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A chess club which not only inspired many, but also gave birth to a prodigy

The inspiring story of a chess club founder, that led to the rise of a prodigy, turns into a Disney movie

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Katwe, Uganda, Mar 21, 2017: Fourteen years ago, Robert Katende started a chess club for the disadvantaged children in the slums of Kampala. Today, the program attracts hundreds of kids in three hundred locations across Uganda.

In an interview with the VOA, Katende said, “I had never imagined what it has turned out to be because all that i was doing was looking out to how best i can empower these kids, and help the realise their full potential.”

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Disney’s new movie, “Queen of Katwe” tells the story of these chess clubs and the Ugandan chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi, a young girl who became a World Chess Champion, despite her background.

The film is set in the slums of Katwe in the capital of Uganda and how these chess clubs became an inspiration for many.

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Katende originally wanted to start a football club for the disabled children. However, when he noticed that they were not too keen about sports, he decided to teach them chess instead.

Katende started out with a group of five boys and called them the Pioneers. Phiona Mutesi joined the club sometime later and soon, the team was travelling around the Globe representing Uganda in international competitions.

Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi, Source: VOA

Richard Tugume, one of the original pioneers thinks that the film will actually touch a lot of lives in Uganda. He said, “personally, i believe now that it doesn’t matter wherever you come from, as people here come from slums. But whoever will watch that movie would be able to know that there is life outside Katwe.”

In the movie, local actors shared stage with stars like British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo who plays Katende.

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Oyelowo said, “it was invaluable shooting in Katwe.”

Many Ugandan actors who star in the movie are themselves familiar with poverty. Thus, the actors too felt a strong connection to the script.

The movie too, true to its word, tells an amazing story of believing in yourself.

-Prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf

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Girls in Uganda Make Reusable Sanitary Pads to Stay in School

During the 2016 election campaign, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni pledged to buy sanitary towels for girls in need; but the Government lacks fund

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Girls at the Parents Care Infant Academy, including 14-year-old Catherine Nantume, are sewing a reusable sanitary towel in Makindye Kampala, VOA

Kampala, April 8, 2017: Providing sanitary pads to schoolgirls is a controversial subject in Uganda.

During the 2016 election campaign, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni pledged to buy sanitary towels for girls in need. The government estimates that 30 percent of Ugandan girls from poor families miss school because of lack of sanitary towels.

But in February this year, the first lady, who is also the minister for education, told parliament the government didn’t have enough funding for the president’s $4.4 million initiative.

This angered Makerere University researcher Stella Nyanzi, who created Pads for Girls Uganda on the social media site Facebook to collect donations of sanitary towels. Soon, however, she found herself in a police interrogation room accused of insulting the first lady online.

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“The interrogation was about four hours,” Nyanzi said. “By the time I was out, my sister, who had my mobile phone number, said, ‘By the way, you are almost getting to your one million pads.’ The following day was Women’s Day and, surprisingly, we got one million sanitary pads within two days.”

Nyanzi continues to push the government to make sanitary pads for girls a priority. Public debate about the subject continues, and the government recently announced that sanitary pads are now to be sold free of value-added tax.

Girls at the Parents Care Infant Academy, in the slum area of Makindye, have taken matters into their own hands.

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At the back of the class, there are four sewing machines that students use to make reusable sanitary towels. Large pieces of pink cloth are laid on the table as some of the girls carefully measure and cut, then place a piece of cotton in between and stitch with pins. Ready to be sewn, it is then passed onto the tailors, who include 14-year-old Nantume Catherine.

“Oh, this hole, it’s used to put there cotton, that cotton to hold blood to not come out. You remove it, you throw and you wash it through this hole,” she said.

Sarah Sanyu is the headmistress of the school.

“It was very, very difficult for these girls to stay in public without having these pads,” Sanyu said, “so when we got this idea of making sanitary pads, we bought the materials for ourselves, then we got someone to come and teach us.”

The school also held a special class to teach the girls about menstruation.

Some question the cleanliness of reusable pads, but health officials assure VOA they are safe if properly washed with soap and water. However, access to clean water is not a guarantee in some parts of Uganda.

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So important are sanitary pads to keeping girls in school that the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) has distributed 50,000 disposable pads in 14 districts of Uganda since November of 2015.

“It has been very difficult to keep girls in schools, especially in Karamoja, where they have to use leaves,” said Dr. Edson Herbert Muhwezi, assistant representative at UNFPA Uganda. “There are no rags to use, some of them even sit in the sun hoping to dry. They are kept there isolated, staying four days and nights in the bush. It’s really dehumanizing.”

Nyanzi says that is unacceptable. She visits schools to pass out the pads donated to her  Facebook group, urging the girls not to let their circumstances hold them down. (VOA)

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Top seeded GM Farrukh Amonatov Wins 15th Parsvnath Delhi International Chess tournament, Diptayan Ghosh 2nd

Tajikistan won the 15th Parsvnath Delhi International Chess tournament after settling for a quick draw with GM Diptayan Ghosh

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Chess, Wikimedia

New Delhi, Jan  16, 2017: Top seeded GM Farrukh Amonatov of Tajikistan won the 15th Parsvnath Delhi International Chess tournament after settling for a quick draw with GM Diptayan Ghosh in the 10th and final round that concluded here.

Scoring 8.5 points out of a possible ten, Amanotov stayed a half point ahead of Ghosh and Dzhumaev Marat of Uzbekistan who both tied for the second spot on eight points but the former was declared the runners up based on his better tiebreak.

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While Amonatov got richer by Rs. 4 lakh Diptayan got Rs. 3 lakh and Dzhumaev took Rs. 2 lakh from the total kitty of over Rs 51 lakh prize money split over three categories.

After Niranjan Navalgund got a GM norm, Aradhya Garg of Delhi received IM norm defeating GM Nilotpal Das in what was a fine display of attacking chess.

Aradhya sacrificed a piece in the early stages of the middle game and got a handful of pawns as the game progressed. Making the most of opportunities provided, Aradhya went on to score a memorable victory.

Another norm was gained by Arpita Mukherjee who ended up with a Women’s IM norm from her performance here. Arpita drew with RA Harikrishna in her final round game.

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Meanwhile in the ‘C’ group, Suhaib Ahmad of Uttar Pradesh won the first prize with nine points out of a possible ten. It was a four way tie at the top between R P Baisakh, S Satyanarayan, Bishal Basak on nine points apiece in the event and Ahmad had the best tiebreak to back him.

Important results final round (Indians unless stated): Diptayan Ghosh (8) drew with Farrukh Amonatov (Tjk, 8.5); Murali Karthikeyan (7.5) drew with Marat Dzhumaev (Uazb, 8); Swayams Mishra (7.5) drew with Adam Tukhaev (Ukr, 7.5); M R Lalith Babu (7.5) beat N R Visakh (7); P Shyaamnikhil (7) drew with Vitaly Sivuk (Ukr, 7); Karen Movsziszian (Arm, 7) drew with Nguyen Huynh Minh Huy (Vie, 7); Andrei Deviatkin (Rus, 7.5) beat Niaz Murshed (Ban, 6.5); Hesham Abdelrahman (Egy, 6.5) lost to Czebe Attila (Hun, 7.5); Saptarshi Roy (7) drew with Sahaj Grover (7); David Alberto (7) beat Niranjan Navalgund (6.5). (IANS)

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To counter Police Harassment, Uganda’s Sex Workers feel Phone is vital for their safety

The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, has vowed to crack down on both sex workers and their clients

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FILE - Women carry baskets of banana as they walk past a military personnel patrolling in Uganda's capital Kampala, February 19, 2016 Source: Reuters

When Fatia, 25, leaves her home to sell sex in the grungy hotels and hastily parked cars of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, she keeps her hand clenched around her phone.

After three years, her biggest fear is not violent clients or exposure to HIV, but harassment by Kampala’s police.

“The police start charging you. They say it (prostitution) is not allowed in the country,” Fatia, who declined to give her full name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

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“Some policemen even use you (for sex). They don’t pay you and then still they take you to the station.”

If arrested for prostitution, Fatia knows what to do. Call the emergency number for Lady Mermaid’s Bureau (LMB) – a sex workers’ advocacy organization – and beep once.

A representative from the bureau soon arrives at the station to gently remind the police that harassment or bribery of any citizen, even a sex worker, is illegal.

If that fails, she may invoke the name of one of Fatia’s influential clients to scare the police into releasing her.

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Gentle persuasion generally works.

Ugandan police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi denied systemic police harassment. However, he said instances of misconduct by individual officers was possible.

“The police have no policy of harassing the prostitutes on the streets,” Kaweesi said.

“Those who are victims should report to our professional standards unit … Absolutely nobody will punish them. We will listen to their complaints and follow it up.”

VULNERABLE

In Uganda, sex work is illegal and highly stigmatized, making women like Fatia vulnerable to unlawful arrest, rape, bribery, beating and murder, rights groups say.

The Indigo Trust, a UK-based foundation under The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, gave Lady Mermaid’s Bureau a grant in 2014 to help Ugandan sex workers fight abuse using technology.

It has provided around 1,000 sex workers across Uganda with information-loaded digital memory cards so they can use their phones to learn how to protect themselves against violence, HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies.

The material is available in multiple languages, and in written and video format, to maximize the number of women who can access it.

“They read them, follow them and do their work safely,” said Oliver Musoke, executive director of Lady Mermaid’s Bureau and a former sex worker.

The cards make it easier to reach larger numbers of women than through face-to-face counseling.

“Some women are not open (to meeting us),” said Musoke, who founded the organization in 2002 to improve sex workers’ access to medical, psychological and legal services and to educate them about sexual health and the law.

“They can read and take the information for themselves.”

Harassment

The criminalization of sex work in the conservative East African nation makes it difficult for those living on its margins to learn about their rights.

Fatia began selling sex hoping to save her earnings for a year and go into business, selling baby clothes.

But she continues to work the streets because she cannot earn enough to escape. Most days she gets one or two clients; some days, none.

“When you use protection, they give you very little money,” she said. “It’s not a good job at all.”

Anyone who engages in prostitution is liable to seven years in jail, according to Uganda’s 1950 Penal Code.

The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, has vowed to crack down on both sex workers and their clients.

But it is largely poor women who are targeted.

“Harassment occurs any time because sex work is illegal,” said Daisy Nakato Namakula, a former sex worker who heads the Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA), which promotes sex workers’ rights.

WONETHA has received 85 reports of sex workers being arrested and harassed by the police since January, but says many more cases go undocumented.

Officers sometimes threaten to publish sex workers’ faces in the media and refuse to allow those with HIV/AIDS who are arrested to be brought their medication, Namakula said.

Ugandan police spokesman Kaweesi denied these allegations.

“(All) suspects have full rights of access to their relatives, access to medical attention, access to meals,” he said.

Musoke of Lady Mermaid’s Bureau, which has worked with more than 12,000 sex workers across Uganda, believes she is slowly changing Ugandans’ attitudes.

One policeman recently asked for a memory card to learn more about the situation of sex workers in the community, LMB reported.

“I have passed through that life,” Musoke said.

“I know their problems… That’s why I decided to create (Lady Mermaid’s Bureau), to let them know that they are also human.” (VOA)