ewa Björling for a “promotional trip” to Ghana. After Ghana, they will visit Tanzania. In a press release, the minister says:

“Ghana and Tanzania represent ‘the new Africa’ in various ways, with strong growth and major potential for increased trade and economic exchange. Crown Princess Victoria and I are traveling to these countries to further develop Sweden’s relations, including trade, with Ghana and Tanzania”

Just late last year, Sweden sent another high level visit to Ghana in Minister of Entrepreneurship Annie Lööf, and recently it was announced that Sweden opens a sectional office in Accra linked to the regional embassy in Abuja.

It looks like I am not the only Swede taking an interest in this green nation of Ghana!

Photo borrowed here.