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So this happened. I was asked to speak on a career panel for Peace Corp Zamba’s first urban-based Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), which is a worldwide ignition to foster the global movement of gender equality and youth empowerment. This particular Camp GLOW was for 30 high achieving secondary school girls from compounds in Lusaka. I was supposed to talk to these young women (aged 15-17) about what my job is, benefits, challenges etc but also give them some career/life advice.

As you’re probably aware by now, empowering young girls and women gives me life. I find it so important, not only because of the empowering and inspirational women I know, but because I think it’s hard being a girl, those of us who have made it through to womanhood owe it to our younger selves and those coming up behind us, to light the way for them. So I was more than happy to attend.

No validation needed

The event was kind of like a speed dating session. I sat and every 5 minutes a group of 6 young girls came to sit with me and ask me questions. The problem (or the good thing for them) was that most of these girls already knew they wanted to be doctors or accountants. Funny how things haven’t changed in the last 50 or so years.

To be honest, they weren’t at all interested in what I did – ok one was – and they kept calling me a journalist, sigh. But I didn’t lose my temper with them – I have no problem with journalists, I may have been trained as one, but I’m not a journalist. Frustrated by the inability to ask me questions that challenged me – yes, I know, I was there for them, not for myself but I figured if I had to answer one more time what challenges I face in my work I was going to walk out of the room! – so instead I opened it up for them to ask me any question that interested them, not necessarily about my career. The young girl next to me was eager to ask ‘Why are you not married?

The question floored me.

I’m not used to people asking me why I’m not married – except for the men trying to hit on me. And I paused for a second. The truth? I told her.

In my twenties I was focused on my career, I never thought about marriage. Maybe this had to do with my father insisting I didn’t date while in secondary/high school so that I didn’t lose sight of my goals. Or it could just have been that deep down I knew that if I got into a serious relationship, I might be forced to compromise on my goals and dreams.

Now that I’m realizing my dreams, I think it’s more I simply haven’t found the right man – certainly not one that has asked the question, and I’m not the type of woman who’d ask a man.

And that’s how the day ended; me, uninspired by the young girls because of their lack of energy. But I don’t entirely blame them. There were some pretty amazing and inspiring women on the panel, powerful and super successful some of them were. But I don’t think the young girls truly understood the magnitude of these women so didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity they had to meet one on one with these women (myself included if I have to be honest).

Anyway, I tweeted my thoughts on the session and ended with the question the young girl asked me – I honestly thought it was amusing. When I read all the replies to that tweet, I was a little shocked, maybe even a bit disappointed that I had caused such a reaction. A lot of people, mainly women, thought it was sad that this girl trumped all questions to ask about marriage.

It got me thinking, why do we think it’s so wrong for women to want to get married above everything else? Does marriage, and aspiring to get married make you less of a woman? Did the feminist movement and now the girls’ empowerment movement get out of sync?

Perhaps I misunderstood it, but I thought the point of the feminist movement was to allow women to have choices to be what they wanted to be and to do what they wanted to do, freedom from judgment. And now, us women want to judge another woman for wanting to choose marriage over a high-powered career? If she’s getting an education and then chooses to get married is that so wrong?

What if her husband is a good match for her who supports her to be a better person than she is now, and if her partner is helping her reach those career goals, should she want to pursue them?

Empowered and married

Does being empowered mean you have to shun marriage and be a #BOSS only? We should be teaching young girls that marriage is an option, but one of many options and all are ok, as long as it makes them happy. I think that’s the most important thing – being happy, by your choices you make, not choices forced on you. It’s like now being empowered is making it difficult to just be a girl and be happy and like pink, and like cooking, and all the things that used to be gender specific to a girl. Now you’re the cool, empowered role model if you’re an engineer or a geek or something that used to be male dominated.

I remember one of the last words of advice a few of the women on the panel gave was ‘don’t be one of those women who just wants to look for a rich man to take care of her and buy her Brazilian weaves’. I didn’t say anything but thought to myself, ‘yes, make your own money so that you can look for a rich man to partner with you so you can both be doubly rich and buy Peruvian hair because who still wears Brazilian hair anyway?’ LOL. (sidebar:  money really isn’t that important ehem)

Serious talk though, must we be the women to judge the other woman? They are some women that I can judge (don’t get upset that people call you a ‘ho if you behave like a ‘ho), but these are girls getting ready to go into the world, there’s so much they are already going to be judged for, why should we add to that stress?

At the end of the day, like I told the girls, no matter what they choose to do, they are queens and no one can take that away from them, as long as they remember it and embrace it.

Happy New Year!  It’s almost the end of January but I feel we can still celebrate the new year.

Red-Roses

I had made a conscious decision to blog more this year, and then struggled to decide what to blog about.  I find blogging is cathartic for me.  But I also want it to be useful for people who take the time to read it and not find it just being about me, me, me.  I also want it to be meaningful.  There is no point of complaining and doing nothing about what gripes you.

The struggle of what to write ended when I listened into a radio interview with opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema (last week now).  HH, as he is popularly known as, did overwhelmingly well in the just ended presidential by-election, but he is going hard on how he was cheated by ‘known’ people at the electoral commission.

I don’t think that it’s impossible that there was election misconduct, but I think we choose what we need to focus on.  I think for the allegations to hold any water, HH needs to take this case through the courts of law – though they might be corrupt too right?  The point is don’t complain without doing anything about it.

But more than that for me was really a concern of how bitter he sounded about losing – and he lost by 2%!  How can he not be proud or grateful of that considering that it was the same electoral roll as 2011 and that only 37% of people voted!

It made me think of the mindset of a lot of Zambians I have encountered over the last 4 years.  Generally speaking they come across as negative people, the ones who see the glass as half empty ALL the time.  And they are anything but supportive, especially of other’s success.

It makes me think of the role that our leaders play, especially our political leaders and how that influences our way of thinking and behaviour.

When I speak to my friends and other enlightened people we all speak in amazement of how well HH did in this campaign.  The reality is when you count all the numbers there were more people who wanted PF out than wanted them in.  BUT there are some fundamental issues that HH has to overcome, but let me not get side tracked, that’s not my point here.

HH can’t seem to appreciate the success he gained, and I think he should be focusing on how well they ran the race, and that there is still work to be done and that that’s what we need to focus on.  Don’t be a sore loser.  Show what true character and leadership is about, you don’t stop to complain and moan, we roll with the punches and keep moving.  Roll up your sleeves and get back to work.

We’ve all been there, feel like something is unfair, and we want to cry about it – and we do, just in the privacy of our homes, but to the world we put a strong confident front.  I would have respected him more if he’d done that – and if he’d shown up at the inauguration.  It shows strength of character, maturity and integrity.

So if a person who is standing to run this nation is bitter and negative, how will I, the person on the street know to be any different?

I’m not negating our own responsibility, or that of parents to teach us to have a positive, appreciative, supportive outlook on life, I’m just saying it’s hard to fight against the grain.  Having leaders that perpetrate the negative cycle is a problem for me.

Leadership is not only limited to politicians, or people with power, money etc, it’s within all of us to be a leader;   A leader in your community, in your school, in your household.  Character building is so important for that leadership role.

I try not to steep down to the negativity, but sometimes you do get caught up in it, I try really hard not to surround myself with negativity – and what I define as negativity is complaining, lazy, can’t do attitude, unsupportive and the world owes me a favour types.  I find it draining and all consuming, almost to the point of inaction to progress.

As a type A person I don’t deal with failure very well – my personal failure that is, and as a type A overachiever, I have very high standards for myself.  But I always remember my sister saying to me – ‘Don’t forget to smell the roses’.  At the time I thought it was such random advice – of all things she could have told me as my older, wiser sister!  But it has been among the best advise I have ever received.

When you smell the roses you are grateful, you are happy, and you are at peace.  In that state, you can achieve pretty much anything you want – or at least find the strength to deal with the tough times.  You learn that to fail is to learn.  It builds character and resilience (“What is resilience: Once you have been through hardships, grievances and disappointments, only then will you understand what is resilience.” – Jack Ma).

End of last year (and beginning of 2015 too) I felt so out of control, so many emotions as a result of not feeling that I’d met half my goals, and slightly (if I have to be honest) envious of my amazing sister-friends and their achievements.  I felt my life was not how I’d envisioned it.  I wasn’t smelling the roses.  I got down on my knees, prayed for guidance and I let go of the negative feelings to focus more on the roses and the blank page 2015 provided.  I now feel happier, have some clarity, and I’m excited for what the year has in store.

I think all of us need to take up our personal leadership role (while still holding our political leaders accountable) and question the characters we want to surround ourselves with, as well as those of our leaders.

And smell the roses every day!

The other day I swelled with pride when a trusted and respected associate of mine mentioned the name of someone who had once worked with Youth Media (a not for profit we founded long time before Media 365). It’s always so rewarding to have others talk fondly and with equal respect for someone you helped shape. I guess this is how mentors feel about their mentees.

20110626_leadership-begins-with-stewardship_poster_img

A few days later, I had another entrepreneur I know well visit us – we like having like-minded people come to the office where we engage in conversation for hours (I try to keep these visits to Saturdays for obvious reasons!), and we spoke about the role of stewardship in our respective businesses.

The principle of stewardship is very much linked to Christian teachings (if you google it). But in general it really is about shepherding and safe guarding something that is valuable. One of the things we set out to do from the very beginning – when we were still a not for profit, non-governmental organisation – was to bring up young people as we came up, being that they really are the most valuable thing in your organisation. It wasn’t just about paying it forward, but it was about empowering others to help them achieve their potential. We didn’t just want them to compete, but to truly stand out in the market.

This could be another reason I’m so passionate about mentorship. It’s not enough to be the best that you can be, you have to help bring up those coming behind you. I know some people are scared of that approach, scared if you teach people what you know, then you become redundant and they can take your job, your career etc. But to us that is a myopic view. If anything it helps better the environment we operate it. If you have a lot of like minded people, able to work efficiently, and professionally, with relatively similar skill and ambitions, ethics and other quality attribute, isn’t that just the greatest environment to operate in?

stewardship

I think it also speaks to our own beginnings. The people who believed in us and were willing to teach us what they knew to up our skills and make us compete competitively and on a broader platform than the Zambian landscape helped instill that value in us too. And that’s what we always strive to do with our own staff and the younger people we come into contact with, make them better today to compete tomorrow. And it’s deeply rewarding as I said before. I think that’s what can be said about all aspects of giving back, because it’s not just about you (though it is kind of selfish to want to have that rewarding feeling… maybe in a small way it is about you!), but a social initiative.

This is one of the ways our business will always differentiate. And it is my hope that the people who have worked with us, whether at Youth Media or at Media 365 will take that principle of stewardship into their own careers and professional environments as well. Some of Zambia’s brightest (in my opinion) and recognized young people cut their teeth with us, and it’s great to see them succeeding and really making their mark. Allow me to highlight a few:

Kachepa Mtumbi who owns and runs KPR Consulting. It is one of the few PR agencies in Zambia and his client base boasts one of the biggest brands in the world, Samsung. He is not only one to watch but giving the other more established PR companies a run for their money!

zedhair-show-lusaka-zambia-Masuka-ZedHair-managing-editor

Masuka Mutenda is an accomplished communications specialist working with international organisations making a difference in Zambian people’s lives across the country. She also founded Zedhair a business targeted at the ever growing natural hair industry, a space few (if any) operate in.

Masuzyo Matwali not only does multimedia designs for all sorts of businesses and recording artists alike, he also runs his own design studio, Graphic 404, and is probably one of the most talented designers in Zambia right now.

corporate-heelz-cover

Janice Matwi now the Brand and Communications Manager at Airtel, also founder of Corporate Heelz, a business that aims to inspire and motivate career focussed women to achieve their potential.

Muchemwa Sichone (I knew him as Robert!) now runs his own company, Global Link Communications. They can be credited with various of communications work, not least the simplified (i.e. people friendly) version of the draft constitution.

mag44
Magg44 – not so much from Youth Media days (he’s probably too young :)) but from our early start with Media 365 he did some great score and sound engineering with us and just to see him, as an artist, and his business with IM Studios really flourish is also inspiring.

I could do a laundry list of all the people that came up the ranks at Youth Media/Media 365 and continue to inspire me with their personal and professional success but there are too many to mention – some who were here when I wasn’t, but are spoken of fondly by my other co-directors.

But just the few examples I’ve given above really speak to the importance of stewardship, mentorship, and investing in young people – when they are still young too. That’s one reason we will not stop.

Just recently we had a young guy who came to us as an intern, more or less straight out of high school. He left after two years as a competent video editor, with skills in sound and lighting techniques.

I see businesses today scared to invest in their staff, worrying (as is the norm in Zambia, where loyalty is such a coveted asset) that their staff will leave to work with their competitors or start out on their own, taking their client base, which are all real possibilities. The principle of stewardship is not just about training on hard skills but advising and mentoring with soft skills and advise. And that is far worth more than worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future!

Anyway, this is something I’m passionate about so I could speak about it for ages, so I’ll stop here and hope it gives you pause to think about how you can apply stewardship into your own life.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear India launch-1

Last month, or maybe it was the month before, I was lucky enough to be given the Samsung Note and Gear to test for a 10 day period by KPR Consulting.

This seemed like an exciting opportunity, I mean who wouldn’t want to test out a phone that costs like K6,000 (circa $1,000) before committing to it?

The packaging was bliss. It seems silly to get excited by packaging but definitely in Zambia, retailers underestimate the value of packaging. I remember when I bought my Beats by Dre earphones, it was the packaging that spoke to me – it was a hell of a lot of packaging for the small dinky thing, but it made it all that more special, more treasured.

So this box that looked like an actual wooden box was pleasantly starring at me, I couldn’t wait to open it and marvel at the beauty that was to be contained within it. With that packaging, it had to be a beauty inside right?

And it was. Ok I’m getting my head round the fact that we’re doing a 180 (or is it 360?) and we’re moving away from the smallest phone ever to these big things again that don’t fit so nicely into my evening clutch. But how else can you take great selfies if not on a nice big screen?

I was excited to try it out. Just a few problems occurred. I didn’t have a micro sim (being a blackberry die hard) and all my contacts were on my blackberry (I had yet to discover intouch – thank you to my geeky bestie for telling me about that great app!).

So my user experience with the phone was limited, there simply weren’t enough hours in the day for me to go and get a micro sim. So I sent my driver, but then I couldn’t inserted it properly… sigh. But finally I focused and went to Manda Hill myself and had it properly inserted!

Still after that, I didn’t find myself using it. There was the odd occasion that I left my blackberry in the office – very strange for me – so then I got to use the Samsung and that was pretty cool – people thought I was pretty cool too for having one. It seems our phones are still an extension of who we are as people!

I’m also a bit rubbish in that I hate reading manuals so need to have an easy learning curve for me to use any gadget. So while I was excited taking notes at a meeting I went to with the stylus and all, I couldn’t figure out how to find the note again! Doh! But I loved the idea of a handwritten note in my phone! (The little things excite me).

To be honest the only thing I got round to using the gear for was to count my steps.

It was a handy gadget in that respect, especially if you’re trying to keep healthy, ok lose weight. I’m sure it had other great things it could do, but it was too bulky for me to use as a watch and using it for making calls and taking pictures just seemed a bit too James Bond esque for me. I’m a simple girl really.

So while I didn’t get to test everything that is great or not about the Samsung Note, the ease of using it made me question whether I really should stay team blackberry. When I found a phone in my swag bag at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards I was thrilled. It wasn’t a Samsung, but another Android phone.

Thanks to my minimal experience with the Note, I’m totally team android now!

p.s. Samsung, KPR Consulting, I’d be more than happy for you to gift me a free phone too 😀

So the new rage seems to be natural hair. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, people are embracing natural hair and the media is having their take on it (despite the fact that loads of people have been natural for years, so what’s new?!). Last night I read an article in the Bulletin and Record – quite a long piece too. And was not slightly frustrated about it!

Nothing original, just the same angle that having natural hair is about liberation, about proclaiming our Africanality (if such a word exists), ok Africanism, and showing that ‘I’m proud to be Black’! Ok, very good. And for the rest of us who just have it natural because we’re trying to grow it back healthy? Without trying to make a political statement?

Me in the office

I started my ‘natural hair journey’ a couple of years ago after getting fed up with my previously long luscious hair thinning and looking with envy at my sister’s down to her shoulder ‘fro. She had previously suffered a similar fate and decided to go natural. So I thought why not? Of course I completely forgot that my sister and I have totally different hair textures!

I was recommended by another ‘naturalist’ to join a facebook group that supported ‘us’ on ‘our’ journey. It was interesting in the beginning but I realised it was really hardwork! Once I figured out what EVOO was, and to DC, pre-poo and all sorts, I realised the line about how you can just wash and go with a ‘fro was far from true! And worse still the fact that everyone’s texture is different so what works for you might not work for me. (Also the group seemed a little bit cult-like too).

But more and more there seemed to be an us vs them argument – the naturalists vs the weave/perm team – the pro-black vs the sell out. It simply was not that serious for me. In fact I daily contemplate going back to relaxing my hair, it’s just right now (because I don’t follow the religious regiments others do), having natural hair is far more affordable. However, if I was to follow the regiments and treatments as suggested on the blogs, or the ‘cult’ group, I’d question which was more affordable – EVOO is not cheap!

The thing that gets to me is also the misconception that your hair can only be healthy if it’s natural. Not true. Hair can equally be healthy if you have a care and maintenance routine even when relaxed (though how something that’s dead can be thought of as healthy anyway is beyond me).

The other issue the article pointed to was that ‘lots’ of celebrities have weaves and this is why ‘normal’ women prefer that to natural hair. Erm ok, but what about the fact that a weave can be a protective style? And that actually some of these so called ‘lots’ of celebrities do in fact have natural hair under those weaves?

The thing I’ve always loved about black women is our ability to express ourselves though fashion, interesting hairstyles and just things that are part of who we are that makes us stand out. So why should our hair now be confined to one thing? And how come this debate does not rage on about white women? They tan, do they want to be black? They have weaves, so what is their shame? Does Kim Kardashian want to be black because she dates black men?

I mean why is it that we are the ones with issues?

I love my hair – even when it’s hair that I bought! I think that my hair is an expression of who I am, what I’m feeling at that time. I feel equally empowered when my full on afro is exposed (not quite shoulder length but getting there), as I do when I’m rocking a dead straight ‘whip it in your’ face, down to the middle of my back weave. And you know what? Either way someone is going to ask me if that’s my hair!

So when you see me in my cornrows or my natural hair out, know that I’m not Team Natural, I’m Team My Hair, My Choice.

If it grows out of my head, is not natural regardless to what I do with it?

If it grows out of my head, is it not natural regardless of what I do with/to it?

An entrepreneur, according to Dictionary.com, is defined as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”  Forbes goes a step further to state that ‘entrepreneurs find a need – any need – and they fill it’.

An entrepreneur is said to be a money multiplier – they invest to gain rewards, but at the end of the day, they run businesses.  What is the point of a business if it’s not going to make a profit?  In that case it’s not a business, it’s a charity, or a non profit organisation or maybe even a non-governmental organisation.

The reason I’m banging on about this is because I’m not sure if the point of being an entrepreneur is really understood in Zambia.  Some of my clients think I should lower my prices or discount everything for them because they work in developmental work and so I’ll be aiding in national development if I do this work for free!  Erm, no, I’ll be aiding national development if I am successful enough to provide jobs for other citizens of this country and pay taxes (more than I pay now due to more revenue :)).

Or the other day I was told about a three day event from a foreign government to learn about how entrepreneurs can aid in sustainable development.  I was baffled.  I costed out the potential lose of business to the company – as in my line of work, everyone’s time is charged out – and the outcome of this venture was for the business to understand its role in sustainable development?  Not the potential to win a really large contract?  Not an opportunity to pitch a sale?  Not an opportunity to showcase our work (so that we can attract new clients)? Potentially an opportunity to network (which is never a bad idea, but can be done in one day).

 It got me thinking – is it that we have a different role as entrepreneurs in Zambia?  Is entrepreneurs seen as the new darlings of development, the NGOs and non-for profit have had their day so now it’s all about the cute, fuzzy entrepreneurs cropping up around Africa trying to make it on their own?  

 Ok perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, I’m sure the thinking behind these entrepreneur workshops are well intentioned, and maybe if the workshop was specific to my industry, or just a bit more clearer on its objectives as a whole I won’t think of it as so ‘insulting’ to my entrepreneurial spirit!  

 I guess it came at a time where I was just angry, angry at how difficult the path is for an entrepreneur with challenges that can’t solely be solved by workshops (though you can make great connections).  Unless the workshops are targeted at real business challenges that all SMEs face, about operational cash flow, about access to finance (and not the BS ones the bank tries to sell you), on management, on product development, processes and whatever else entrepreneurs get caught up on, it’s just time away from growing my business. 

 The entrepreneur in Zambia is not applauded, despite the fact that in our economic climate, it might be the only way to go, it’s certainly not easy to get a job!

 Though with some of the young people out there, who think it is easy to get a job, maybe this is why being an entrepreneur is not such a big deal.  I have had two young people work with us recently, who frustrated me no end – it’s amazing how kids today can say they want to be the best of the best and then not actually do the work or learning to make them the best of the best.  Anyway, there was a real disconnect, as if they were doing us a favour by working here!  In fact one who left recently was totally chuffed that they were going to work as a PA for a start up they know nothing about!  It was like being here was a holiday, and now they suddenly have a real job.  I shrugged my shoulders, thinking was I really than vacuous at 21?

 Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I believe that we’re the best of the best (yet), or the number one choice place to work (yet), or the super successful, trail blazing business (yet), but hey, I do know potential when I see it!  And I think for some businesses maybe those type of workshops are necessary and important for them, they’re just not for the type of business I want to be.

 Ok perhaps if they asked me to speak at the event I would have gone 🙂  Seriously though, I think when you set out to run your own business, you have to know what you’re in it for, and there are lots of reasons to run your own business that aren’t based on profits alone, but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, if your business isn’t making a profit, and it can’t sustain your needs, then why have the business?

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.  It’s hard, it’s long hours, it’s emotionally draining and there is so much failure involved.  But it’s also fun, rewarding, and life affirming!  I just wish that people in Zambia would regard it as a serious endeavor instead of some new craze.

 Oh dear, am I beginning to sound just a little bit too angry?!

Time flies! I can’t believe that it’s been almost a month since I last blogged, just been so hectic. I feel like I say this every time I blog! Time moves on and so much happens, good and bad.

Season two of Love Games is finally being broadcast, which is great! I’m really excited about season two. I went back and forth on this season, it was a hard one for us as it’s the last season of the show, so it’s pretty heavy. We learned a lot from producing season one, so season two is the result of all these learnings, so I’m super proud of that.

I can’t even begin to discussing the difference between shooting season one and season two. The sleepless nights I faced during season one, weren’t there in two! But it came from the experience. I think even the crew who worked on both seasons can say this. And that’s something that I’m big on – constant learning. We can’t sit on our laurels and say ‘it’s good enough, therefore I don’t need to learn any more.’ And it’s also important to listen to the critics (not the haters, the critics), listen to it, take it in, and do what needs to be done. I don’t believe in listening to the negativity that makes you beat yourself up, but honestly dissect it and say, does that add value? And if it does, take it on board.

You can never please everyone, you have to ensure that you are happy first and foremost. Because you have to live with your decisions and your work is your legacy after all, if that’s your calling card, are you 100% happy with it? If so, then don’t sweat it. But if you’re not, then keep it 100 and do something about it.

But Love Games has come to an end and there are lots of changes at Media 365, which at first had me in serious worry mode, but then I remembered my motto ‘start with the end in mind’. I had to check myself to remember where this journey is going to end, and that excited me again. We’re fighters, we don’t stay down for long!

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that apart from business, the next thing I’m passionate about is empowering women. I’m so pro-women that it hearts my heart when I hear about other women not supporting each other, and I’ve seen it in practice, so I’m not foolish enough to claim it’s just a man-made thing to keep us women down (but it’s tempting to say it!), but I’ve also seen amazing women that support each other. This is no truer than in Octavia Goredema.

Twenty Ten Club logo

I get so proud when I look at the strong women in my life and their trailblazing success. Octavia is one such woman. She started the Twenty Ten Club in London to inspire and connect with like minded black business woman to get them to reach their true potential and grow their businesses. When I started running Media 365 a couple of years ago, I reached out to Octavia to share with her my own frustrations of not only running a business, but of being a business woman in a country that didn’t necessarily respect women in the first place. I spoke to her of the challenges I found of being taken seriously and finding my space in this male dominated society. And I mused about how great it would be to have a supportive organisation like the Twenty Ten Club.

Little did I know that it was just at that time that Octavia, who had not only received an MBE from the Queen, but had also started another business, while also relocated back to the States, was already toying with the idea of expanding her network into Africa. Talk about the right timing!

Recently, I was honoured to champion the ideals and values of the Twenty Ten Club, by becoming the Chair of the Twenty Ten Club Zambia – the first one in Africa.
On one hand, I worried about where I’d find the time to take this on as well, with everything going on at Media 365, but then I also know that not only will it help me be a better business woman, it also allows me to pursue my other passion – empowering women to achieve the success they deserve.

While there are other networking organisations that connect woman who are climbing up the corporate ladder, or helping them achieve their dreams, there isn’t one that is specifically for business owners. I think as career women, we all have similar ‘issues’ but as business owners we also have specific issues that corporate employees don’t necessarily have. So I thrilled to be taking on this challenge and really hope that I can mirror the success of the Twenty Ten Club in the UK.

I’ll obviously keep you posted! In the meantime, I hope you’re getting your Love Games fix too!

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.

Career vs Job

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.

Plan-A

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.

success

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.

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!