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I feel like 2015 was a pivotal year for me. It brought so many lessons and learnings for me.

Sometimes, we don’t always like the lesson or what it’s teaching us, and it can be painful to have to go through it at the time. But when you come out the other side, you appreciate the process. Life is not always going to be easy – no one has ever said it will.

December is the perfect month to reflect on the year’s experiences, to help in your growth and preparation for the next year.   I have always been the type of person who chooses self-reflection to help me be a better person, always aware that we can only be responsible for ourselves.

This year I’ve realized I’ve made lots of bad decisions, decisions made at the expense of myself, my happiness, my joy, my ambitions, in order to accommodate other’s happiness. Under ordinary circumstances I wouldn’t think this is a bad thing, but sometimes, it’s equally important to say no, and to put yourself first.

2016 isn’t about me not giving of myself the opportunity to make others happy when I can, but rather ensuring I’m taking care of myself, so that I can have those opportunities to give to others.

The aim is to live a life without regrets, so though so many things I wanted didn’t happen in 2015, I don’t want to dwell on what wasn’t but rather focus on making 2016 be the best year for me. With my cheerleaders around, I think it’s very possible to make that happen – just takes learning to say yes to myself first, and not to doubt my abilities.

I’m looking forward to a very different year and I hope you’ll carry on being part of my journey.

Have a great, fun-filled, prosperous and exciting 2016!

 

Stay Blessed!

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This is so true. We just forget sometimes – like the power within us – we’re scared and we forget. We always have choices regardless of what they are. Nice read, nice reminder!

Living Life On Top

I’m sick and tired of people telling me that I have a good man. Every time he smiles at me or serves me. Every time he opens my door or calls me sweetie the world around me erupts in cheer and accolades as if I’ve just won the golden ticket to the chocolate factory.

People are sure to remind me that I’mblessed and lucky to have such a good husband. He loves me, is easy-going, and respects me blah blah blah. Which is true. He’s amazing. But one thing that I just keep thinking is that every woman has the opportunity to have that. And please wait before you jump on me and slap the “there are no good men left” stigma in my face. I meet women that complain about their men or compare theirs to mine and it’s increasingly frustrating. If anyone knows my story, they know that…

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Sometimes we forget our blessings. It’s easy to do when we live in a world that is obsessed with consumerism and self-, and instant-gratification. Looking at our friends lives on Facebook we can get caught up with envy and focusing on what we don’t have in our lives. It’s easy. But yet we need to be reminded of our blessings.

I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Juba, South Sudan on a project I’m working on about using participatory theatre for peace-building and conflict resolution/transformation.

Before I got to South Sudan, I had people not only ask me ‘why on earth’ I was going to South Sudan, but also caution on safety as it’s a country still at war. I can’t lie, I was a little fearful. But I felt I needed something to do, and getting out of the country to go to a country I’d never been to before seemed like an opportunity not to be passed up.

My first encounter was the process of getting an entry permit. As we don’t have a South Sudan embassy in Zambia, UNICEF in South Sudan had to facilitate getting an entry permit that we needed to have before arriving in Juba. I literally got mine enroute to the airport. But at the airport they needed a print out before they could allow me on the plane. Have you seen a business centre at KK International? Thankfully my grown grandson (it’s a cultural thing) was there to help and convinced a lovely lady at the courier office to help me get a print out – thanks Sekani and Bwalya!

My journey to South Sudan took me via a night’s stay in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and arriving in Juba lunch-time of the following day. As I waited in the old terminal (Terminal 1) at Addis International Airport, I feel somewhat at ease that so many people were flying to Juba. Then I noticed that most of them had light blue passports – the UN passport. Still, it was better than being on an empty flight to the unknown.

wfp plane

I arrived at Juba International Airport about an hour and a half later. A colleague from UNICEF Zambia had already given me a heads up about the airport but no one could truly prepare me for the chaos.

The international airport was tiny. It reminded me of the Solwezi airport (and Solwezi is our economic hub too, or was, so maybe that’s not saying much!). On arrival, as I queued to get my visa (not really sure the point of the entry permit to be honest), the first thing that hit me was the overwhelming stench of urine. This was after I already almost passed out by the extraordinary heat that hit me when I stepped off the plane! South Sudan is close to the equator after all.

There didn’t seem to be order in the way things were done but I patiently went to the section that said visa on arrival. In front of me was a white woman from the UK who was kind of flirting with the security officers/immigration officers but in a condescending kind of way. It is a thing that I notice even elite black people do – treat the ‘poor, unfortunate people’ with a friendly but condescending tone (i.e. I really believe you’re an idiot but I’ll use the simplest of English for you to understand and I’ll smile at you and treat you like a happy baby with my cooing and aaahing). I shook my head and rolled my eyes.

I finally got my passport stamped and out I went to collect my bag. There was no luggage carousel so I could easily identify my bag, have security rummage through it and put a sticker on it, verifying it had been checked, and good to go.

This was my first thought of being grateful. We spend so much time in Zambia complaining about our poor infrastructure and inefficiency but it’s miles ahead of the Juba airport! I was suddenly grateful for, or at least appreciative of what Zambia has.

I walked out of the hall, and I still hadn’t seen my pick up. I remembered the Welcome and Security Pack I had been sent that clearly said, ‘don’t get a cab, go to the other UN drivers and ask them to radio a UNICEF driver for you’. Which is exactly what I did!

The driver in that UN car was extremely helpful and offered to drop me off at my hotel that was literally round the corner. As we’re driving away we see the UNICEF driver. But the UN driver won’t let me exit the car until the UNICEF car was parked directly behind us and the UNICEF driver was out of the car – the robberies are real he said.

I was slightly startled by that – was my family and friend’s fear justified if I couldn’t just get out of the car?!

view from the room

I was three days late to getting to the workshop, and as my UNICEF colleague drove me from the hotel to the workshop venue, I looked around the city.  The first thing you notice is the amount of UN cars on the road, including UN hummers!  There was some presence of the military, not heavy, but considering the city was supposed to be demilitarized, there was a clear presence of them. I saw land cruiser pick up with army in there, and what was clearly a dead body. I hoped this was just the body of their own colleague and not some poor person killed – I decided it was best not to ask questions you might not want the answer to.

It was great getting to know the workshop participants, 17 of them representing 9 of the 10 states of South Sudan. All super friendly and ready to engage and participate. They got the methodology of the two methods of participatory theatre we were testing out, and quick to see how it could be applied to their own communities and situations. Brilliant!

As I was starting to praise these activists who all stated how much they wanted peace in their country, who felt deeply hurt by the injustices and violence inflicted on their people, that affected all of them, there was also something I noticed was similar to the Zambian participants, as we’d done the same workshop a week earlier in Lusaka; their addiction to their cellphones.

It was constant! Some at least had the decency to answer the phone out of the room, while others had no qualm answering it in the workshop room during the exercises or the facilitator explaining something. It wasn’t a big room, so all sound carried!

At first I thought, ‘how rude!’. I personally get offended when people take a phone call in the middle of a dinner or learning opportunity, just think it’s rude. I don’t know why people are obsessed with their phones. I’m not chained to my phone, I don’t stress about missed calls, people can text me, call me back or I can call them back! It’s not that serious. Hence the reason it’s called a ‘Cell-phone’ you get imprisoned by it! (I saw that on Facebook!)

Zambia was a similar thing; mainly their cellphones, but generally an inability to focus. And it led me to an overall problem we have: Indiscipline

Discipline gets a bad rap at times, probably because somehow our mind goes to the military when we think of discipline. But really discipline is about focus and self-control.

These are key areas we need to grow and develop generally. How are we going to develop or succeed if we’re indisciplined?

view from the lobby

To lose sight of your goal, or what you’re trying to achieve because you’re easily distracted is a bad thing, a sign of weakness. It takes strong will, determination, and lazer focus to stay on your course. You see examples of it all the time, the people who succeed have like a singular focus and drive; determination and discipline.

But generally, I see most people don’t have the focus or discipline to achieve the success we’re destined for. In fact, I think we’re getting distracted by tools and systems to stop us from achieving success – because of the power you hold when you have reached your full potential. So many people and organisations try to stop us from achieving this potential and we fall for it by not being disciplined.

Even in my own life, I realized that I wasn’t living up to my own potential because I was getting distracted by little things (and some pretty addictive TV). So when I saw the behavior of the people in both Zambia and South Sudan and thought, how can we achieve economic freedom or peace in our country if we can’t be disciplined? If we can’t focus on what we want, how on earth will we ever get it?

I believe in doing a lot of self-reflection, you can only control yourself and your actions, and becoming the best version of yourself requires constant reflection, away from external perceptions and distractions. So as I was getting disheartened by these displays of indiscipline and lack of focus, every time I went back to my hotel room, I would reflect on the day – the words I heard people say, and then think to my own life. What blessings has my lack of focus or discipline stopped? How many times do I say I want something and then struggle to pursue it, or stop midway through to pick up something that doesn’t take me further on my path to achieving what I desire?   Too many times to answer.

I’m back in Zambia now, grateful for my blessings, for my family and friends and their prayers. I’m also more focused on making 2016 the year of my making by leaving distractions and indiscipline in 2015!

Hope you’ll join me for the ride

(PS taking photos in Juba is illegal, but I took these photos before I knew that – for real!)

It can be said that coming from a background of working in both USD and GBP currencies for a company like MTV, I am used to working with big budgets. But even then the budgets are not out of this world for the products we were trying to produce.  Costs are based on what it costs (and a profit margin of course), but not an infinity budget!

In Zambia, I’ve had several potential clients (and some former ones too) who complain we’re expensive and try to compare us with some other bog-standard agencies (I’m not naming names) because instead of comparing like for like, they’re happy to compare apples with oranges thinking we all do the same thing. We don’t.

Apple_and_Orange_-_they_do_not_compare

In the past I would try to compromise and cut my costs to focus on bringing in the revenue. Now I understand that revenue really is vanity. Doesn’t matter your revenue figures if your GP (gross profit) is negligible or worse still, you have no cash. But worse than that, I realized that not only were we compromising on quality, we were working harder in order to deliver a great service or product without adding to our bottom line, and affecting our overall productivity.

When talking with other creatives we discussed why is it that clients felt they could spend thousands on a workshop and then try to undercut you on a video production (especially in the donor community)? Was it really they didn’t understand the value of the product?

On the other hand, I’ve seen some dismal products that clients have spent loads on and I can see why they get reluctant to pay – but then again, don’t expect a Mercedes if you go to Toyota.   Toyota has great products, including the Lexus, but understand that when you go in to the shop, don’t try to buy more than you can afford and then blame the industry.

I’m not saying that everything nice has to be expensive. Not at all. But you need to understand the value of things to have an appropriate budget. And then understand the agency you’re going to, and what they can deliver.

I no longer apologize for not being the cheapest (and by the way, we are by no means the most expensive either), but I’m comfortable letting people know that we might not be the agency for them. Not only because of price points, but because I don’t like doing things that don’t add value, or that other people can easily do. As a friend of mine said about his agency ‘we don’t do beauty pageants’ !

I want to be constantly evolving, and being creative and doing stuff that hasn’t been done here before, or doing it better, and if a client wants a copy and paste solution, or a cookie-cutter approach, I’m not interested. I also don’t like to do ugly things. I know what is considered creative can be relative, but let’s be honest, there are things we can all agree are ugly! We have done ugly things because we got in bed with the client before we knew they liked ugly. Now I’m getting better at recognizing a client that isn’t prepared to innovate, or likes ugly things, and I stay away from them. It’s better to have a fit with your client, then to be trying to get money out of them only.

When you meet a client like that, who appreciate your value, money isn’t the issue, because they value your work and they trust you. Besides, at that point they’ll manage their expectations by understanding the value of what they’re paying for.

What I do resent is when you get a brief that says you must deliver to international standards but they want to pay local rates – determined by themselves, why can’t we charge international rates if we’re delivering international products and services?

My frustration isn’t the unwillingness to pay per se, my frustration is the lack of understanding of the value of the product or service you’re asking for. It is true that I don’t believe we should do things solely for the money, as I said, we look for ways to innovate and add value too, but I also run a company and must think of the bottom line.  And why can’t I be paid by worth?  I remember a financial consultant saying to us that we pay our suppliers too much.  On one hand I agree about some of them, but some of them are paid their worth – but in those regards our clients were underpaying!

We won’t always say no to a client because of their budget, we do look at the bigger picture. But if we can’t deliver a quality product within their budget, we respectfully decline.

I think when you’re growing and trying to prove yourself, you do have to take on all sorts of clients. But as you establish yourself and carve out your niche you can afford to be a bit more picky – to do the work that you want to proudly showcase in your portfolio. It’s difficult to do in this financially strained time but hard decisions have to be made for the long-term survival of your business.

It’s also like in the choices I make of where I expose myself and my brand, if you want to run with the big boys, you play with the big boys, if I I’m seen in the little leagues, what is it that I’m saying about my brand? It’s like that saying goes, ‘if you hang out with 5 broke people, you’ll be the 6th broke person’.

Like for like.

It is definitely hard in reality, but like the financial consultant told us, ‘the people who understand, value, and appreciate your work won’t complain about your fees.   The ones that do, probably aren’t worth being your client’.

It is an attitude thing, but you better deliver when you have that attitude – which is also why you have to be careful getting bogged down with the time-consuming projects that don’t add value to you or your business. People remember your failures as much as they remember your last success!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Yesterday I felt like I was falling apart, today I feel like I’m on top of the world!  It’s not just that I have a manic personality, but I did some soul searching before I went to bed last night and again when I woke up at 4.30am.

Despite getting almost two weeks off work (a staycation nonetheless), I came back to the office feeling like it was the end of the year, not the beginning.  While everyone else (across social media mainly) were elated about the promise a new year brings, the opportunity to get it right, I was still reeling from the aftermath of last year.  Fear was setting in.

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line copy

How were we going to tackle our plans, as grand as they are?  How were we going to add value to our current offering?  How were we going to meet our shortfall?  What were we going to do about staff, replace them or do it all ourselves, or hire consultants?  So many questions, not enough answers. 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, my personal life was overwhelming me too.  I’d never been in a situation where both my personal and professional life felt this out of control.

So I decided to take a step back.  I turned off the music as I was working out, and actually talked to myself to get to the root of the problem of it all.  

Yesterday my friend sent me an article about Black girls loving themselves and it really struck a cord.  I spend so much time saying yes to people in my life even if it’s at the expense of my own ‘yes’.  I’m a giver.  And professionally, I’ve always lived by the ‘fake it until you make it’ motto, without stopping to think of when I did make it! 

I just have never found the opportunity to be still and listen to my inner self – not the self depreciating inner self.  But the one who says, ‘hold on, why are you so worried?  you have countless successes, that you did.’  The one who says ‘don’t listen to the haters, don’t worry about what other people think, you don’t need validation because you ARE good enough’.

We all have that inner voice that we suppress, wanting to listen to the critical, harsh voice instead of the nurturing one that speaks of our strength.  That is what it means to love yourself.  It’s to recognise the wonderful, beautiful, capable, strong person that you are – even if no one else sees it.

This world is filled with so many people who hate themselves and want to pull other people down (ugly people I call them), why do it to yourself?  Be one of the beautiful people, not just to the people around you, but to yourself too.  And then take care and nurture yourself too.

A friend of mine once said to me that she didn’t know what had happened in my life to make me this strong, this focussed on my career, but yet so critical and hard on myself.  And I do think there are things in life that try to break us, or indeed break us, and we react to it.  But we don’t have to.  Those things aren’t who we are, they aren’t what we are, and they shouldn’t break you down.  As Whitney (Houston darling) said, ‘I was not made to break’ and neither were you.

Being in love with yourself (aka loving yourself) is an every day journey.  Look in the mirror and tell yourself how much you love yourself – seems weird, but when I look in the mirror and say ‘I love me some her’ (as I think Tamar Braxton would say it), it puts a smile on my face and I can hold my head up just a little bit higher.

As women we look for love in so many places except inside ourselves.  Why are you waiting for a man to tell you how beautiful, special, extraordinary, amazing you are?  How much he loves you, and you make him that more of a person because he has you in his life?  What for?  Tell yourself these things because they are true about you to yourself.  YOU complete You!

My aim is to start this year (which for me is starting now, I’ll ignore the first 7 days when I felt overwhelmed and anxious!), with some inner self-reflection, and some inner self-love.  Taking care of me.  Besides if I love myself and take care of myself, I have more to offer others too – which is ultimately what I like to do – I just won’t do it at the expense of myself, of my soul, and of my well being.

I love me some me.  I’m going to date me.  I’m going to mentor me.  I’m going to trust me.  I’m going to be the me I no longer need to fake.  I have nothing to prove to anyone.  As Drake says ‘I’m a worry ‘bout me’.

It’s not selfish – I think we tend to worry that this way of being is selfish.  It’s not indeed, it’s self-love.  Embrace it, embrace you, and love you like the amazing person you are!

It’s been awhile since I wrote here.  Teetering somewhere between exhaustion, stressed and overwhelmingly busy, I haven’t had much time to blog.  The last few months the emotional roller-coaster that has become my life has continued.  

I don’t want to blog about the things that are still draining me – you might think my life is really that bad!  So I’m going to focus on the things that make me happy.

 As terrible (financially and emotionally) as the Love Games experience was for us, it has helped raise our platform – both as a company, as producers and even as Zambia!  Love Games got picked up by Africa Magic, so now the show is airing across Africa!  How exciting is that?  It’s probably also allowing more people in Zambia (all those who don’t watch ZNBC) to watch it too!  And they get to see the great quality which somehow ZNBC never managed to get right when broadcasting.

If that wasn’t enough to excite us – and it really was – it’s also been picked up in the US and can be seen on Hulu as well as online at Reel African.  Last I heard there was also a Nigerian TV station launching it this month on their channel – all very exciting!  And a few days ago it was announced that Love Games has been nominated for THREE Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards – Best Television Series, Best Video Editor, Best Supporting Actress!  Yay team! 

The success of Love Games, has got us recognised abroad too, and I’m so honored and humbled to have been asked to speak at TEDxEuston, which I did yesterday.

The last few weeks have been so nerve wrecking as I’ve tried to figure out what to talk about.  TEDx talks are so inspiring, how on earth can I do one?!  I’ve focused on something I’m passionate about and just hoped and prayed, for the best!  (That’s for another blog, soon coming) 

We also got to shoot a short spot with the First Lady – that was actually fun – and it was at State House.  It’s great to do things like that every once in awhile.  She was really friendly and all – genuinely so.  It makes you wonder… ehem.  Anyway the end result of the spot looks great! 

After having done what I do for the last 16 years, I’m more passionate than ever about controlling the messages we put out.  Earlier this month we joined forces with IM Studios – and super star producer Mag 44, to produce a song featuring Cleo Ice Queen, Lulu Hangala, Judy-oh and Kantu to address the message we think we should be putting out to women – rise and realise your potential.  Every time this year we recognise the 16 days of activism against gender violence, and while talking about what we could do about it, we asked ourselves, well what do we want women to do about it?  People talk about standing up and joining the fight against this terrible act but then want?

 And if you’ve faced abuse, then what?  

We all really liked that ‘Women are strong’ advert from Sure, so that was our starting point – women are strong.  Let’s pay homage to these strong women, and recognise this strength lives within all of us (women).  Inspired by the Young Lions competition (Cannes Lions Festival), we thought, why don’t we get people in the creative industry to come together on an issue that we think is important and put our creative minds to it – without interference from development organisations and their respective agendas.  

So we’ve started with IM studios and Bongo Hive and hoping to bring in more creatives in the next few weeks.  We feel this is something that can live a long time – until women realise their potential even!  Look out for the song Nyamuka next week and the start of the campaign soon after (I hope!)

As we’re getting to the end of the year, it’s time to focus on next year.  2013 has been a huge learning for me, I can’t underscore all the lessons that have come my way.  I’m learning to focus on the positive and not the negative.  I can complain and whine all day about how unfair life is, on how everything seems to be going wrong blah blah blah, or I can take the lemons and make margaritas from it.  And I do like margaritas!

And I’m learning to be grateful.  This year we have done so much and worked with a great team.  Our focus might have been on Love Games, but we also produced a great video for the Brothers for Life song which aired across the entire three floors of the UNICEF HQ in New York, Love Games travelled and started so many discussions, while also rising the bar for dramas in Zambia.  We got to travel to Luapula to do a documentary for a client, we did the first informercial that set off a chain reaction with other agencies doing their own type of informercials.  Not mentioning the work I’ve already talked about above.  So while my accountant might not be happy with us this year, I’m so grateful for the great products we’ve released.

Take a look at our reel.

Stay Blessed

It’s been a minute since I’ve blogged.  It’s just been too difficult for me to come on here.  After the excitement and pride I felt for producing what I think is a great season of Love Games, we were hit with a very harsh reality, a shock that had me questioning whether we’d be forced to shut down the business.  I can’t go into detail for legal reasons, but there were things that happened in our finance department that made me spiral into depression.

Forgetting about the qualification of people, I beat myself up for being so trusting and not a harsher micro-manager.  Anyone who knows me, who has been managed by me knows that I believe people should take responsibility for their work and have a sense of pride and ownership, and that given trust and respect anyone can flourish.  Perhaps I looked through rose coloured glasses, or perhaps they are some areas that you can’t afford to have that outlook on.  Whatever the answer might be, I spent months not sleeping, working hard, seeking advice, just trying to figure a way out.  I haven’t got that answer yet.

 I then got an opportunity to talk about some of these issues when Janice Matwi decided to do a piece on sibling business – and therefore on Media 365 – for her e-zine Corporate Heelz.  While I could only allude to some of the issues we were facing it made me want to open up more. 

What I did find when I opened up to my friends, and some of the women that inspire me including Octavia from the Twenty Ten Club,and Yvonne from Al Jazeera, was this incredible support.  I felt like I was on the edge, and through their words of encouragement and helpful suggestions, they slowly talked me off the ledge.

My very good friend – also an entrepreneur – Mutale, sent me an article that really pointed to how I was not alone in this situation.  Many entrepreneurs have got to the point of nearly (if not actually) losing everything.  But they stuck it out, and when they made it back, they learnt from their lessons.  It was really useful.  But I also felt that we’d been here before – ok not as bad, but definitely here, and I thought we had learnt.  Perhaps it was just my turn to learn the lesson to appreciate how tough it was for those that came before me, and for us to bond further in the growth of this company.  (Now I understand why there are so many wantrepreneurs – it’s safer!)

I looked around me and realised that many of those closest and dearest to me were in the same boat, all suffering severe financial issues, with no sign of how to get out.  The depression getting the better of them.  This is a real issue that we take for granted – depression is real my friends.

Depression is not new to me, I think for the larger part of my life I have suffered with depression – I read somewhere that it’s a common affliction of Type A people – we’re too hard on our selves – our harshest and worst critics.  But over the years I’ve learnt how to deal with it.

To some the answer seems to lie in crawling back into bed and shutting yourself out from the world.  And you know, that’s really tempting and inviting – there are no problems in your bed, under your comfy duvet, watching bad day time TV with the phone off and a bottle of wine in reach. (Sounds great even now).  But the reality is that wallowing in misery actually just intensifies the misery.  You have to get up and face the world with your fighting spirit and never give up.  These are some tips that I have learnt that I encourage others to use when the feeling of sadness begins to take grip – but you have to be aware of it to catch it early.  

Get Up and Move

Exercise is one of those things that is like a super everything.  For almost any problem you have you find that exercise is suggested to address it.  There is something about getting your body moving that lifts your mood.  It also helps clear your mind so that you can think clearly.  There is a couple of things that I find can happen when you’re depressed – either you have knee jerk reactions and make decisions that don’t help you in the long run, or you get frozen and can’t make any decision.  Exercise allows you to have options.  And remember, if you don’t take care of your body, it won’t take care of you!

Do Something!

Addressing your problems head on is always a good idea.  Seek expert opinions if you have to – with your bank manager, financial advisors, lawyers, whoever you need to – or even people who have gone through the same thing before.  Maybe you’re not in the position to get that kind of expert advise yet, but then tackle your problem another way.  Begin by writing a to-do list of all you can do to get out of your problems and then start working your way down the list – try the smaller things first – those immediate wins will help boost your confidence and give you energy to tackle the big tasks.  It may seem insurmountable now, but it really isn’t.

Talk to your creditors too.  Let them understand your situation.  This is really difficult in Zambia for a couple of reasons: 

    • Being broke is a laughable offense.  Or an insult.  It is scandalous to be broke in Zambia, people would rather pretend to afford a livestyle or a business that they can’t.  Behind the scenes they are drowning in debt but are trying to ‘save face’.  Having a better understanding of money, and being comfortable with it will allow us to all have healthier conversations about finance, debt, budgeting etc.  It’s better to be honest about your situation than ruin yourself further or hide from your creditors.
    • Everyone is in the same boat.  Because of the fact that Zambia is a cash based society, with very few people having access to credit there is a knock on affect when the cycle of payments is broken. If my client doesn’t pay me, I can’t pay my suppliers (or employees), they can’t pay their employees, the employees can’t pay their landlords, or maids, the maid can’t send her kids to school and so on, and so on.  Most people don’t have excess cash to put towards savings or anything, excess cash is used to pay a bill, pay a debt, or get better food in the house.

But we have to just deal with facts, if you can’t afford to pay your bills, get on a debt plan and begin to trade out of your debts.

Get Creative

Taking your mind off your problems and doing something creative can help you find a creative solution to your problem.  Paint a painting, paint a wall, do some gardening, go dancing, read a book.  Anything that will put a smile on your face.  The distraction helps so that you also don’t tire yourself thinking about your problem – this will also drain you and make you more susceptible to depression.

Get Spiritual

I’m not ‘religious’ by any means.  I was brought up a Christian and did Sunday school as a child.  I don’t think I’ve been to church regularly since I was about 12.  But I don’t knock the power of faith.  And when I’m down, I do turn to God.  Prayer is my way to have someone to talk to, and I do think God listens to us all deep down.  I find it comforting and relaxing, it allows me to also put my problems in someone else’s hands and let’s me focus on what I can control.

If you’re not a praying person (or prayful as they say in Zambia), you can also try meditation.  It’s all about being still and quiet and focused.

 

Call your Cheerleaders

Your support network is absolutely crucial at this time.  You need the people who will surround you with love and encouragement.  These people help remind you why you are special and highlight your great points.  This positivity boost is also another way to keep you encouraged and ready to take on the world.  I’m am eternally grateful for my sister-friends, my family, and my boyfriend that drives me insane.

Don’t be Scared (I tried to say it with a American southern drawl)

Talking about a mental illness of any kind is quite taboo in the black community – saying you have depression is like admitting you’re mad!  But the moment we talk about it we allow others to also talk about, and to start acknowledging that it might not be such an insane thing after all.  I’m sure people will spread this around like crazy – OMG Cathy suffers from depression, shame, maybe she should be committed. (I wouldn’t mind being committed if it means creditors will stop calling me and I can rest :))

This isn’t a long term solution sadly, and sometimes you might get depression when it’s past the point where any of those help.  And then you do need to take your day of hopelessness (as we call it) and just veg.  But then put back on your fighting gloves and get back to winning.  If you’re still a live, you still have the fight in you and the opportunity to succeed.  

And it’s not an easy path to walk.  You’ll find that one day you’ll be fine, feeling you can do this, you can conquer it all, and then the next day you’ll find that your water has been cut off and you’ll burst into tears, and think it’s all too hard and want to give up.

I’m still struggling with this but I don’t plan on giving up.  I have to go back to figuring out how we do come back but I’ll try to keep you posted on my life in Zambia and what I learn and any other strategies that work for me too.

Thanks for listening.

I’ve spent the last couple of days in a room full of experts, researchers, communicators, donors, programme people discussing how to increase the uptake of voluntary medical male circumcision (vmmc as they called it) among men 25-49 years old in countries in east and southern Africa as a way to reduce the spread of HIV, and ultimately create an HIV free generation.

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It’s not really my area of specialisation, but I was fortunate to be invited as a person who has done a lot of communication work for awareness and prevention of HIV generally.  I learnt a lot.  They discussed things like maybe vmmc should be repositioned so it’s not so closely associated with HIV, but more so with Hygiene and maybe even sexual attractiveness, and reducing female cervical cancer.  They also discussed how to get female intimate partners more involved as a primary audience because they are influencers in men’s life.  Ok hold on – for years we’ve been talking about how women aren’t empowered to decide how, when, and where to have sex, with the man totally in control of that decision, they can’t get a man to wear a condom, but now they can influence a man to cut his penis?  Wow!  So what are we saying, did the health campaign’s empower women too much?

In that same discussion – which I was lucky to be a panelist on – Hally Mahler who works in Tanzania as the Chief of Party for JHIPEGO – a USAID Project – she explained that while women could be great influencers, they can also be deterants because they didn’t want to have six weeks of abstinence while their partner healed, so they’d rather go to another man for that sexual pleasure – and the men now this.  In Zambia, they say women are scared that the partners would find being circumcised as the reason for men to go out and be unfaithful!

Times have changed indeed – women in Africa are acknowledging that they have sexual needs and not afraid to admit it!  

Enough of my sidebar, going back to my observations of the conference, I’ve been at several of these meetings, conferences etc where all these different people come together and I find it’s usually the same things being said – researchers want more money for research, so that everything can be evidence based, donors are agreeing with this, but saying they want results now!  And programme people (or are they implementers) are wanting to put more money into communication, while there are the those in the middle – not sure who they are – who are naysers about putting money into communication/mass media programmes.

Obviously as a person who is into communications and content development, I’m a strong advocate for putting more money into good quality content.  But I think everyone has to work together.  The researchers have the information to inform the content, the implementers on the ground have the networks and links into the service providers to ensure that when the demand is created the services are there for the uptake.  Too often these groups, when designing a programme are not in the same room.

I’ve been to tenders where organisations say they want to launch a comprehensive communication campaign to get a certain behaviour adhered to and so they’re now putting out a tender for 2 billboards, 3 TV PSAs and 2 radio spots.  Erm yeah, that’s going to get you a comprehensive campaign.  Not to say that they need to have loads more, but if they don’t have the media spend to flood the market, then it’s not really worth it and their money is better spent in a cheaper medium like leaflets – as long as their target audience can read.  But I am a strong believer that communication campaigns done well and sustained can work – there is lots of evidence for this, especially in the commercial world.

My point is they should be engaging an agency in the begining to tell them what they need to do.  People bring agencies in at the last minute and then question the agency as to why their campaign isn’t working – which could be for a multiple reasons starting with they didn’t really do a proper communication brief to the agency.  If an agency clearly understands what it is you’re trying to achieve, it makes it easier for them to plan a campaign for you – and all aspects of the campaign.  That’s another thing I don’t really understand about public sector, why they do this whole piecemeal thing – splitting out a campaign isn’t about making it fair, it’s just complicates your campaign and makes it harder to manage and control and makes quality control a nightmare.

Another one of my observations was how little we heard from local people.  I’m a big believer in local knowledge.  As I sat with other African colleagues at lunch, or during tea breaks, we laughed about how African’s are too polite, they’d rather let their Western colleagues go down a path that is culturally inappropriate than tell them it won’t work – don’t want to hurt their feelings, and obviously a lot of people still having their insecurities that the West are more superior than us poor, little Africans, in fact one person observed that the conference was about ‘white women telling black men to cut their penis’ – (i found that funny).  But I did wonder why we’re not pushing our own solutions – I’m not talking about the to cut or not cut issue here – but even when I look at all the communication campaigns we do for our clients, we’ve never been approached by the Ministry of Health or any such entity (except on governance issues, then it is the Zambian government we work directly with), so why are locals not pushing their own health campaigns to ensure they are culturally relevant and appropriate?

We have enough experience now to say we can, why aren’t we discussing our own learners, our own challenges?  Why is it enough to let the West try to solve our problems?  I don’t know.

I met a lovely man from India, also in communications (in the private sector) Ram Prased from Final Miles.  Not only was he hilarious, and honest, but he told me about how his company didn’t wait for a client to come along, that they’d tackle issues that they thought were important to them.  And maybe that’s what we need to do.  It is hard because everything in Zambia is so expensive, but I think, certainly for us at Media 365, we’re too passionate about what we do to wait for someone to ask us our honest opinion on how we think things should be done, on what should be communicated and how it should be communicated (we do have this knowledge too – not saying we’re right, but we’re just not really asked to even try it out), and just go ahead and produce what we really want to.

I’m inspired to do it because we need to start shouting about our success not, some random campaign that frankly no one I know ever heard about.  When I sort out our cashflow, believe me, we’ll be on it!  Watch this space.  And at least I met interesting people at the conference!  

In the meantime, we should keep the conversation going about VMMC – it’s an interesting one for sure.

My passion is tv, it’s always been my passion, from when I was 12 and decided I was going to be the next Steven Spielberg. I then had a stint directing my own series of short form (no longer then 60 seconds each), now I want to be the next Jerry Bruckheimer! So it is understandable why I’m passionate about content.

When I was in London I had the opportunity to work with talented tv production people, but I hardly worked on the nitty gritty of film production. Being back in Zambia, I realize there are loads of people who are interested in working in tv production (and other creative industries actually), but the challenge is that most people don’t necessarily have the skill-set and are kinda happy with their sub-standard work anyway.

My passion and appreciation of quality means that I can’t be happy with sub-standard work. And this belief that good enough for Zambia is good enough quality doesn’t bode well with me. Unfortunately, the reality is that quality costs money. And even more unfortunate is that there are very few people, companies, organizations etc, willing to pay the price for quality – in Zambia that is.

The consumer doesn’t help either. As the viewing public we don’t demand better. We also accept that this is as good as we can get in Zambia. Come to think about it, it’s pretty much how we live our lives in Zambia, thinking this is it, not expecting or hoping for better.

But that’s not me. I truly am of the ‘impossible is nothing’ way of living. It doesn’t help that I don’t know how it can be done, if I have to rely on the current production people. It does start with me refusing to believe that’s good enough, and making sure they know it, making sure they know that to work with me they have to bring their best, and even that’s not good enough.

There are many stories in Zambia, and if we don’t tell them ourselves, who will? Once we have the stories to tell, then we need to focus on presentation. Presentation of content is king.