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The last month has been very interesting. We have spent time looking for the production crew to work on the second season of the highly successful Love Games. A lot of people don’t have the experience or the education for working in TV production, not surprisingly, Zambia doesn’t really have a TV industry. It is definitely one that is growing, but not yet as mature as our neighbors, especially not like South Africa, or Kenya even.
But I looked at some cvs of people who’d had the opportunity to study abroad, and they all have degrees in stable career paths, like economics, law, business etc. When asked why they wanted to work on the production as say a make up artist, they said it was because it was their passion. So my follow up question was, ‘then why didn’t you study it in school?’
Most people had the stock answer, ‘I needed a back up just in case.’ Erm, you have no experience, or education in the field you’re passionate about, so how does that show it’s your plan A?
As an African child raised by a very African father, I understand the not doing what you really want to do. My father wanted all of us to go to university and get a degree in something traditional like economics, law, business etc. I said, ‘nah, I think I want to study film.’ He sighed and told me to prepare myself for a life of unemployment.
It didn’t deter me though. I didn’t necessarily go on to study film for many reasons, but I did ingrain myself in the industry where I could. My former boss at MTV has no qualms telling anyone who’ll listen how much I bugged her to get a job there – I was pretty bad. I’m sure she hired me just out of frustration! Lol. Now, I’m not sure that type of persistence will always get you what you need, but you do have to have some persistence for people to take you seriously.
And then it’s not all glamourous to start with. There is real grunt work to do when you’re on the come up in the TV industry. It’s hard work, it’s late nights, and all for not much pay… or pretty much any industry really. It’s all about determination and focus – you know what you want, and you work towards that.
My whole career has been focussed on working in the media arena in one way or another and honing my skills to make me better each day – I keep telling people, every day is a learning day!
The last couple of years (well will be 2 years on Sunday) in Lusaka I’ve been shocked by the work ethics of most people I’ve met. People be like give me a job and let me show you want I can do. And then they show up to work late, write in text speech, they expect you to accept their shoddy work, and get surprised (and upset) when you fire them. Actually in most cases they fire themselves! Walk off set, or don’t show up at call time for no valid reason. They saunter back on set when they’re ready and expect to find a job waiting for them!
After my stint at MTV I’m used to people working like slaves to get ahead – ok it didn’t help that it was fairly obvious that there was a queue of hundreds of people waiting to take your job if you didn’t perform. But I do truly believe that fortune favors those that put in the effort for their career. And there were countless examples of the interns who rose to SVPs (senior vice presidents) at MTV, exemplifying that anything is possible.
Yet, here, just working past 7pm is a problem for people. And can’t be dedicated to one thing… I don’t know, it’s frustrating.
Again I understand it’s scary to commit to one thing, especially when there is no industry to show that it’s worth the commitment, but how do you know for sure if you don’t try?
There will be many that come, but only few will remain. And these few will be the ones that establish a real tv and entertainment media industry for the country.
Right now I have little tolerance left, and like America, I refuse to negotiate with terrorists. If it means I have to fire someone even if I don’t have a back-up person, so be it, we make an alternate plan, terrorists can’t hold us to ransom!
For me there is no going back because I don’t have the back up plan. Plan A has always been my plan, so I might fail at times, but I always have to get up and dust myself and keep it moving. I don’t quit. I might let go of things when I’ve tried every means to make it work, but I won’t quit. And I like to surround myself with the people who have the same spirit. It’s not always easy, those close to me have seen when I’ve fallen apart, frustrated, not knowing what to do, but we get up, we solider on. No one said it would be easy – and they do say anything worth having is not easy.
Maybe I do push people too hard, or expect too much, but I do truly believe that everyone can achieve greatness – or at least what they want in life. I just don’t have the patience for anyone not trying to achieve what they can, with some hardwork, focus, and determination.
In the words of my friend Believe + Achieve! (though ok you need a little bit more than believe, but you know what I mean!
I’m a bit obsessed with male circumcision (mc) now – it was an interesting conference that I attended last week by invitation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it got me speaking to a lot of men that I know about mc.
I get a lot of people tweeting me or commenting on the blog whenever I write about circumcision – it’s a really controversial subject – so I want to be clear here, I don’t have a stand on circumcision. As I’m not the one who has to have a piece of their body snipped off, I only have an interest in further the debate and understanding more so that I can be informed when talking to the men in my life.
One of the issues that someone observed in this 3 day conference was not to focus solely more communication channels, and indeed more communication programmes to educate men (and women alike) on the importance of mc, but about the quality of that content. I don’t think he meant in terms of good quality productions or visuals on posters – though this does help too, but the quality of the message – what exactly are you saying?
When I spoke to men – both circumcised and not – I asked them if they’d ever consider it, and why not if they weren’t already circumcised or if they were thinking hell no to being circumcised. Quite frankly, they never understood the point in it. If we look on the HIV prevention side, circumcision reduces your risk of infection by as much as 60% BUT you still have to use a condom. Eh? So why not save yourself the bother (and the 6 week recuperation with no sex!) and just use a condom? And in the case of a man I know who does not slip, he uses condoms like they’re going out of fashion, why would circumcision ever cross his mind?
The one guy I spoke to who voluntarily got circumcised said all the right reasons – he did it because it’s hygienic, reduces risk of STIs (including HIV), reduces the risk of cervical cancer for his partner. I was getting quite impressed that here was a guy who really responded to the messages! He then went on to say that the added bonus (his words not mine) was that acquiring a few milli-inches (hmmm and he put this out on twitter! lol) and that the fellow looks more handsome! I’m not sure how he got a few more mili-inches – I don’t know how this happened as I’m not a surgeon or anything.
Ok so MC was tooted as an effective way to reduce the spread of HIV. But problem is that, try as we might, not enough men are getting circumcised and there’s a reason for this, linked back to HIV. Despite HIV having been around for like 25+ years (isn’t it over 30 now?), there is still a huge stigma attached to it. And people at the conference were talking about how people needed a cover story to get circumcised. There were also stories about women scared that if their husband’s got circumcised, then they would most likely end up being unfaithful. Erm circumcision will make a man cheat? Honey, if your man is a cheat, he’ll cheat whether he is circumcised or not.
So the next conversation was about changing the key benefit of getting circumcised, so that’s it’s not so closely linked to HIV. Hygiene for example. It is a long-term benefit after all. It’s much easier to clean a penis without a foreskin – no pulling back to clean within! This makes sense… not that I know men who don’t clean their penis’… but you never know.
I’m not a fan of changing the key benefit, reducing your chances of getting HIV is a big benefit, realistically no one knowingly wants to get HIV. But it’s got to be a no-brianer to make sex – I’m not sure 60% is good enough. Chances are still better off with a condom. Or better still no sex at all! Ok, I know, calm down, that’s not an option for many.
I think I got lost in my thoughts again – I told you I’m fascinated by this conversation about MC… oh yes, quality of content. I think I mentioned Ram in my last post. Ram is the co-founder of Final Mile (they’re behaviour architects – love that!), and he basically talked about positioning risk and rewards. Looking at the rewards of circumcision he said, and I’ll paraphrase on the issue that mc (I must stress this is medical male circumcision as opposed to traditional circumcision) may reduce risk of infection of HIV by 60%’- to which he said for ordinary people all that means is that it’s better than 50%! Which when you think about it… what does that mean? 40% is still a big risk if you ask me…
Then other rewards (that is benefits) include can reduce risk of cervical cancer, can aide in hygiene – as discussed above. After a brief pause he read out the risks! Ok – I’ll leave that for you to google.
Basically, I think when it comes to promoting medical male circumcision, if you want more men to get circumcised we need to understand what is stoping them from moving from motivation to action, and deal with that in the messaging. Yeah that was an obvious one, I know… but you’ll be surprised how few messages deal with this, probably because programme managers can be scared of what happens when you deal with the unknown, but that’s what life is about isn’t it – sometimes we have to take a calculated risk to reap the benefits – hey that could be a circumcision slogan right there!
My first TV series since leaving MTV is about to hit Zambian screens tomorrow night. I’m feeling excited, anxious, and apprehensive about it. I am proud of the work the people involved put in to make it happen, but I don’t by any stretch believe it’s the best it could be – for many reasons.
I am fiercely critical of my work, that is true, but I do think it we’re to continue learning and improving we have to be critical of what we put out – hold a mirror to whatever we do and ask, ‘How will I do this differently next time?’
With social media it’s also means that I get to ‘hear’ the audience views on the show – what better way to get an honest opinion? But there’s also a lot of people who stroke your ego on your twitter and facebook, so those people I need to be wary of!
It’s not like I’m looking for people to tell me the negatives – not at all. But I really do see some people on twitter giving people false confidence. Misguided support could end up affecting your career in the end. I don’t want negative for the sake of being negative either, but honest feedback is always useful.
I do like the show and it definitely gets better with every episode and season 2 is just explosive! And as with all funded programmes there were some things out of our control (not that I’m making excuses), but I still think that it will help change the game for what audiences can demand to see on our local screens that are still being true to Zambian content.
Anyway, I guess we’ll see what tomorrow night brings on twitter!
The reality of working and living in Zambia is finally hitting home – big time. When I first moved back, just over a year ago, I loved the fact that I had a work-life balance – well, that I had a life altogether!
But now I realise that I might have more of a life and less of a career. Welcome to Africa they say, or my personal favourite TIA (This Is Africa). Time is anything but of the essence. You can spend days on end waiting for feedback, approvals, quotes, suppliers showing you their work, and anything else you need to actually make anything happen.
We signed a contract with a new client in January, which was supposed to end at the end of July, out of the four deliveries, we have just delivered on one thing, while we wait in vain for feedback to allow us to move forward – the downside of being consultants or an agency, you can’t move ahead without an approval to do so!
This waiting game means that you lose the momentum, and in some cases the drive to do it. My boyfriend laughed at my two hour gym sessions – saying it would be hard for me to find the time to do it during the week – but the joke’s on him. I can take 2 hours off – say lunch time to be on the safe side (as if), and still come back to find myself still waiting.
Yesterday someone remarked that working in Zambia is like being on holiday. Yes that it is. But the frustrating thing is that once they give their approval, they expect the product/service to be delivered the next day! Really?
And this is why I think it is important to run a business with products or services you control – because you’ll have the time to!
But seriously if this behaviour of slow moving work-place environments continues is it no wonder we’re lagging behind in development (when we used to be ahead)? Or that employees are unmotivated to function productively?
I am glad I can go spend hours in the gym, or wander the mall at lunch time, or not work on weekends etc but you know what they say about an idle mind (and idle hands!). Plus it breeds frustration on my part. I’m not used to not doing stuff, not using my brain, not… functioning. But now that I’m getting used to this sad reality, I’m working on using the time constructively – not just seeing what’s going on online (besides I keep finding stuff on Kim-Ye, which is just boring), or catching up on twitter and facebook, I’m using it as an opportunity to develop my own stuff – stuff that is time-dependent only on me.
No point in sitting around complaining is it? The world is our oyster and only we can determine our future and our legacy – go out and take it!
My saturday mornings pretty much start the same – the overwhelming dread of the possibility of the road traffic police at the checkpoint on the Great East Road.
At some point or another most people in Zambia dread these encounters with the road traffic police and the checkpoints. The problem isn’t only that there are too many unlicensed drivers (or drivers who lost their licences or licences got expired and never been renewed – my excuse! really it is…), but because of years of the police abusing their power to corruptly get money from motorists, people have forgotten that they are legally in the wrong too!
It makes me laugh when I hear people complain about the police harassing them, because they haven’t gotten round to getting their driver’s licence, let alone taken the test! Rarely do they stop to remember that technically, the police are right to stop and fine them. Yet it is seen as another way for the police to harass citizens and use it as an opportunity to extort money from them. Sadly, more often than not this is true.
The other day my sister and I were having a conversation about this – after a friend’s usual run in with the cops (obviously not me!) – after this friend told them that she didn’t have the money to pay the fine (she finally admitted that she didn’t have a Zambian licence – she had a European one, which they didn’t even ask to see), and they threatened to take her to the police station where the car was to be impounded and she was to be thrown in jail until someone could pay the bond. Knowing she really didn’t have cash on her and wanting to do the right thing, she asked which station would she be taken to so she could call someone to meet her at the police station with the bond money. The police officer instead told her to return later that day to the same checkpoint to pay the fine.
Sounds fishy? You could say perhaps it wasn’t worth the police officers time or paperwork to take this lady to the police station, but if procedure is procedure it should be followed, regardless. Plus does it make sense to fine an unlicensed driver or even a driver who fails to produce their driver’s license and then let them go on their merry way? Is this perhaps why Zambia has such a high level of road traffic accidents? All these unlicensed drivers who don’t know the road traffic rules driving around, could be quite dangerous.
With police officers using their position of authority to intimidate and therefore extortion people, it’s obviously why residents have little respect for the law, and see the police officers more as a nuisance than respect them for the work they have to do. Changing the head of the police department will not change this problem – does he know what’s going on at every checkpoint in the country?
Though educating people on the law would help. Do you pay your fine at the checkpoint or is it to be paid at a police station?
How do we make it easier for people to get driving licenses so that everyone who drives can get one – seriously full medicals are long! Making legal documents easier to get would help for sure i.e. in the UK you fill in a form with the necessary paperwork and mail it off, within 7 days or so you get your license – viola! And then understanding the road traffic laws would be the next obvious step.
Proper procedures, which don’t really inconvenience people would help reduce corruption I’m sure, and then police officers can focus on real and necessary duties than just harassing ordinary citizens! But knowing that you can just bribe any police officer who stops you, doesn’t really inspire anyone to become compliant or to respect the law… Just saying…
I write because it helps me express myself and how I’m feeling. Sometimes it’s easier than other times. I feel the challenge of being a Type A person – which I’ve never particularly thought of myself as being. Yes I’m fiercely ambitious and can (occasionally) be an over-achiever, and yes success (of the financial kind) is top of my list, and some people may call me a workaholic, or work obsessed, but I guess because nothing I do do I ever think is good enough, I’ve never considered myself Type A. Though coming to think of it, isn’t that the very reason why I probably am Type A? Constantly pushing myself to be better?
Anyway, my point was the last couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for me. Working in Zambia is probably not the best place to work if you have a Type A personality. The work ethics aren’t on the same point, there is not much of a go-getter attitude and really hard work isn’t actually valued or rewarded. In fact looking around – and I’d say thanks to the media (well they are the eyes and ears of the people) – there aren’t many examples of how hard work, drive, ambition and dreams can turn into success, wealth and personal growth/satisfaction. Instead we have examples of how doing the least amount of work and a poor attitude can get you by, and in some cases also succeed (though those examples are marred with potential corruption and scandal and other unworthy characteristics).
So it’s easy to understand why a company, despite how long you have worked with them, despite how much business you have thrown their way, to still treat you with disrespect and try to con you in some way or another. The attitude of ‘I don’t care if I lose your future business because I’m going to exploit you today to make a killing’. The saying a bird in hand is worth two in the bushes is totally lost on business in Zambia – from my experience that applies to both small and large businesses.
Also the limiting ourselves nature of people. When did we stop dreaming? Where is the can do mentality? Initially I found it amusing when one of our employees couldn’t say where they wanted to be in five years, then I thought that maybe it was because they didn’t want to tell us if their plan was to move on. But the more I talk to people, the more I observe people, the more I realise that loads of people don’t have a plan past today – and that’s probably to get home to some food and TV.
I have big dreams that I can’t limit just because of my gender, or my age, or the country I’m in, that’s ridiculous. From the age of 10 I started dreaming that I wanted to win an Oscar (best film and best director), I may not have that dream anymore, but I never thought because I was a girl born and living in Zambia that it wasn’t possible. My dreams may have changed, but they’re still big. And therein lies my problem.
My loyalties mean that I don’t want to leave anyone behind as I continue to move forward in my life (read career), but what happens when you feel those very people are holding you back? You feel as I do, a condition prone to Type A personalities (so I read), and that’s stress and depression. And if you dig further (ok do more google searches) you realise that depression is simply latent anger, which could be a result of frustration (that part I’m guessing).
And then it makes me think. Is it that there are no dreamers, or ambitious people in Zambia? Or did the frustration and challenges around them kill them? To be honest I can see why getting home to food and TV can be a hell of a lot easier and comforting than constantly working against the tide.
We’ll see how this chapter plays out.
I was watching an edition of Extreme Make Over: Home Edition where this kid said that after being diagnosed with Leukemia and discovering his blood type was B+ he decided to make that his life motto. In my mind I thought he was talking about the average grade you can get, and didn’t really understand it – is it my over-achieving mind that led me to that? Of course he meant your attitude in life should be positive.
I’m always inspired by people who don’t seem to let anything affect them. They always see the glass as half full and nothing else. Truth be told I pretend those people irritate me, but I guess I kind of envy them. I don’t think I’m a negative person per se but I’m definitely not one of those eternally optimistic people either. Partly, I think it’s my disposition, I’m a problem solver and very driven, I don’t see challenges as an exciting hurdle to cross but yet another problem I need to solve. I guess I drain my own personal resource by doing this and frequently feel down.
My boyfriend is one of those people that never seems to let things get him down – he says that it is what it is so there’s no point getting down about it, it resolves itself always. And I can see why he’s right. Even in our relationship he says I need to focus on the positive and not think about the small negatives (which the positives far outweigh).
Running your own business it is hard to take the negatives (or challenges) and just roll with them, because there are a lot of them that can impact the success of your business. But at the same time, constantly worrying about them doesn’t help either. Every once in awhile you need to check out of whatever you’re doing and take a step back to look at the bigger picture – so that you can remember to stay positive!
Last week I did just that by going to Livingstone with some girlfriends. I didn’t take my laptop – which was a big deal for me – and I pretty much turned off my cell phone – even scarier than not having my laptop!
The next couple of days were spent exploring the mighty victoria falls – what an amazing natural beauty and so powerful. We jumped off a gorge, a 58km drop in 3 seconds – crazy, and then did a sunset cruise to observe the wildlife along the banks of the Zambezi river while enjoying a cold beverage. It was bliss. I may have been a little too social for my own good coming back exhausted but far less stressed than when I left.
Back in Lusaka and back in the office, it occurred to me how much the energy of the management team affects the rest of the team. My positive, more relaxed demeanor also allowed the team to be more relaxed and excited about the weeks ahead, and looking at our task list, it’s important to keep this attitude up as there are long days and hard weeks on the horizon.
My boyfriend and I got to a hurdle in our relationship, one that we (ok me) discussed for hours, but also kept me awake as I thought about what to do. In the end, I decided to trust him and myself and to not make the issue bigger than it was, I decided to be positive and have a little bit of faith. Was it the right decision? Only time will tell but at least I’m feeling happy and that’s what counts.
I’m still going to join the gym though – it requires a lot of energy and will power to have a positive attitude!
I haven’t plugged the work I’m doing in Zambia in ages, so thought I’d share the HIV prevention spot my company Media 365 produced on behalf of our client UNICEF, for the Brothers For Life campaign in Zambia.
As we’ve entered the new year, I think it’s only right that I start on a note that is important to all of us, love and relationships. For this post I’m going to focus particular on love and relationships relating to the opposite sex (or same depending on your inclination), because this is something I’ve been experiencing for the last couple of months.
I can hardly believe that it’s been almost six months since I started seeing Mr Mature, as I don’t have the best track record of choosing men, I’ve had my fair share of cheaters, liars, dogs, bad boys, commitment phobes, you name the problem man, I’ve probably dated him. And I use the term dating, loosely! My longest mutually monogamous relationship probably lasted all of three months. Going in with Mr Mature, I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew it was nice to have this attractive, intelligent, successful, kind man want to be with me. However, I was also wary that he was into me purely for my young, seductive appeal – I tend to lean more towards sexy than beautiful in men’s eyes.
Months later, we’re still together and dare I say ‘in love’? But it’s definitely not without its challenges. I think while there is definite positives for dating at an older age, when you know yourself better, have more confidence, higher self-esteem etc, it does mean that you come with your own share of baggage from failed relationships, traumas, pre-conceived ideas of what a relationship should be and even a level of stubborness as you’re used to your own life, your way and nothing else.
Sometimes it’s easier to throw in the towel and keep on stepping until you find the perfect match. But then you ask yourself if such a think exists, without putting any work into it? Think about everything in life, what has come to you without you having to put any effort and work into it?
I am a big believer in communication – Mr Mature isn’t great at communicating, which is scary at times, but I think he hears me. One thing he always says to me is don’t change for me, don’t do stuff just to please me. As women, I think it’s too easy for us to compromise to please our partners, but when you are constantly compromising then you get miserable and unhappy. Relationships are a two way street, both partners have to make an effort, and while I don’t advocate in constantly banging your peeves to your partner, I do think that if something bothers or hurts you, you have to speak up about it. Sometimes your partner doesn’t even know that that’s how you’re feeling.
What I’ve found particularly difficult is divorcing my past (baggage and issues) from this relationship. It’s not that it ever crosses my mind to think that he’s unfaithful – though in Zambia, that would hardly be surprising, and even he thinks that I think he’s up to no good because of his lack of communication at times, but that’s not it at all. I think as women we tend to know our partners are cheating, we just choose to ignore it, so that isn’t the thing I worry about – plus unlike previous relationships, I never went into it thinking he would cheat!
But it’s other things, and I feel that sometimes I let my past experience determine my present. In 2012, I do want to put the baggage behind me and remember that the present is a gift and (just another cliche for effect), life is too short to be miserable. I know I have a good man, and I’m pretty sure he knows he has a good woman, will we last? Who knows, but it’s more important to love for today. You also can’t live your life being scared of another failed relationship – though it does make me laugh that he thinks my ‘independence’ is what has kept me from a deep, meaningful relationship! – I will continue to communicate and if that freaks him out or becomes too much for him, so be it, it just means we weren’t met to be. It will hurt, but it won’t kill or break me.
Love and relationships should be fun, should make you grow as a person, not make you sad, miserable and break you down. If it does, then you need to ask yourself why are you in that relationship? Remember, another person does not define who you are as a person, they might help make you a better person, but only a better person of who you already are. Love you more than you love anyone else, so that you can give healthy love to another.
Love and peace in 2012 – I wish you all the best and happiness – for all of us!