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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!

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I have to admit I am really pleased with the response Love Games has received. It’s been an overwhelming success, and I do believe it’s genuine praise we’ve been receiving.

This has been the first real long form (ok ignore documentaries) that I’ve done since wrapping Shuga: Love, Sex, Money last year, and I’m glad that Zambia has something it too can be proud of. As much as I’m proud to have my name associated with the product, I think it’s important to keep reminding ourselves that our success and our failures, are all our successes and failures as we try to develop our country to the great country it can be. Why should it only be football (ehem) we can hold our heads high for being the champions of Africa – a title we will retain in the upcoming Afcon games! Why can’t we showcase our talents and accomplishments in the arts too? With Love Games we wanted to showcase young acting talent, but also our fashion and our music, and combine our traditions with modernism for a young audience to watch and discuss. And I think we’re doing it.

Love Games, for me, is just a start to what our TV and film industry can be and with more support it can grow to compete on a global level – it’s time that our stories our told too!

Watch Love Games here and let me know what you think of it!

Love Games Episode 1 from Media365 on Vimeo.

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.

love games flyer

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!

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.

 

Paul Da Prince, Slim, Kangwa Chileshe, Cactus Agony

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!

I absolutely love the theme song for Shuga: Love, Sex, Money by some of Africa’s biggest talent – Banky W, Wiz Kid, L-Tido and Bon-eye – a great collaboration from West, South, and East Africa (sweet! – and i never say that!). And directed by supremo music video director of the moment, Clarence Peters.

I was on the set for the last few scenes so I’m so excited to see the end product that finally premiered on MTV – super excited! Watch it and let me know what you think!

Shuga: Love, Sex, Money Official Music Video from mtv staying alive on Vimeo.

I was shocked the other day when a client said that we couldn’t use a particular word in our communications campaign because they thought it was offensive – not that the intended audience would find it offensive, but people in their office would.

As if that wasn’t enough to annoy me, another client called me into their office for me to assure them that we would deliver a creative product for their campaign.  This in itself doesn’t seem bad (though as a creative agency, it’s a bit offensive to be asked if you know how to deliver a creative product), but later that same day, I saw some other products they produced with another agency which was truly atrocious!  And then my fear set in, if that’s what they thought was creative, would they approve the products we’re producing?  

I also got into a little bit of a twitter rage when someone I follow retweeted something someone they follow (I assume) that basically said promotion of condoms promoted promiscuity and that’s why HIV is still spreading.  I obviously said what a joke that statement was and the response that I got was that sex before marriage is dirty and immoral.  Yep in 2012 someone said that to me.  My response was demonizing sex is what is the problem and encouraging the spread of HIV, if you have a positive towards sex, you’re more likely to talk about it and know your options to keep your safe right?  Nope, instead I was met with the morality police – when I mentioned that multiple sexual relationships, especially in marriage is a huge driving factor, there was no real response from the morality police.  I guess marriage is too sacred to poo poo on.

I have been working in this industry for a long time, which is probably why my tolerance levels are getting to an all time low.  I think not being completely honest and giving people the correct information in the language they understand is doing a disservice.  But I guess the scary reality is that if the HIV crisis was solved today, too many people would be out of a job right?

This is one of the reasons that I want my company to focus on producing our own campaigns (kind of like the same reason why I think developing nations need to stop taking aid with strings attached) is so that we can control the messages we want to put out and deliver it in the way we know will work – because we are more of the audience than the clients are.

As far as I’m concerned a radical and different approach is needed, and it’s time that we’re all honest.  This is why I’m so excited for That Shuga Moment show to air where a bunch of young people talk openly about issues such as transactional sex (some believing it’s ok if it’s for an investment benefit – i.e. college degree), or women carrying condoms (women saying honestly they don’t because they don’t want the promiscuous label attached to them) and so many things that public health people would prefer people don’t talk about.

I really hope that this new campaign we’re working on will give us that creative and editorial freedom, and hopefully we’ll see some impact – watch this space….

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.

*I refer to programme managers, meaning public health professionals

Sometimes I feel stuck in the middle. I sort of fell into what I do because I felt we (young people, my sisters etc) could make a difference in the lives of other young people – specifically young women who were getting pregnant and kicked out of school – that archaic rule that said pregnant girls could not stay in school (despite only having sex ed in the 12th grade!). So my sisters and I coupled that desire to help educate our peers with our passion for writing – or perhaps we’d watched too much Press Gang! – and formed Youth Media, soon followed up by our first publication Trendsetters.

Soon after I learnt about the enter-educate approach – using entertainment to educate your audience. It makes sense – who doesn’t love watching an entertaining programme, or reading an interesting magazine, if you can use those channels to educate people then even better. And when you think about it, they’ve been doing this for years! I learnt a lot of what I know from TV! Law and Order has taught me loads about the legal system (even if not all of it is relevant to Zambia, but you’d be surprised how much is).

Trendsetters was set up in that way. It was a magazine that appealed to young people, dealt with their issues, but also weaved in sexual and reproductive health messages into the different articles. But it wasn’t that simple, there were other factors that made young people make the risky decisions they were making. Yes education was a large part of it, but like all people, young people take many emotional, physical, spiritual and other considerations when making a decision. A huge part that we found played a roll in the harmful decisions young people made was the lack of self-esteem. The mission of Trendsetters became to empower young people to become responsible citizens that made healthy decisions in all aspects of their life.

Trendsetters became a definitive guide for being a young person in Zambia. Since we stopped publishing it (for reasons not worth mentioning here), there has been no publication that has met the needs of young people.

I eventually moved on to work for MTV – creating TV programmes to reach young people globally with HIV prevention messages. In my eight years there we produced a TV film, a couple of drama series, talk shows, documentaries, forums etc.

It was amazing to work with some of the most creative and talented people in the world. I loved every minute of it and learnt so much from them. But what frustrated me, and to some extent the creatives as well, was the clients thinking they were the creatives and telling the producers, directors, writers etc how to do their jobs.

Funnily enough, it never happened the other way. The creatives were pretty grounded with knowing they knew what they knew but were in no way experts at developing an HIV project for young people in rural towns (as an example). I soon realised that I needed to take the middleman role – understanding both sides of the coin – unfortunately it did mean I had to sacrifice what I thought was my passion and instead manage relationships and expectations.

It does get a bit frustrating. On one hand, I do understand why the HIV programme managers wanted to ensure that all the messages were delivered correctly, there has been enough examples of mass media gone wrong. But it also kind of disrespects the creatives. They need to be left alone to do their craft and what they’re good at – creating TV programs to appeal to audiences and keep them engaged and tuned in regularly.

If you put too much of the social good stuff to a script and lose the drama, no one wants to watch a pro-social drama series. But give me ER, Law and Order, Girlfriends, Grey’s Anatomy – all popular shows that have managed to weave in social health messages. It’s about finding the balance. What I’ve seen that works is creating the stories first and then slotting in the sexual health messages. Because let’s face it, sexual health is very much a part of our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not.

There is a place for the SRH programme managers and that’s as consultants. But they are not yet producers, scriptwriters or directors, so should give those experts the opportunity to do what they do, after all, they wouldn’t like it if someone less qualified that them told them what to do would they?

Until then the middlemen like myself will continue to exist, people who understand both sides of the table and ensure everyone gets what they need without frustrating the other. Or there is another way.

At Media 365 we have a process we follow to try to avoid these problems – called Blueprint 365. This is the process we follow to ensure that we know exactly what the clients what before we go and produce anything and based on what the clients tell us – so even as clients, they really need to know what they’re trying to achieve – and we develop it the best way we know how. This is why I believe in starting with the end in mind. What is it that you’re trying to do? You keep asking yourself this question at every stage of the project or programme development to make sure it’s all tying in to the end goal. The inception report that we develop outlines exactly what the key messages are, and what the process is for developing storylines, characters etc. Once these processes are signed off, we can go ahead and create the programme, giving the clients milestone moments for approval – but they also know they only have a certain number of times for feedback or they are charged for additional hours and of course we no longer guarantee the deadline will be met. The reality is that when you don’t plan properly, it is easy to change the goalposts and ultimately someone has to pay for that.

Another organisation that I admire and who definitely keeps the creatives and the programme managers separate is Hollywood Health and Society. They get all the information they need from the programme managers, or might even get in the programme managers to debrief the script writers of some of Hollywood’s biggest shows – like the ones I mentioned above – once the brief is over, the scriptwriters do their thing. The result of the debrief is only seen when the show airs. Of course this is slightly different because the development agency puts no money into the production of the show, when they are paying the production costs they do want to ensure it delivers on all the messages they paid for. But if you remember what I said in the beginning, it’s not that simple. The issues as well as humans, are much more complex than what can be told in a 44 minute programme.

Seeing the holistic picture is much more important. There is only so much a TV show is going to do, and then what? This is really where the programme managers expertise should be focused on. How do we ensure that the information learned from the TV show translates into action? What are the services to support this? If we’re telling people to get tested, where can they get tested? Are the service providers aware that there is a campaign that will push them to get tested? Is there a mechanism for the audience to find more information etc. These are not questions or issues that the scriptwriter or producer will concern themselves with – they are focussed on creating an compelling story that will make the audience think and hopefully reconsider preconceived notions. But programme managers should be thinking about these additional elements if they want their programme to be successful – and not whether the adults (who aren’t even the target audience) think that a love scene is too sexy and if a character could give a (unnatural) public service announcement in their script!

There is a way programme managers and creatives can work together in harmony and that’s by respecting each others roles and working together on the big picture. I look forward to hopefully seeing this work in 2012!

Today the world commemorates World AIDS Day, as we remember the people we have lost to this epidemic, and reflect and take in lessons learnt to figure out where we go to from here to get to zero – zero new infections, zero deaths as a result of AIDS.

The biggest prevention message is ‘use a condom’, and it has been since the beginning of the epidemic – bar a few years when the US pushed the abstinence message big time. But 30 years later, that message still isn’t really being picked up on, many people are still not wearing condoms.

I was having a conversation with my significant other, and one of my girlfriends (not at the same time), when I was analyzing why people don’t like to use condoms despite knowing the dangers of unprotected sex. There are probably many reasons why people don’t use condoms, but what I was interested in was the emotional side of it. When you’re in a relationship you don’t want to use condoms because one of the condom messages that does stick in our minds is that condoms can prevent diseases.

So when you’re in a relationship, you wonder if you’re using condoms does that mean that you’re not special? Does the person not trust you? Or what is he/she hiding that they insist on condom use?

This is obviously the emotional side of your brain asking these questions because the rational one knows that actually, it’s a really responsible thing to do. Yeah you can get tested, but as I’ve seen in my last few months in Zambia, it’s easy to have other relationships outside of your main relationship and that’s acceptable. So you may be chilling thinking you’re all good and your man or woman only ‘eats’ at home, not knowing, or not wanting to believe that there is a side dish out there.

Recently I heard about a couple who were both cheating, yet when the wife found out her husband was in a long-term relationship with someone else, she was outraged saying how she needed to take an HIV test. I didn’t want to point out that she too had been playing outside the marital bed, and in fact almost thought she was pregnant – meaning she was not using condoms, so really she had put her husband at as much risk as he’d put her at.

I think when people are doing these prevention messages they really need to think about the audience and how they are receiving those messages. The condom message as is is fine for casual sex, or a regular sex partner, but when you’re in a steady relationship, it needs to address the emotional side of using a condom too.

I feel we need to turn condoms from being a ‘dirty’ thing to something that isn’t shrouded in distrust but to something that gives you peace of mind, which equals more pleasurable sex. Maybe messages should focus on your partner’s other sexual partners, we’ve all dated partners who have dated questionable people, if you think you are indirectly sleeping with that person when you don’t use a condom, maybe it’ll make you think twice about not using one!

It does mean that other than making generic ads on condom use, you have to really segment your audience and address their emotional, financial, and physical needs. It does mean that people have to invest more dollars into mass media prevention campaigns. But isn’t that how you will achieve impact at scale? It makes me laugh how so many development agencies want to be ‘like the cool brands’ and launch a ‘brand’ or copy a technique used by popular brands, but ignore the fact that these so-called cool brands spend a hell of a lot of money on their R&D and more importantly, their advertising campaigns. If an HIV prevention campaign had half the advertising budget of say Apple of Coca Cola and left it to the experienced ad agencies to develop the campaign for them (that’s another pet gripe, for another blog post), I’m sure they would get some traction. But thinking that you can run a mass media campaign for a year to reach millions of people and throw less than even a $100k is a bit of a joke if you ask me. But now I’m digressing to my other blog post (for another time).

Another message that I think has not helped is the get tested message, certainly in Zambia. I sat through a message design meeting – if that’s the right word – for one of our clients as they asked us to develop a spot for them that would get people to go for an HIV test. I innocently asked, ‘why should people get tested?’ – It’s common in putting across a message to communicate the benefits of the action you want people to take. However, I was met with a look of disbelief, like what’d I’d said was either sacrilegious or the stupidest thing they’d ever heard. To be their answer was what was shocking, ‘because research shows that if you go on treatment early you can have a longer life’ or something like that – basically, they meant that because when you tested positive you could access treatment and care. Which is obviously great and useful information to know, but if someone told me that if I was personally asking why I should go to get tested, then I’d immediately assume that to take a test means finding out you’re HIV positive.

Unfortunately that is how the message has been communicated for too long. People forget that there are more people who are not infected than they are infected. Knowing your status should be about taking control of your life.

That’s another interesting debate as my brother, and creative director at Media 365, says that that is also a problem message in itself because a lot of people in Zambia don’t actually believe they can take control of their life. Again that’s another blog post, I won’t digress.

My point is we need to do the remix on some of these messages, or at least upgrade them to reflect the realities on the ground, understand how they are perceived and look at people’s motivating factors to adopt these safe behaviours and then flood the market with them. These are my thoughts today when we ask, why 30 years after the first case of HIV, still an overwhelming 2.7million people were newly infected in 2010.

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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