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I’m so proud of the work we’re doing right now at Media 365. It’s not easy but it is testament that if you work hard, use your resources wisely, there is no reason we can’t make quality programming in Zambia for a Zambian audience. I believe the Mulange One on One series is one those examples.
Our client CSH wanted to do a series of public service announcements to address their campaign focus areas on key drivers of HIV in Zambia, including low and inconsistent condom use, multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships, and prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. Our research showed that people were aware of all these issues they just didn’t necessarily know what to do about them, how they could reduce their risk in the face of these issues.
With Mulange we came up with the concept of ‘show me how’, so using each spot to provide practical steps that people could follow, whether it was how to ask your partner to use a condom, or how to take an HIV test.
I’m really proud of the outcome, these spots are currently airing on ZNBC (national broadcaster) and Muvi TV. You can see all of them on the Safe Love site but I wanted to share one of them with you. This one is talking to the females on how to ask their partner to use a condom, Zee, an actress from Club Risky Business and one of the leading ladies in our new drama series, is the star of this one.
Let me know what you think of it!
‘>Mulange One on One How to Ask Your Partner to Use a Condom (women)
As you probably know by now – though maybe I haven’t mentioned this before – as much as I love producing TV programming, I actually hate being on set – it all takes so long, setting up, testing sound, sorting out lights, re-takes blah blah blah. And shooting with 5Ds means you can only shoot for 12 minutes before you reset … none of this is good for a person like me who needs to be constantly doing something (i only sit still when watching tv). So I’ve been less than thrilled that because of the two major projects we’re working on, I had to step in for Freddy, my brother and creative director, on the Brothers for Life Zambia shoot.
We’re shooting the mid-campaign review documentary that tells the story of the issues the campaign addresses from the perspective of every day Zambians living these issues. So I’ve sat through an interview with Owas Mwape – a local celebrity who gained notoriety for his domestic violence saga with his wife, that the BBC made public soon after the Chris Brown-RiRi bust up. I went with the crew when Cactus interviewed Chibamba Kanyama, now DG of ZNBC and author and motivational speaker, who is passionate about the abuse of alcohol and raising young people, especially men, as productive being ins society. Then I sat in on the breakfast with the brothers – Cactus Agony, Paul Da Prince, Kangwa Chileshe and Chibamba Kanyama as they met as a group about 11 months after they were brought together as the inaugural ambassadors. It was all well and good, and somewhat interesting, but I would have preferred to be at my desk responding to emails, looking at the scripts for the drama series were working, looking at the style profiles for the cast and even editing the blogs for the Safe Love site.
Today when I was asked if I’d go to the Slim interview, I said no. I had a thousand other things to do. But I had to approve the questions before they could go. Reading the questions and seeing that Slim was going to talk about prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, I realised it could get a bit hairy and it was such a sensitive topic that I reluctantly said I’d go.
By far this was the most powerful and emotionally charged interview I’d done or seen. To be honest, I’ve been doing this HIV work for so long, it wouldn’t be untrue to say that I’m a little jaded. It all seemed the same type of story was told, and there were only two: the poor person living with HIV in the third world (sorry developing country), who has overcome so much – by being HIV+, or the person living with hiv who has no story to their name other than they live with HIV. Ok I’m being cynical, I do think that a lot of the stuff you see about people living with HIV has no depth to it, it’s almost like their whole life revolves around being HIV+, we de-humanise them in a way. But Slim, Slim was different.
If you don’t know Slim, you might have seen him on MTV’s Me, Myself and HIV – a programme I conceived with my colleague at the Staying Alive campaign, though it didn’t turn out the way I’d envisioned, it did introduce Slim to the world. And was the first time Slim came out as being HIV+, six years after he’d found out he was positive. As much as I appreciate the work that documentary did, it didn’t do justice to Slim as a person – which sometimes the visual product can do, when you can’t interact or engage with the subject. But I digress, the show told the story of a young man who was born HIV+, that would be Slim. It also told the story of Slim, the music producer and singer. The one correction I’d add to that story was Slim was not an upcoming producer, but actually was the producer behind Slap Dee’s first big hit – Gold digger. I thought that was important to mention, but then again, I’m Zambian, so I know the value of that.
Anyway, I digress! The reason we did the interview was to go more in-depth into the story of Slim being a child living with HIV, I obviously can’t give too much detail on the interview – so you can watch the show! – but Slim did bring across the pain of being so young – 15 to be exact – and diagnosed with HIV. And knowing the kind of stigma that was still around then, the loneliness of a secret of that magnitude. It touched me so deep, yes me, the jaded one. I guess because he made all of us in the room feel that emotion – I swear you could hear a pin drop in that moment (and I was with a bunch of guys too!).
Again because of my years of doing this, and realising how easy it is to exploit a person living with HIV, to get that story that you want, the ‘human angle’ etc, how we can make the virus be more than the person, I asked him if it bothered him that this is the story people keep asking him about, about his HIV status and how it is to live with the virus. ’No’, he said. ’I believe this happened to me for a reason, and I know that by sharing my story I’m giving hope and encouragement to someone, someone who might be in that dark, lonely place that I once was in.’ Ok, it might not have been quite as profound as I re-phrased it, but it was his ability to think about the good he could be doing by sharing his story that touched me.
I don’t always think that people know the power their life stories – and we all have them – can do for other people, and when someone as young (he’s 23) could be so honest and so visionary about the impact they could have on someone else, well that’s just admirable. For a lot of people it’s scary to open up and talk about something so life-changing like that, scary, embarrassing, humiliating, you name it – because most people put themselves first, instead of looking at the value in their story and it’s impact on others. Slim comes from a humble background, he’s still pushing his music career, but he’s taking his role as an HIV+ activist seriously to help other people, and simply by using his voice. That’s powerful too. You’re not going to see Slim starting an NGO, or giving up his music career to focus on telling his story, but you ask him about his life and he’ll tell you. And that’s the other thing that I admire about him. He’s doing what he loves the most – music – but he’s also willing to do his part in building our community by spreading the word about HIV.
My words can’t do justice to how I felt today, and what Slim sparked in me – which I can’t talk about yet – and I hope that we captured it on tape for you to see in the interview, but one thing is for sure, Paul Slim Banda is one of those people God sent to earth to inspire us. (Now you know how moved I was because I’m not usually that corny or sappy!)
When the show is out, I’ll let you know!
The last couple of weeks have been in crazy. First I took more or less a 24 hour journey to Seattle to attend a one and a half day meeting and now I’m wide awake at 5am in a Nairobi hotel (though I’ve been awake since 2am willing myself to go to asleep, alas at 4.30am I gave up on that).
In between I’ve been working like crazy at my own company, about to launch a new TV show that I’m really excited about, while also managing new aspects of the Shuga project in Kenya. Crazy, stressed and hectic is how my life has been recently. Needless to say I’m exhausted. But my brain won’t quit, probably the reason I’m wide awake now, as I think about the multitude of things that need to be done – rolling out the media buy for the Brothers for Life campaign in Zambia, developing the new timeline for Shuga’s new components, writing reports to clients, casting for our show, oh and did I mention we’re about to sign on two new clients in Zambia – one to be the biggest that we’ve ever had. Not to mention when I find time in my spare time, I co-manage (marketing only) one of Zambia’s hottest artists. It’s exciting stuff but not for the lazy that’s for sure.
Last weekend we were doing our first open auditions for presenters we were looking for, for a new young and hip show we’re doing. I was less than happy with the results. It made me question what is going on with ‘our youth’ of today. I remember when I was 17 I had already launched an organisation with my sister and we were planning our first edition of Trendsetters. I researched everything I needed to do before going down that path – knowing that print journalism wasn’t something I knew about, but I read magazines to find a style that worked for me and for what we were looking for for the magazine. This seemed to be a foreign concept to the people that came to the auditions.
But I don’t entirely blame them, as my friend wrote in his blog, mediocrity has long been accepted as a way of life in Zambia. While I agreed with his post, I also thought it was a cop out. As an individual you can choice not to fall into that category and certainly not to accept it – which is what I strive to do in my life. These kids that came to audition should not have looked at our national broadcasting channel and thought that was all there was to presenting. Knowing that this is a show for young people, and that we were looking for young, dynamic, full of energy type of people, they should have looked for references to imitate. At one point in the interviews, the judges, including myself, got fed up and literally told people to leave if they were going to come in with low energy and no confidence. Yeah I know that’s mean considering I can be low energy, but hey, I wasn’t auditioning!
The truth that a lot of them spoke about was the lack of opportunities for them, opportunities to nurture their talent, and while presenting might not have been their strong point, some of them could kill it with their singing! But we weren’t doing Zambia’s Got Talent. Though some did have access to DSTV to see international shows like Oprah and Tyra (not really the style we were looking for), the majority of them watch local shows, which frankly, are still in the 80s. This was their only reference point. This was a clear indication that the media in Zambia needs to switch it up, provide new ideas and inspiration to young people. Not to toot our own horns, but nothing is around to do this the way Trendsetters did.
In Kenya, I met a group of young people taking part in our Shuga Rising Stars mentorship programme. They basically get the opportunity to work with the some of the core people across the Shuga initiative from the award-winning director, to the marketing people, through to the public health partners. As I’m a strong believer in mentorships, myself being mentored by Aaqil Ahmed and having my own mentee, I thought this was an amazing opportunity for anyone on this project to be a part of. In a hard to break into industry like the media/creative field, this was an opportunity these young people couldn’t pay to be a part of it.
But after sitting with them, and I did think they were lovely, I just didn’t get the sense they understood the magnitude of what they were a part of. Sure, they recognized they got some great contacts and learnt some new skills, but I wasn’t sure if they could see how it could fit into the big picture of where they were trying to go. OK, me and my I’ll give you my advice even if you didn’t ask for it self did share my thoughts on how they could really own this opportunity and make it work for them. Though, after our one hour talk and I asked them if they had any questions – again, not to be more than who I am, but I’ve also been in the game awhile, not everyone has access to my knowledge (did that really come out as conceited as I think? Insert smiley face) – I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have any questions. I’m not one to give up on young people who are determined to make it in their careers, so shared my contacts for them to reach out to me whenever they wanted to. I don’t see why everyone has to go through the hard work unnecessarily, if someone can help you out, that’s why I believe in giving back, each generation has to do better than the one before right? I do believe that, but I’m not getting much hope of that with the young people I’ve met in my six odd months in Africa so far.
I won’t give up on them, without seeing what role I can play – like everyone else – to continue to develop Africa and nurture great talent coming out of the continent. I hope the work I do in Kenya and Zambia will impact them and see new directors, writers, marketers and more coming out of the continent, along with our more traditional career options of educators, doctors, lawyers etc.
I’ve been up for more hours than I’d like to think of and my alarm just went off, so I may as well get up, hit the gym and watch the sun rise over the city of Nairobi.
Until next time.
Stuck at home, terrible cough (ok and I’m broke – since it’s started pouring down with rain, I’m definitely happy to be home). But this is a good thing because it’s been awhile since I just chilled – on my own. And I can catch up on my university reading – management by Boddy.
It’s been an interesting week, two of my friends have had great successes with their entrepreneurial skills; Octavia’s blog, the TwentyTenClub has been shortlisted in the Best Business blog for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards. And my other girl, Susan has had her independent production commissioned (can’t say more than that because it’s top secret), and this happened after she’s got back from a freelance gig in Nigeria with MTV base. (Slight digression: can’t believe MTV base is geo-blocked!). So good look for both of them and I’m very proud of their achievements.
Today, my former driving instructor came over to collect his last cheque. After being let go by his company for some silliness, he’s literally started his own company doing confidential courier services. He didn’t sit around wondering what to do, he just go on with it. So impressive.
I’m sitting here, thinking about reading my book and bearing in mind that I also have the Gates report to do (yikes!), and people are getting the best out of their lives. I just feel demotivated because I’ve been doing what I do well for so long, that I no longer know what I want to do with my life.
I’m obviously very passionate about what I do, a cause I believe strongly in, but is there not more to my life? How do we find the challenge in our lives?
Aaah then I also have my girlfriends giving me dating advice. Why do people put so much pressure on you to figure out what you’re doing? I’m quite content with where I am right now – or I’m too busy thinking about my career and my dissertation. I just don’t need the additional pressure to think about whether or not I’m in a relationship – is it really important?
So here I am, on a saturday afternoon, having that eternal debate with myself; what is the purpose of my life?
And also feeling sorry for myself every time I go onto twitter and see I still only have 25 followers – boohoo. Though I am enjoying it. I’d spent so long slagging off the people in the office for being on twitter – ‘isn’t it just for narcissistic people?’ – but I’m loving it. And following the right people, I’m actually learning a lot.
I think my tweets will get so much more interesting once we go into production. I could tweet about this year’s World AIDS Day programme because I’m actually quite excited, yet anxious about it. Done right, it’s going to be great.
Well I think I might take a nap, or maybe mediate for a bit – need to clear my mind – though if I meditate, I’m more likely to fall asleep!
Oh but before I forget, have to congratulate Media 365 for having Club Risky Business shortlisted for an AfriComNet Award for Strategic Communication in Health for Africa. Gutted that we nominated Shuga in the same category but weren’t shortlisted, I’m still very proud of my siblings. Please check out the newly launched site too: http://www.media365.co.zm