Вибори Президента України – Ukrainian Presidential Elections

My second week in Ukraine was very successful and progressive. I eventually met my contact person at the I. I. Mechnikov Odessa National University. We discussed the purpose of my study and my contact person expressed her readiness and willingness to help with possible practical issues in the field. The fact that the I. I. Mechnikov Odessa National University and Malmö University are partner universities made me even more comfortable. Nevertheless, I did not like the remnants of Soviet bureaucratic procedures such as unnecessary long waiting times for solving very simple things. Moreover, the  existing hierarchy with varying power relations that one has to deal with is another shortcoming of the post-Soviet educational system.

I. I. Mechnikov Odessa National University

After the efforts of my gatekeeper in the field, I was introduced to the key informant within the Right Sector. I also met the head of  the Right Sector and described my project in detail. Thanks to these contacts, I will hopefully meet and interview some volunteers who will soon depart to join the military squads in Eastern Ukraine. Some of these volunteers have already been at the frontline, and some others are recent recruits. It is very exciting to interview these fighters and to get insight about why they join the non-state paramilitary batallions and squads instead of the regular Ukrainian army. These interviews are planned to be conducted earliest next week since the whole country is getting ready for the presidential elections.

The Ukrainian elections will take place tomorrow, March 31. Although there are plenty of candidates in this presidential race, people are skeptical about these elections.  Most Ukrainians are convinced that their country is still far away from honest, just and accountable elections. Some are indifferent and don’t want to waste time on something they can’t influence. This indifference is explained by the influential role of high ranking oligarchs in the country who usually have the final word.  Recently, I had a conversation with a taxi driver who told me a real life story about his experience of Ukrainian elections. This middle aged man went to one of the municipal electoral boards to confirm his participation in the upcoming elections. However, his name was not found in the voting list, whereas the electoral comission found his dead father who was registered as a voter. The man just laughed and said nothing when I asked him whether this incident was an accident, a technical error or a deliberate strategy!?

The poster of the current president Petro Poroshenko

Regardless the distrust towards their politicians, considerable number of voters support Yulia Tymoshenko who can become the first ever woman president in the history of the post-Soviet Ukraine. Tymoshenko’s campaigners told me that Ukraine needs a new hand, a new breath, a new start, and finally a mistress who will rule the country differently from her masculine predecessors.

Yulia Timoshenko’s electoral tent

I really wish Ukrainian people  successful elections and I hope that these elections will be held without any violence!

Habari? (What’s new?)

The last several days in Tanzania has been educational in many different ways. Firstly, we have learned to appreciate the Swedish schools and their equipment. For example, there is only one computer at the entire school (Msiriwa Secondary School) that only the principal and assistant principal use. The teachers also do not have their own work spaces, there is a small room that everyone shares with a standard that we are not used to. There is also no copier so if the teachers want to copy something they have to go to town which is about 30 minutes away by car. The teachers have only a few textbooks, blackboard and chalks to use as teaching materials. Despite this, they still seem to get into teaching that makes the students manage their finals. Impressive, to say the least!

Teachers room

A rim used as a bell

Secondly, we have learned to endure a heat that cannot be described in words! We were going on an excursion to Lake Chala where we had thought it would be nice to walk a bit in the forest and then cool off in the water. That was not the case! We had to go for an hour to the lookout spot in the pressurized heat of the savannah environment, so no shade! And after a while at the lookout point, we turned and went the same way back. Dizziness was severe, breathing difficult due to height and sweat flowing. But we survived! Then we came to the slope, where you come down to the water. Emelie did not have any difficulty getting down other than she slipped on the gravel a few times. Josefin, on the other hand, has never challenged her fright of heights in that way before! The sweat ran worse than ever and she got some help the last bit down. But we survived this too!

Lake Chala

Last but not least, we met our remote relatives at the pool. It was a wonderful meeting and we recognized ourselves in the individuals…

Karibu Tena!

Being an Eritrean Swede in Zanzibar – A candid reflection on colorism and privilege

One of the first things I knew I had to be cautious about before coming to do a field study in Zanzibar is the privilege I hold as a westerner. Not only was I highly aware of this because of previous travels in East Africa, but also because of knowledge and information that was shared at the preparatory course for the scholarship-recipients in January. The MFS-scholarship I have been given to be able to conduct this study is way more than the yearly income for the average Zanzibari and the majority here live under the poverty line. That alone puts a lot into perspective. What I did not realise, however was that my Eritrean identity would also allow me to have other types of privileges in Zanzibar. These privileges would also be highly related to my research topic of colorism.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, colorism is a form of internalised racism where the idea is that lighter skin and eurocentric features are better and more desirable. Colorism can manifest itself in many ways, everything from bleaching one’s skin to appear lighter to wishing to marry a person of a lighter skin complexion in order to have lighter-skinned children. Although the phenomenon is highly common all around the world, the discriminatory practice is often not talked about when discussing racism or discrimination on big platforms. 

Sunscreen products with “whitening effects” that can be found in supermarkets and pharmacies here

During my stay here, I have come to realize that being of Eritrean origin has led to me experiencing some privileges, that in my opinion, I would not have experienced if I was of a darker skin complexion or if I had a different hair texture. As a Black woman of Eritrean heritage, I get daily comments from people here about how I must be Ethiopian because of my “beautiful skin and long hair”. My hair is drawing a lot of attention due to its’ thickness and length and there is not one day where I do not hear comments about my hair. Even though it is always nice to receive compliments, it is hard to appreciate them knowing that they are mostly rooted in colorism and the appreciation for phenotypical features that are viewed as “non-African”. 

It is common that tourists and non-Tanzanians in Zanzibar get asked questions about where they are from and in general, there is a curiosity to get to know visitors on the island. The usual assumptions I get about where I am from are Ethiopia, Somalia, “Abyssinia” and when I have worn my hair straight or curly, people assume that I am Arab, Indian or Brazilian. In the outskirts of Stone Town, I was getting comments about me being “cappuccino” (a term used for people who are mixed) and that there could be no way that I was fully African. Which saddens me because of the fact that prior to coming to TZ, I thought I would blend in more with the people here and instead, I have never felt more like an outcast. 

At the same time, it has also become evident to me that White privilege is real and cannot be overlooked. During several occasions, I have experienced a better customer service, welcoming and better attitude in general when being around White westerners than when being in a group of Africans or westerners with African heritage like myself. The internalised racism sits deep and to combat it will take several measures. Hopefully, my study can contribute a little bit to highlighting the important issue of colorism and internalised racism that occurs globally. 

Below you will find a great article about White privilege, written by a fellow Swedish student who is doing an internship in Tanzania. This article also inspired me to write this blog post.

Vithetsnormen i Tanzania


First few days in Ghana!


My journey has started! Day 4 here in Accra today, and so far I really really REALLY like it here.

My accommodation is great, I live with the best people! A nice bunch of different nationalities, they are definitely a big part of why I already feel so at home here.

Also, the weather is great. So so great, it is definitely very hot and I’m constantly sweating but I’d take this any day instead of cold and grey weather!

The weekend was very chill, getting into everything. Yesterday I had my first interview with one organization, that is working with street children. I spent the first two hours with one of the workers there out on the street to see how it is. This is in an area of Accra that is mentioned as a scrap-yard. Many children live on the street there, picking metal to sell. We did not get to walk more than five minutes before there was a very serious incident with a young boy there. Nothing has ever affected me as much. This place was really something out of this world. That kind of place you would not ever believe existed unless you saw it with your own eyes. Yesterday was a day that I will remember for the rest of my life and that I will keep in my heart forever.


The house I’m living in and the backyard!

Some food one of the girls in the house from Ivory Coast cooked for us, amazing!

They are a big fan of everything ginger here.

What a week in Kathmandu!

Hi all,

Can´t believe I have already been to Nepal for two weeks!  So much is happening all the time and I have already fallen in love with the people, the food, the culture and the nature. This week I have attended several event through the Australian Government in Nepal, my host organisation for my field studies in Nepal.

It was so good to participate at a program hosted to raise an awareness and support on the World Down Syndrome Day by the Down Syndrome Association of Nepal with a theme ” Leave no one behind in Education” at Basantapur Durbarsquare. So happy to see the little children with Down Syndrome perform. The drama conducted by the young students gave a very inspiring story and a very positive message to the audience, and lighting of candles at the end to show solidarity was heart touching. Below are some glimpses of the event.

Me and people from Down Syndrome Association of Nepal and the Australian Embassy in Nepal
Me and people from Down Syndrome Association of Nepal and the Australian Embassy in Nepal
Light Ceremony at the World Down Syndrome Day
Light Ceremony at the World Down Syndrome Day

Below are some photos from the International Women’s Day interaction program organised by the Association of Nepalese Alumni from Australia (ANAA) and Australia Awards Leadership Network with a theme “More Powerful Together” which truly justified the theme. The interaction program was very interesting with a good flow of Q & A session.

International Womens Day Celebration by the Australia Awards alumni
International Women’s Day Celebration by the Australia Awards alumni
International Womens Day Celebration, me and Sanjana from the Australian Embassy in Nepal
International Womens Day Celebration, me and Sanjana from the Australian Embassy in Nepal

Had an inspiring meeting (interview) with the National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN). Ms Pratima Gurung, President of NIDWAN, is supported by the UN in her work and research on rights of indigenous women with disabilities!

Pratima Gurung, President of NIDWAN
Pratima Gurung, President of NIDWAN
Me and the National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN).
Me and the National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN).

I also had the opportunity to experience the Nepali ‘Holi’ celebration. That was lot of fun. Got to meet some Swedish MFS students from Lund University that are in Kathmandu for another week.

Happy Holi from Nepal
Happy Holi from Nepal

That is all for this week. Now I am about to head off on a big hike to Mardi Himal so will be out of internet for a week or up to 10 days, see you then!

A country in crisis:(

My first impression about the generous Ukrainian people, but also the rotten Ukrainian system that makes one’s life intolerable began with an incident at the airplane. I was flying with Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA), which I strongly don’t recommend to anyone else. This is because the personnel working on board did not fulfill their obligation. When I bought my ticket I paid for a meal, which I was supposed to get during my journey. However, despite the indication of this information in my ticket, the personnel tried to find various excuses and persuaded me that UIA did not inform them about this. I was told that I have to pay for my meal anew. Seeing me somewhat disappointed Ukrainian passengers sided with me and criticized the personnel of UIA. A middle aged man who was sitting next to me said ironically: “welcome to Ukraine”! Then I thought and wondered how bad the situation should be in this country that the “best” airlines skimped on its passengers.

I did not know what to expect from a country that has experienced a revolution, coup d’etat, annexation of its territories and military conflict during the last five years. Moreover, Ukraine is literally on the verge of bankruptcy. I recall what the man sitting next to me in the airplane said when we went into conversation. He said that “people in Ukraine do not live, they survive, and make a living as they can”. Nevertheless, Ukrainian people are very kind, hospitable and always willing to help. When I arrived to Odessa a friend of mine came to the airport to meet me and followed with me to my accomodation. This was very kind of my friend who lives in Odessa. Because when taxi drivers see visitors and tourists, the price from airport to downtown can vary from 50 to 100 $.  Thanks to the local knowledge of my friend the taxi costed only 5 $. In general, during my short period in Ukriane I clearly understood one thing that Catherine Wanner wrote for more than twenty years ago in her book called “Burden of Dreams: History and Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine”.  Ukraine is one of those post-Soviet countries where you still have to know someone or to have “blat” so that things can work efficiently.

The flags of Odessa, Ukraine and EU

The city of Odessa is located in the south of the country. It is also called the pearl of Black Sea. The city was founded in the 18th century. One can encounter plenty of buildings and other architecture built during Tsarist and Soviet eras. Everyone who has visited Odessa would say that this city is frozen in time.  It is still possible to see plenty of Soviet cars in the streets that were manufactured in the Soviet Union. Even some people I have met here express Soviet nostalgia from time to time.

Volga, Qaz 24, Made in USSR.

Russian language is widely spoken in Odessa, which makes my everyday encounter with locals somewhat easy due to my proficiency in Russian. The city of Odessa is very multicultural, and beside the majority Ukrainians the city is home to Russians, Bulgarians, Jews, Moldovans and other ethnic groups.  Potemkin stairs, the famous Deribasovskaya street and Arkadiya beach are the favourite sites visited by tourists.

Potemkin Stairs
Potemkin stairs from the bottom
Odessa Maritime Station
Richelieu square
Port of Odessa

There is one thing about Odessa that I can not be silent about. Although there are beggars in almost every city of the world, the poverty in Odessa is expressed differently, especially by the youth. Instead of asking for money, teenager boys and girls can approach someone in the street and simply ask to buy them food, water or a bus ticket. It is heartbreaking to see the young generation in such condition!

I could not meet my second contact person at the Odessa National Mechnikov University this week since most of the lecturers were busy due to the ongoing examinations. My gatekeeper had also a tight schedule at work and could not meet me this week. So, I will meet my contact person at the University, as well as my gatekeeper next week. My gatekeeper will inform me about the Right Sector’s activities and introduce me to the research participants that I plan to interview and observe.

It was all from me for this time but I will be back with new stories next week!

First week in Nepal!

Hi all,

It has been an amazing first week in Kathmandu Nepal! I have already met so many fantastic people and been to many beautiful places. Below I will share some of my memories with you.

The first day I visited The Garden of Dreams, a park very central in Kathmandu away from all the busy traffic. Here I spent a couple of hours reading a book and had a juice at a cute cafe in the garden.

Garden of Dreams
Garden of Dreams
Garden of Dreams
Garden of Dreams

Early on I went to meet with my contacts in Nepal, they work at the Australia Awards Nepal (AAN) Office. The AAN team work with prospective scholarship recipients for Australia (Master level)  as well as alumni that returned home from Australia. My project is related to one of their short courses in inclusive education, run both in Nepal and Australia for Government officials as well as NGOs in Nepal. I used to work with AAN scholars when I lived in Australia, my role was to support them through their studies far away from home. It was a great job! It was lovely to see my ex colleagues again!

Lunch with the Australia Awards Nepal team
Lunch with the Australia Awards Nepal team

We started out with lunch and then I came along to one of their information sessions for students interested in the scholarship, there I got to present about my experiences from living in Australia for 8 years.

Australia Awards Nepal information session
Australia Awards Nepal information session

The Australia Awards Nepal team took me out on a day trip to another town called Bhaktapur. We had their famous King Curd, a sweet yoghurt which was yummy.  It is a very old town and much was ruined in the 2015 earthquake, now lot of construction is happening here. Bhaktapur Durbar Square is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Me at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Me at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Me and the Nepali flag
Me and the Nepali flag

In the afternoon we went to Boudha stupa (temple) for a look around as well as sat down at a rooftop for lunch and a sangria. Another colleague working at the Australian Embassy joined us for lunch. The Bouda stupa is one of the Hindus most holiest temples. It was stunning! And the mountains in the background. Could not have asked for better company or a better place for pizza and sangria!

Me and my colleague (holding his daughter) and his brother having a selfie in front of Boudha stupa

Me and my colleague (holding his daughter) and his brother having a selfie in front of Boudha stupa

Bhouda stupa
Bhouda stupa

Thats alll the updates for now, will write more soon. Now it is time for me to check out of my current hotel (Hotel Friends Home) and go to one a bit closer to the office called Cusina Mithu Chha.  See you soon! Regards, Maddie


We have now finished two out of eight weeks in Tanzania, and we are now having a functional living, more or less. We have, among other things found our self a Bajaj driver, as we now are regulars with. We also bought a washtub and some detergent, so we can now wash our clothes. Monday to Friday we are putting all our effort into our study, and we found a perfect place to do this, which has very nice food and a good garden to sit in, Maembe. Saturday and Sunday we spent on our newfound relaxing place. Honey Badger, which is a hotel with at a pool, which we can use for a fee.

Bajaj Driver, Patrick! 

Cleaning our clothes!


Honey Badger!

In our new everyday life we also found a new favourite perfume, which is the only perfume we use here. It is called “Mygga”, and we use it like we are teenage girls who just came over a bottle of “Date” perfume. It is especially good when you just shaved your legs, it does not burn… not at all, promise 🙂

Msiriwa Secondary School.

Our second week has just now passed, and we primarily focused on our research. Last monday we did our first visit at the school were we supposed to do our interviews at. We got to see Mama Mary, who is the headmaster at Msiriwa Secondary School. Last friday we did our two interviews with four female students. It went over our expectations even if we had to improvise a place were we could complete our last interview. The reason for this was lack of space and classrooms. Instead we had to sit in the garden on the grass, with at burning hot sun and 35 degrees. Overall it all went very well, but we were extremely tired  afterwards. Despite this, we spent the afternoon and evening transcribing our interviews. Above all, it was interesting to hear what the female students had to say about Sexual and reproductive health and rights in school. Many wise words, but also some things that we difficult to understand through a swedish context.

Karibu tena, welcome back!

Introductory/preparatory post


Thought it was time for me to post a little introductory/preparatory post here on the blog since my countdown is now down to only a week left until my departure to Accra, Ghana!

So far I think I’ve managed to get everything sorted before leaving! Packing is still on the to-do list… As well as some more school assignments…

As mentioned in my introduction, I’m going to Ghana to conduct a minor field study. The material I will collect during this study will be my main material for my bachelor thesis that I’m currently writing! Human trafficking is a subject that has had my interest for many many years, and children’s rights are my big passion. Since this MFS is funded by SIDA I will be going to Ghana for my study, but I find it very important that people from developed countries understand that trafficking in children also happens in their countries! People around me sometimes say that it doesn’t happen in Sweden (for example), but IT DOES. I will never stop trying to share my knowledge and experience in this area, and this field study for my thesis writing is definitely one way I will be doing that!

Next update will be live from Ghana!

Stolen phone, injured elbow and applying for research permit

I’ve been in Zanzibar now for 4 weeks and to summarize, it’s been both the best and the worst 4 weeks I’ve had in many years. For starters, my iphone got stolen about two weeks ago while being out with some friends in Stone Town. And when I was trying to reclaim it, I fell and injured my elbow. So for the past weeks my days have consisted of going back and forth to the doctor and to the police station to get updates and hear about the proceedings of finding my phone. I also discovered early on that I need a research permit here in order to interview people in Zanzibar. Which has led me to also spend a lot of time going to different ministries, institutions and banks to fill out papers. Although it’s been stressful having to spend my time going to various places, having contact with the authorities here has given me an insight on how the bureaucracy works in another country. An experience I think I wouldn’t of had if I was “sliding on a räkmacka”.  

On more positive notes, I’ve finally gotten my research permit (yay!), met so many amazing people and have been surrounded by the most stunning environment and scenery. Being the language enthusiast that I am, I also started a 20-hour kiswahili class at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA). I’ve come to love the language and its’ logical grammar structure and from my experience, Kiswahili is a really easy language to learn. In the following weeks I hope to learn even more swahili and maybe even continue with self-studies when I’m back home in Sweden.

Being injured and living on a paradise island doesn’t give you the best motivation to study but luckily now that I’ve gotten my research permit and my elbow has healed, I can focus all on my studies and also proceed with doing interviews in the coming weeks.

Badaaye (see you)

Freddie Mercury’s house

Typical doors in Zanzibar
My usual dinner at the Forodhani market