This month, our regular columnist Brian K Mwebaze shares an experience that inspired him to write this particular column. The experience revolves around meeting an inspiring activist. This activist was not giving a speech at a world conference, they were not on television or leading a march, they were a taxi driver and the inspiration came with just a few words. Read about it here.
Greetings to all of you road safety ambassadors in your respective titles that may have changed throughout the course of last month! I know that lots of things have changed about you, physically, mentally, socially and let me also say, maybe emotionally?
Lets begin with special recognition of the Gambian Youth Parliament for their initiative in advancing their road safety agenda within their country! They took positive advantage of their Programme Officer’s (Siaka K Dba) 25th Birth Day to raise more awareness on their core work, which includes road safety! How I wish everyday were some one’s birthday at the Gambian Youth Parliament, just imagine the impact! There is also the Long Short Walk Campaign which you shouldn’t by any mistake miss because its so easy to take part. Much respects!
So, this time, after spending 86 hours travelling in which I met Red Cross Road Safety ambassadors from Rwanda and the VSO Team in Uganda, I hurled myself to East Africa’s Most Original city’s bus park (Kampala, Uganda) on my way to Mbarara, Uganda where I am staying for 2 more days before I run into the Democratic Republic of Congo for the first time! Thrilled! I enjoy my work really. Yes…how it must feel to be back home again…play for me that song, by Chris Daughtry, ‘Home’ lol. But, you see, I am not interested in telling you how I slept like a sack of Irish potatoes and with a helmet on…no thanks, so here we go…
As you may well be aware, communiting in Africa can become a daily challenge.
On getting out of the bus, I found my way into a taxi whose driver was female! (please don’t ask me a lot of questions here, just listen). As it was at night, I adjusted my jacket head hood and comfortably chillaxed in the passenger’s seat.
Upon hearing this, I asked for her name very fast! Never before had it ever occurred to me while in any developing country that I am being asked to buckle-up! (although it was the next thing I was about to do, being a road safety ambassador and all) Usually, when I want to get some good information, I claim to be stupid...I think all the young men play this kind of game right? So, I asked her in a friendly tone, 'What the hell do you mean miss? Do you want to convince me that your car runs on seatbelts? You see, I am not Ford but I know for sure that, cars run on petrol, What do you mean to tell me?’ You see, I was intrigued to find a road safety conscious taxi driver and so I wanted to check if she knew the plethora of road safety arguments behind seatbelt use! (I know, cheeky me!)
With a very serious face, the 29 year old (as I later found out) Miss Shallon Nsubuga looked at me for what seemed like 365 days, upon which she calmly and authoritatively asked me, ‘Are you married?’ ‘Do you have any family’ ‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘Do you have any real dreams like a young person’ and ‘How do you want to arrive home, vertical or horizontal?’ I have never met a character like this!
Usually, am given the usual answers of ‘Well, the government here, or the police will fine you heavily’. But this was a person-focused conviction…she passed me through her life and experience of how she lost her uncle to a road traffic crash! That uncle was the gentleman that was paying for her University tuition and for all other dependants. She has a job as a teller in one of the banks in town, but she says, she has to work harder to supplement her income….I was touched! Touched to my bone marrow! Wouldn’t you be? Everyday we hope to meet road safety aware youngsters and today, I was given a message that I pass on every time I sit in a vehicle.
When we finally parted, I spent what seemed like (to be honest, I don’t remember) but it was a long time in my house thinking, how road safety and seatbelts issues were being handled with a person-centred approach! Scarce as pregnant guinea fowls, such kind of young drivers are our superstars. They are our hope. They have a religion of safety and like all road safety ambassadors, we need to join and stay in this religion, in this movement and pass the message on from person to person, always.
Young people in developing countries are becoming more and more aware about the burden of avoidable road traffic crashes onto themselves, family and society! I thought about it and came to the conclusion that she has more than likely said this to all passengers in her taxi, to buckle up and stay safe. She is the change that wants to see and for that I salute her and say this, she impacted me that day.
Much respects to all of you who believe and practice the ‘Your seatbelt or I won’t start!’ rule. N.B Miss Shallon Nsubuga gave me her consent to use her real names in this article and I can tell her what you thought of her approach, just tweet me.