Uganda’s Anti-homosexuality bill: What do we know?

 

If you have been following news about Uganda, you will by now be aware that the legislators of that country finally passed the anti homosexuality bill.

By way of background the anti-homosexuality bill was first proposed in 2009 by Ugandan MP David Bahati who argued that homosexuality was alien to Uganda’s cultural and religious beliefs and was a threat to the traditional family in Uganda. In addition that,  whilst homosexuality is a human right in the Western World it is not so in Uganda and anyone engaging in it is committing a crime.

Bahati further argued that laws  left behind by the British were  insufficient because whilst they dealt with Unnatural acts offences there was neither provision for aggravated homosexuality nor provision for penalising the promotion or dissemination of literature and materials promoting homosexuality.

In the intervening years the debate about whether Uganda would actually pass this law has preoccupied human rights activists, donors, national and international media as well as citizens of Uganda .

When I first learned about this bill, I had several conversations with Ugandans that live in Uganda to try and learn the truth behind headlines such as “Uganda is the worst place to be gay”.

What I learned was that the people of Uganda were  divided on the matter and I got a different answer depending on whom I was  talking to. Uganda is a very conservative and religious country and the degree of religious and cultural convictions appeared to influence individual reactions on the matter of homosexuality.

In the interests of human rights and Uganda’s reputation within the international system, I had hoped that this bill would never see day light and to try and get an understanding as to how it would actually work in practice I reached out to the sharpest legal minds I know in Uganda and here is how our twitter conversation unfolded

Both Peter and David agree that this law if passed will be very hard to enforce, similar to  laws that govern distilling gin in your home without a licence.

Indeed when I first explored this matter in 2010, there was  a feeling that,  the push  to get the bill through parliament was to detract from  societal issues .  Those I spoke to were puzzled too as to why the issue of homosexuality in Uganda had occupied Ugandan politics in such a way when homosexuals have always been part of Ugandan society, moreover  that Uganda was/is grappling with issues such as disease and poverty which require urgent government attention.

As one Ugandan journalist told me at the time“ we have always known about the existence of homosexuals in our society so why legislate for something that is a none issue”

On the issue as to how this law would be enforced, the matter has already been tested out at Uganda’s High court  see for instance Victor Mukasa and Oyoo Vs the Attorney General.

The judgement in these cases relied on both national and international laws/ conventions that protect the rights of individuals.  ( for further information on International Laws and same sex conduct check out this ICJ article)

It would therefore appear that  even when the bill passes Presidential approval as well as the issue of parliamentary quorum, gay people in Uganda would be protected by Uganda’s constitution and the various international laws.

 

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Debates about Mandela

I have followed several debates about Mandela’s legacy since his death, I chaired one  such debates over at Africa on the Blog and even contributed to one over  at Business Fights Poverty.

The debates have polarised between those that believe Mandela was a common terrorist and those that see him as a hero that stood up to an unjust system in which the black majority were treated as subhuman by the white minority.

In between those opposing views are those that blame South Africa’s woes on Mandela and those that believe that Mandela did his best however that the odds were stacked against him and  that the global structure stood in his way.

It has become apparent  to me  that,  those that blame Mandela for South Africa’s current woes   are missing  a point that is articulated in this comment  over at The Guardian  

Patrician

Good points well made.

I think the main difference now is that black South Africans can actually join the elite at all, and the playing field has been largely levelled. That just leaves the usual problems of wealth inequality which frankly, will take generations to resolve.

Mandela was instrumental in breaking down the barrier between black and white. The barrier between rich and poor is a different war to be fought.

 

The legacy of apartheid is most visible  within South Africa’s townships   and we can agree that  there is still a lot of work to do to improve life for many South Africans  .  In my opinion Mandela  started the country on  that journey, however it was not up to him  to complete that journey.  All South Africans  must carry on where Mandela left off and in particular  fight the war against poverty.

Yes Mandela could have adopted policies such as  the ones adopted by Idi Amin in Uganda of expelling Asians and Mugabe in Zimbabwe  seizing white owned farms but let us step back and examine  the outcomes  of those policies in the countries concerned. In my mind’s eye Mandela and his lot found a happier balance, imperfect as it was.

It is hard to say with any certainty  how things will pun out on the political scene in South Africa, but one thing is certain Mandela’s work on earth is done and I think we can agree that  for all his sins/faults, history will judge him kindly

Don’t Log Off

Have you heard about  Alan Dein’s BBC program called Don’t Log Off  in which he invites online strangers to talk to him.  He is back with part two and the human stories are truly fascinating. The other side to these stories is the way technology enables us to connect with total strangers and the resultant relationships.  In the current series, an American man talks to Alan about a Russian woman he met online and in yesterday’s episode Alan was at their wedding in America

 

@aklugard twitter profile

@aklugard twitter profile

As I was getting ready to settle down to tune in to the latest episode I logged into Twitter to catch up with snippets of information from my own online connections, most of whom, I have never met but feel I know all so well from their tweets.

The first tweet I saw was a retweet from my connection @Ruthaine and it said

The tweet told me that @aklugard my online connection had logged off permanently and I would never read another tweet from him

I connected with @aklugard and @pmagelah through Ruth who I met at the Villages In Action conference in Uganda. For the best part of last year we tweeted each other and I grew to like these total strangers and when I was due out to Uganda in February I was determined to meet them all in person but sadly @aklugard could not make it from Kenya to Uganda due to work commitments.

On my return life got in the way and this is the last tweet I exchanged with @aklugard

Since learning about his  death  I have been filled with guilt,  that over the intervening months I had not noticed that @aklugard had stopped tweeting on 7 April 2013 the day before his death in a car accident. I was sad too that such a young life with a lot of promise had been cut short in such a tragic way

I didn’t really know @aklugard in the true sense of knowing someone, but from his tweets, I gathered that he loved his work, enjoyed life to the full, loved rugby ,  he had a good sense of humour and didn’t take himself too seriously.

One thing I didn’t count on was that the death of this stranger would affect me so profoundly and the bizarre twist  in this tale is that without technology we would never have known about @aklugard’s death. I din’t know his sister whose tweet was retweeted by @ruthaine!

 

Is being a Marxist a hereditary condition?

 

That is one of the questions a BBC Radio 4 journalist asked as part of his commentary with respect to the row that has broken out between a UK newspaper the Daily Mail and Ed Miliband the leader of the opposition Labour party here in the UK.

An odd thing to say you might think, but that is what the Daily Mail appear to be suggesting in their article  about Ed’s father.

Ed’s late father Ralph was an academic with apparently extreme Marxist views and Ed’s pronouncements on freezing energy bills for 20 months and vacant land should he become the next UK Prime Minister are  according to the Daily Mail one way of ensuring that his father’s legacy lives on!

Some of the commentators such as Lord Prescott who knew Ed’s father have spoken out in his defence, precisely that Ed does not share his father’s ideology as stated by the Daily Mail. No doubt this row is set to continue as quite rightly Ed Miliband has vowed to defend his father’s name .

Whilst I agree that it is right to review and criticise   Ed’s dad’s work  as an academic  to attack him in the way the Daily Mail has done  is  despicable. To suggest that his son has inherited  his father’s ideology is somewhat stretching the point.

I think the Daily Mail would have had enough material to criticise Ed without drawing his dead father into the row in this manner

I don’t know much about Marxism but I think we can agree that as an ideology, it is limited because capitalism has proven that it can reinvent itself and grow and we have examples of that in the form of,  for instance  the 19th century scramble for Africa.

However some form of NeoMarxist theories or structuralist ideas persist and it it worth exploring them

The first is  dependency theory advanced by  South American scholars such as Henrique Fernando Cardoso, Enzo Faletto, Andre Gunder Frank and  Raul Prebisch in response to the state of their countries development and the development policies advanced by industrialised countries .

These scholars  rejected the idea that the developing world would eventually become modernized/industrialized by following the liberal free market economy of the West and growing a middle class.

They  further  argued that incorporating the Third World into a global economic system  was to the detriment of the Third World because of the unequal terms of engagement. The Third World was at a disadvantage and could not compete on the same basis as countries that were already developed and industrialised.

Moreover, institutions that administer the markets and transnational companies set the rules of engagement and have continued to coerce labour and raw materials from the periphery. A  theory advanced by Immanuel Wallesteion  and the second theory that interests me. He called it the World System Theory

The world system according to Wallerstein is hierarchical in that, it is made up of a core (developed and industrialized countries), semi-periphery (neither core nor periphery) and periphery (underdeveloped, not industrialized and mostly trades in primary goods.

The core is said to use its advancement in technology and transport to access raw materials/goods and cheap labour from the periphery whilst at the same time using its institutions to exclude the periphery from its markets.

Writing in  the Journal of International affairs, Chossudovsky , considers the  inequalities within  the international economic system and the role of international institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) within that system.

According to Chossudovsky between them, these institutions have misrepresented the true picture of poverty across the world including the level of poverty in the west.

The IMF and World Bank for their part have imposed practice such as the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) on the developing world and killed off internal markets and industries within the developing world and necessarily increased poverty, unemployment and hunger.

He notes too that, trade liberalization has seen the relocation of firms to underdeveloped regions to access cheap labour, creating unemployment in western countries on the one hand and left citizens in the developing countries unable to afford basics like food and shelter on the other.

However that these facts are conveniently left out of reports such as the UNDP’s Human Development Index and it is unclear why is this.

Although these scholars made these statements several years ago it is my view that in some respects the issues they wrote about are still with us today. Africa remains poor and yet it has an awful lot of resources!

Back to Ed and his views, Is he really a Marxist?

Ed has argued that the Conservatives have stood up for corporations and at the expense of the livelihoods of the man on the street .

To that end he has promised that as Prime Minister he would take on corporations such as energy firms and firms that buy up land and hold onto to it as opposed to making it available for house building.

These are all great sentiments, but I suspect it is political posturing on Ed’s part as to see through what he is promising would involve taking on the World System  and in the era of globalisation, firms can work anywhere they like or to put it simply firms can take their business elsewhere if a government threatens their bottom line.

Would Ed want to preside over a government that saw more jobs leaving the British isle and as such an increase in unemployment?

I must say that he not said anything so far that would lead me to the conclusion that he would.

Lets face it if the Daily Mail is right that he has inherited Marxist tendencies from his father such actions would not help British workers.

What do you think?

References

Chossudovsky M, ‘Global Poverty in the Late Twentieth Century’, Journal of International Affairs, 52: 1, Autumn 1998, pp.293-312

Steans J & Pettiford, Lloyd, et al ‘An Introduction to International Relations: Perspectives and Themes’, 3rd Edition, Longman, 2010

 

What is the definition of terrorism?

In the aftermath of events at the Westgate shopping Mall in Nairobi Kenya there is an awful lot of soul searching and reflection as to how this could have happened, who knew what as well as what happens now.

Further  questions  are to do with what impact if any these attacks will have on Somalis who call Kenya home and community cohesion broadly.

I too, found myself in a couple of exchanges on Twitter with respect to the definition of terrorism. The first of those exchanges isn’t worth repeating here and the second was with James Schneider Editor in Chief at Think Africa Press.  I stumbled across one his tweets that had been Retweeted by @RosebellK and it said

Does anybody have a working definition of terrorism they stand by?

— James Schneider (@schneiderhome) September 27, 2013

This was my response

@schneiderhome mine would be violent political protest @RosebellK — Ida Horner (@idahorner) September 27, 2013

And this is how the rest of the conversation unfolded

@idahorner@RosebellK I think that’s a pretty dangerous definition. Gives states a lot of power against protestors. — James Schneider (@schneiderhome) September 27, 2013

 

@schneiderhome I didn’t realise you were looking for a definition that suits states. @RosebellK

— Ida Horner (@idahorner) September 27, 2013

 

@idahorner@RosebellK if people and publications use that definition then states, courts, laws and security forces can too

— James Schneider (@schneiderhome) September 27, 2013

 

@idahorner can’t. If consistent it falls apart as category. Otherwise it’s like beauty or porn: in eye of beholder or u know it when U C it

— James Schneider (@schneiderhome) September 27, 2013

 

@idahorner ie calling it is a political act in itself – probably

— James Schneider (@schneiderhome) September 27, 2013

I was not entirely sure I understood  what James meant by ‘can’t’  is it that terrorism cannot be defined or that there is no definition for terrorism?

I went on to say

@schneiderhome Assuming I agree with you- what is your definition of terrorism?

— Ida Horner (@idahorner) September 27, 2013

Before recommending that he checks out Professor Hayne’s book on the matter

@schneiderhome Whilst here I would like to recommend J.Haynes book COMPARATIVE POLITICS IN A GLOBALIZING WORLD-he’s an authority on this

— Ida Horner (@idahorner) September 27, 2013

That was the end of our exchange.

This post aims to put the definition I provided in context

Prior to the Nairobi attacks, I had been reading around the issue of globalisation and terrorism as well as the role of the diaspora in groups such as the Lords Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony and Al Shabab.

My interest in the matter is two fold, firstly this is a topic I didn’t get to explore properly whilst at university  and I made a mental note to revisit it once I was out.

Secondly my fellow bloggers and I are currently in collaboration with the think tank ECPDM on the Africa- EU relationship. As I considered what my next contribution should be the issue of the Development – Security nexus seemed like a good topic to explore.

The obvious place to start was Professor Haynes book on globalisation and world politics, in particular I was reading a chapter  that covers political violence and terrorism

Haynes argues that both Political violence and terrorism can be carried out by the state, individuals and or social groups against other groups.

The objectives for each of these vary and can be summarised as follows

The State:  gaining absolute power over citizens

Individuals and groups: to influence and ultimately alter government policy

Haynes cautions that “political violence is not something that only fanatics undertake’ and defines political violence as  a tactical response to what is perceived as unacceptable political circumstances that cannot be otherwise addressed”  and that it includes violent demonstrations, looting, riots, sabotage, terrorism etc

On the issue of terrorism itself, Professor Haynes says because terrorism is subjective and controversial it is  not easy to differentiate between the tactics and goals of terrorists ( violence loving fanatics) and freedom fighters (romantic idealists).

For that reason, he points us to what he calls a neutral explanation by Keohane, Informal violence is violence committed by non state actors who capitalise on secrecy and surprise to inflict great harm and with small material capabilities and can be contrasted with state sponsored or directed “formal violence”

A specific  differentiation between political violence and terrorism according to Haynes is that whilst terrorism is a form of political violence not all forms of political violence qualify as terrorism  and that the difference lies in techniques, targets and goals which must embody political skill.  Some  examples  might include the activities of animal activists and anti abortionists.

With this in mind, I would like to return to my conversation with James and see if I can un pick some of the points he made.

James says my definition of terrorism is dangerous as it gives a lot of power to states to crack down on protestors. I am not sure how James could have possibly reached this conclusion.

As we have seen states seeking absolute power can engage in what is termed as state sponsored violence and we don’t have to look further than the current situation in Syria and the use of chemical weapons on citizens as an example.

The cracking down on protestors  by the state and the degree this takes depends on the extent to which civil liberties are respected in any given country and  we can draw on examples such as the London Riots, Occupy London  and the Walk 2 Work protests in Uganda.

What these protests had in common were citizen grievances and their perception of what government attitude to those grievances.

Whilst both the Occupy London and Walk 2 Work were not violent protests the states in question responded differently  and we learn from Haynes that this is down to the degree to which normative values have developed in a given polity, which in tun impacts people’s ability to influence political outcomes.

If we contrast the London Riots with the recent incident at Westgate we can see some obvious differences. In the London Riots there was political violence in the form of looting, property distraction etc, but we can’t argue convincingly that there was   a plan nor a direction for this violence nor political skill for that matter.

The Westgate incident on the other hand appears to have been planned and the grievance here was that the Kenyan government  had refused to pull out of Somalia as requested by Al Shabaab a militia group operating out of East Africa.

You will recall that the same group  carried out similar attacks in Kampala Uganda when the Ugandan government failed to give in to their demands  for the Ugandan government to pull out of Somalia

Al Shabaab’s  aim here as far as I can tell is to gain concessions from the African Union forces that have stabilised Somalia by driving it out of  key areas they occupied and as such reducing its income and influence as well as its chances of governing Somalia according to a strict religious regime.

So there you have it folk that is the source of my  definition and the thinking behind it

What is you definition of terrorism?

Does Britain’s Bedroom Tax breach Human Rights?

Raquel Rolnik UN  Housing rapporteur is in Britain and is looking at the government’s social housing policy and some of her conclusions have  so angered the Conservative party that Grant Shapps the party chairman has written a letter of complaint to the UN

Rolnik has criticised the UK government’s so called Bedroom Tax. For those that do not understand social housing policy here in the UK let me try and explain how things work.

If you are deemed by the government as unable to provide your own housing, you will be allocated public or social housing by your local authority either directly or via a Registered social housing provider.

If you cannot pay rent on your home due to lack of or limited income, you will receive assistance from the government in the form of a housing allowance called Housing Benefit (HB).

The UK’s coalition government  has sought to reduce  the welfare budget and one such measure was the reduction of the Housing Benefit bill. In particular HB will only be paid for the number of bedrooms a family or individual actually needs.  This reduction in HB has been nicknamed the BEDROOM TAX

 

It is this aspect of the UK’s housing policy that Rolnik has focused on and stated that it breaches the UN Declaration on Human Rights  and also the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

It is this aspect of Rolnik’s findings that caught my attention. Whilst I don’t dispute that having access to decent or a roof over one’s head is a human right it never occurred to me that the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights could be used/applied in this sense.

When one thinks of abuses of human rights, one imagines this sort of thing only happens in poorly governed countries. What is even more surprising is that the coalition government  with access to all manner of technocrats didn’t see this coming,

But at same level I am not really surprised. The Conservative party, which is the majority in the coalition promotes limited government and the cutting back of the welfare state. The overriding motivation behind its austerity programmes has been that “work should be rewarding and those out of work should not be better off than those in work

The twist in this whole affair is the role of an international institution  in what is seemingly a domestic affairs. International institutions by their nature were meant to help nations to manage their affairs in the absence of an international government. However scholars such as Keohanne have argued that once established these institutions take on a life of their own and sometimes seek to control their founders.

This is evident in the instance  and perhaps in the ongoing debates about the UK’s position within the EU, with respect to the rulings of the European court of Justice amongst others.

 

These international institutions have such long arms that some countries like the USA have opted out of the ICC for instance as it did not other countries having a say in what happens to its soldiers who breach international laws.

 

What do you think? Has Britain its citizens human rights with the introduction of the bedroom tax?

 

 

 

Syria: Lining up the ducks

Walton on Thames

Walton on Thames


 

 

David Cameron the UK prime minister was dealt a political blow on Thursday night when he lost the Syria vote in the House of Commons. Whilst that must have been a huge disappointment for Cameron it was hugely demonstrative as to what good governance should look like and indeed a big day for democracy.

 

But this was neither about good governance nor democracy in the United Kingdom but instead in a far away land that most of us in the UK only ever see through the eyes of the international media.  According to that media, the citizens of Syria are dying and are desperate for the international community to intervene with a view to resolving this whole situation.

 

To say that the situation in Syria is complex is an understatement. It has tested international relations in ways that could  not have been conceived by most. We are after all used to the good guys going into such situations and taking out the bad guys- Gaddafi Saddam, Osama bin Laden etc

 

A good friend of mine and I had a heated discussion yesterday about this whole situation and no doubt some of you have done so with family members, colleagues and or friends.

 

This is an bridged version of that conversation

 

The conversation started with a simple question from me that went like this

 

There is such a thing as International Law, but whose job is it to enforce that law in the absence of an International government?

This seemingly simple question is central to the Syria situation as it gives rise to several issues for consideration

 

Sovereignty : The government of Syria has authority within a  geographical region that is internationally recognised as Syria and has a right to defend that  territory and has vowed to do so should the international community invade.  The difficulty with this,  is that whatever the international community might think, Syria would be justified on grounds of sovereignty.

 

We have to consider too, that the extent to which Syria would go to defend itself is an unknown quantity and there is every possibility  that intervention would make matters worse for the very citizens the international community would be trying to save.  Moreover, whilst it is agreed that, chemical weapons have been used we do not know definitively by whom.

This led us to another question.

Should the international community simply standby  and watch whilst the government of Syria kills thousands of its people? Surely the international community  has a moral duty  to set aside issues of sovereignty and  defend innocent citizens against their government. Indeed and we  if looked hard enough, we would find several world treaties to support intervention.

So why are UK, Iranian, Russian and Chinese legislators amongst others reluctant to go to the aid of the citizens of the Syria?

Interests: as far as my friend and I can work out, interests of the international community are playing a big role on questions whether to get involved in Syria or not.

Russia and Iran are said to have financial  and other interests in Syria and as such they will do whatever it takes to protect what they are calling their national interests in Syria. For Russia this has meant using its veto at the UN Security Council

The USA:  how does it maintain its world position as a world power if it cannot see through  a threat it made about RED LINES?

Will going into Syria mean that the USA is fighting the Syrian government alongside Al-Qaeda and other such radical political groups? Surely that is not in America’s interest given its history with respect to the war on terror

Our discussion turned to the interests of tax payers here in the UK. Whilst most tax payers are happy to see the UK government spend their taxes on humanitarian aid some question the wisdom of spending their taxes on a war in a far away land whilst their wages have gone down in real terms and are struggling to make ends meet. This is a valid point, when UK citizens look back at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

David Cameron has often argued for the stopping of problems in these far away lands at sources before “they arrive on our door step” > Question is  do the interests of the nation as he perceives them line up with the nation’s perspective?

Back to the question of international laws and how to enforce them, we concluded that, international laws are impacted by national interests of the international community. We found ourselves agreeing with realists in as far their assertion that those countries with superior hard power often win the day in these circumstances.

 

Where does this leave the international community and the citizens of Syria in particular? The answer to this question will unfold over the coming days, weeks months, or even years!

But my friend and I pondered yet another aspect of international relations.

The structure.

The international structure has evolved from bi-polar  during the cold war, unipolar with America leading the world to what we call a multilateral structure with no apparent leader in international relations, but instead several stakeholders, including international institutions. But has this multilateral world order led to indecision and as such the situation  in Syria?

At this stage in our conversation we concluded that we were going round in circles as it appears that lining up the ducks on the Syria matter is a delicate balance and if the international community gets it wrong the consequences are scary!

Please join the conversation and share your views

 

The Guardian and the Daily Monitor: A tale of two papers

In May this year the Ugandan Police raided the offices of the Daily Monitor a respected Ugandan newspaper was raided by the Police and shut down for a few days because its editors had published something that government didn’t want in the public domain. As you can imagine there was outrage both in Uganda and within the international community as evidenced in these articles from The Guardian , the BBC and The Independent

The situation in Uganda led to protest on the streets on Kampala the capital of Uganda followed by heavy crack down by the police  as well as the self imposed exile of the general at the centre of the row

 

Fast forward to Sunday 18 August  and journalists at The Guardian here in the UK faces the same predicament.

 

We learned that  the UK government detained  David Miranda a partner of a Guardian journalist  Glenn Greenwald  for 9 hours whilst in transit at London Heathrow on suspcision that he might be carrying something that teh governemnt would rather not see in the public domain. In addition that the paper’s London offices had a visit from the UK Government Communications headquaters  who stood over the papers staff as they destroyed material that the government didnot want in the public domain.

This has caused national and international outrage and condemnation  and the days ahead will be interesting as the story unfolds further

 

I don’t need to spell out the similarities in the story of these two papers

Both the Ugandan and UK governments have argued that the actions of the journalists have threatened national security whilst the journalists’s position is that the information they hold is of interest to the citizens and should be in the public domain.

 

The question is who is right?

Are we as citizens happy to see journalists’s freedoms infringed by governments in our name?

Are journalists in fact compromising our security in order to sell their papers?

What is the future of journalism?

What about human rights?

Is the neoliberal ideal of limited state   a myth?

In the new era of increased non state actors (terrorists and religious fundamentalists) states have moved to reclaim their power in order to fight off these new threats and under that guise it would not surprise me if we the publics increasingly lost our rights and freedoms. it also seems to me we are going to have to make some tough choices, such as choosing between, privacy, security, individual freedoms and rights.

I would be interested in your views on these matters

 

In conversation with Uganda’s First Lady

The Ugandan Diaspora in UK recently gathered to discuss the condition of Uganda with member’s of the Ugandan parliament as well as friends of Uganda.

 

I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Uganda’s First Lady as well as Minister for Karamoja one of Uganda’s poorest regions and here is how I got on

 

Do you fit bit?

 

 

Do I what?

 

OK, let me start from the beginning. Seven years ago, I was super active, my working day started in the gym, I had corporate membership at what was called Holmes Place and then Virgin gym and I used it. Somewhere along the way I gave it all up and things went down hill from there until I was jolted out of “this thing” ( I don’t even have a name for it) by an associate  about  a month ago now.

 

We had not seen each other for a few months and to cut a long story short he thought I was pregnant and I thought that is it. I have to do something.  I had for sometime been feeling rather sluggish unable to walk for a few minutes without feeling really tired and wanting to sit down just after 5five minutes of walking.  If I am honest, although I knew that I had to do something about this state of affairs, I also knew I had no will power whatever and one  thing I was certain about, I would not join a gym as that would be a waste of money. I lacked the motivation to justify a gym membership and nothing would change that.

 

I told my fellow Birds about my predicament and interestingly a few felt just like me, so we resolved to get fit together, well through Facebook anyway. My good friend Sally Church kicked us off by  acquiring a swanky gadget called the FitBit and even started a group called Fit Birds added us all to the group. Sally posted her daily FitBit Stats and at last I could see something that would help me overcome my motivation problems and I would get fit in the process. So I resolved to acquire a FitBit too

 

So what is a FitBit

 

Put simply it is a pedometer that measures the steps you take daily. But this is not any odd pedometer, as you can record your sleep pattern, calories, water in take, daily activity etc. The best bit is that you have a daily report by syncing your FitBit with your computer via Wifi or a USB cable. You have a chance to tweet this out to your friends  and there is an App for your phone too that enables you to input food and water intake, activities  etc and all this works out your calorie in take and burn off. I could not believe that for instance 2 hours of ironing burns 404 calories.

 

Motivation

 

I really like the FitBit because it has done wonders for my motivation as far as exercising goes and this arises from that end of day report. The basic number of steps that one should take a day is set at 10,000 and I always work towards this number although most Saturdays I don’t achieve this number. I don’t know what it is about Saturdays.

 

You also get a few badges for certain milestones, like climbing 25 floors, 50 floors etc, these badges are put in such a fun way too, like “you climbed the Eiffel Tower” etc, which serves to motivate me to work towards another badge and of course get fit in the process.

 

I am now more likely to take the stairs than a lift so I can achieve the “10 floors climbed” as the very minimum daily.   I almost walk everywhere within reason and even venture out on public transport something I used to dread and this is so I can make up those steps and floors. Most days, bar Saturday, I walk two miles first thing in the morning (10-15 minutes), another two to three at 1pm (20-30minutes)and another one or two (10-15minutes)late afternoon.

 

OK, I am sure you get the picture and if you are really good at reading between the lines , you have worked out by now that I am becoming obsessed with this stuff

 

But with reason!

 

I am feeling fab within me, that feeling of sluggishness is almost gone.  I have lost 3.5 Kgs in weight in 5 weeks.  I have not changed my diet but I have become more aware of the size of the portions of food on my plate.

 

The downside

 

The FitBit costs nearly £80 which might be out of the reach of some folk but for me I could not have paid enough for the motivation to exercise and if you can’t find the time to exercise this is the best thing to own. As you can fit in the walking at work by walking to colleagues’ desks instead of sending email or picking up the phone, you can take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the kitchen to make tea for others etc

 

I am yet to put the Sleep monitor facility to use, as when I tried it, I was awake for the best part of the night!

 

Go on, get yourself a FitBit if like me you lack the motivation to get your bottom to the gym!