By Diana Awino

I work for the Ugandan civil service in a rural district local government. Wait, did I mention I am a modern breed of local government staffs? I joined civil service at age 24, one year after graduation from Uganda’s most prestigious university. Oh, I’ve also been a victim of the single story; “Local Government staffs are incompetent, corrupt, idlers, inefficient, earn peanuts and satiated with the mere thought of being in the civil service.” Many consider it as poor excuse for employment. More often than not I have been looked down upon and unfairly judged based on the organization I work for. Five years later I’m still a civil servant, luckily I’m not haunted with the thought of whether I donated my twenties to the right cause or no.

My formula is two words, “Be Relevant.”

Yes, single stories are incomplete reads (“Local Government staffs are incompetent, corrupt etc.”) but, rich with my skills and big heart, I appointed myself as a secretary, personal assistant, tutor, office attendant, cleaner, dispenser, counselor and receptionist. In short, I’ve become whoever I need to be in order to serve others. Multi tasking is my trade, no one came to my office and left without a smile, soon I became a reference point and darling to the top wigs, junior staffs and visitors in the districts.

My brand put me in contact with a variety of people and organizations, I got privileges to attend trainings, workshops, learning sessions and cocktails courtesy of my “Be Relevant initiative” and not merely through the position I held at the district. When a former colleague joined another organization and was asked to recommend someone for an assignment, my name was at the top of the list. Visitors applaud my efforts at the district and it’s the best reward imaginable, validation for the choices I made.

Right now I cannot leave local government. I am in love with the diversity it has given me. My job, in one sentence, is a cocktail of jobs and organizations. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction and balance in life, from the relaxed environment of local government, to the pressure of working with private sector constituents and Non Government Organizations, to serving community members and putting their needs before my own. What makes my day is a contented district official after I have typed their report, or a visitor from a Non Governmental Organization whom I have tethered for internet services and can comfortably make correspondences, or young adults I have offered career guidance to, or health workers I have facilitated trainings for. Being relevant comes with an assorted package of benefits, including monetary benefits – because good service definitely pays off in the long run.

Writing this blog post has inspired me to start a “Be relevant” campaign drive in my community. Being relevant is not rocket science, basic skills can be acquired by anyone. My initiative will encourage others to strive to be relevant wherever you are. The campaign will not give handouts, but empower people to serve others.

When life tosses you lemons, make lemonade!