The last week has been really exciting for me because we’ve been working on a new exciting project. It brought up old memories of working on Trendsetters, and those good, old days! But it also brought up discussions about the state of young people in Zambia today. Something I see in my own nieces and nephews that worries me.

I remember when I was a young person (well, obviously I mean when I was younger) living in Lusaka, I saw things around me that moved me. Things that I thought weren’t fair or right and that I could do something about it. I remember when we marched for peace – there was a handful of us, maybe 20 odd people, if that, but we marched anyway, can’t remember the circumstances but I remember marching to what is now Memorial Park, with our little banner and our blue ribbons for peace!

Soon after, at the young age of 17, my sisters and I (through our then non-governmental organisation Youth Media), with some other people (slightly older) started Zambia’s first magazine for young people – Trendsetters. We dubbed Trendsetters as the definitive guide for being young in Zambia. The premise of the magazine was to address the issues that was critical for the development of us young people, to be healthy, responsible and contribute to the development of our nation. The core theme was on HIV and AIDS, as the country, indeed the whole continent, at the time was ‘burning’ as it were, with the spread of HIV, the silence around it and the high levels of infections, and little or no treatment available for those infected.

Six month after it was launched it won an award from the Population Council, for Best Team Reporting Effort – an award previously won by CNN. Chuffed we were indeed. Trendsetters went on to have spin off products such as Trendsetters School, for a younger in-school audience, and Trendsetters Radio. Youth Media also launched another initiative called Children’s Press Bureau – an initiative that trained children to be journalists and got them working alongside trained journalists in the national media, it was an adaptation of an initiative already being done by Save the Children. After 10 years in existence Youth Media shut down – there are rumours abound about what happened, and soon we shall reveal the truth but until then…

Five siblings in total worked at Youth Media at one time or another. I guess our love of media, behaviour change, social change (if you will), was firmly cemented and that’s how four of us went on to set up Media 365.

And now I look around at the young people I know, including my nieces and nephews, and not only do they not really care about what is going on around them, but they all aspire to be models, actors, rappers, or something else that they think will get them rich quick. When will someone tell kids that those successful people in the entertainment industry really are the minority?

At the same time, I wouldn’t mind them wanting to be all this and more, if I thought they were truly passionate about it. But they never read – it’s escaped my nephew that one thing that stands out about the great rappers is their skills with words – they don’t watch classics, my other niece thinks watching Nollywood will hone her craft. Sigh. The other day my other niece decided she wanted to be a gospel rapper, ‘oh like Kirk Franklin?’ I questioned her. Her response, ‘Who?’. Oh my.

We live on a farm, off a long dusty road, and the current temperature in Lusaka is about 37 degrees, while the kids were on holiday, I tried to spark an entrepenuerial spirit in them – well they weren’t reading so I figured they could do a side hustle. I suggested they make flavoured ice lollies to sell to people on the road. Nope, they weren’t having it, the profit margins were too small they said.

Two of my nephews are amazingly talented when it comes to drawing, so I suggested they create the label for my parent’s (their grandparents) diary business. Nope, they can’t be arsed to do that either.

After dinner, dad has recently being sharing early independence day stories – this is really stuff that insiders know, dad served in some pretty high positions during those days – you can’t get the kids to get away from the table any faster. They’d rather watch the latest videos on MTV.

I use my family as an example, but I tend to find a lot of young people here to be like that. It’s amazing that it was young people that forced a change of government in Zambia – hmmm wonder if the song Donchi Kubeba really was the driving force. Kids just wanted to party!

Ok, it was probably more my generation of young people than the 18-25 (I think I have the generation definition right) who led that ‘revolution’ but those 23 and under, sheesh! I don’t know. So I really hope this new project we’re working on will help to inspire these kids and show them that they can be anything they want to be but it requires hardwork and education – not necessarily the formal kind. I’m really excited about it and give the Creative Director – my brother – a tight timeline to deliver on! Well time waits for no man!

In the meantime, do Like the Trendsetters page on facebook. Thank you! Oh yeah and my title of this post is slightly misleading isn’t it?

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