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I spend a lot of time reflecting – it’s in my nature – but probably also because I’m always agonizing over my future, my past, and my present.  Trying to figure out how to be better, how to be bigger, how to be smaller (in weight) and what it is I want out of my life.  Sometimes it disturbs me that at my age (30 something) I still question my life goals.

‘Be still’, a friend told me.  If you know me, you’d know that’s the worst thing anyone could say to me – I am that girl who is always on the move.  Be still?  What does that mean?  If I’m still, I’m asleep – I fall asleep in yoga!

Nah, being still wasn’t for me.  But I thought I’d take a break, go visit some friends and get energized.  I couldn’t afford the trip to New York (where I usually go for energy), neither financially nor time wise.  Lagos it was!  People thought I was crazy – why on earth would you go to Lagos on holiday?  Clearly they hadn’t heard Banky W’s anthem, ‘ain’t no party like a Lagos party…’

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My girlfriend and I hopped on an ET flight via Addis to Lagos.  By the way, why does it cost so much to fly inter-continental?  My airfare to London is cheaper!  Anyway, off to Lagos we went.  In my inability to Be Still, I added a couple of business related meetings into the trip.

I was in Lagos for a week, I partied, I drank, I ate, I lounged, but I never felt I was inspired.

I came back to Lusaka, feeling rested, but restless (who knew you could feel both at the same time?).  Contracts for new work weren’t signed, relationship drama, it was just making me stressed again.

Be Still, my friend said.  I had no choice at this point.  I had issues to resolve and without being still I couldn’t hear through the noise – the noise included social media, people’s perceptions, my childhood beliefs, and more.

So I sat alone, in my room, unable to sleep, as sometimes happens when I have too much going on, too much stress, too much uncertainty.  And I was still.  In my stillness I first realized I had a great time in Lagos, and I was inspired.  I met up with a woman I greatly admired – Biola Alabi, whom I first met when we were at DISCOP in Ghana together like 7 or 8 years ago.  Her candor and knowledge about her work, about the industry we both work in was so inspiring me – and she’s absolutely beautiful.  She reminded me what a strong, successful, happy black woman looks like – the kind of woman I want to be.

I thought about my friends out there – hanging out with them, having new experiences that spoke to me, made me acknowledge that there are people out there that enjoy spending time with you, sharing with you, and just staying connected.   I met new people, working in diverse industries – like oil and gas – learning about their focus, their growth, their success and how they chose to live their lives, being happy, and social with friends.

I met up with old friends – people I worked with at MTV in London years ago, and still shared a connection with – plotting how we can work together again.  Learning about their journeys post MTV, and feeding off their energy and drive.  On the flip side there were also some people that showed me they didn’t have the time of day for me – it’s interesting to see how people perceive or treat you when they can’t see what they can tangibly get from you, especially since I’m no longer at MTV.  It was an aha moment, but I wasn’t bothered for too long.  The entertainment industry is fickle – I get that, understanding where the longevity lies, where the real power is was way more interesting for me.

In that moment, I realized that Lagos inspired me more than I thought.  Not only inspired me, but taught me a lot.  Lessons were compounded a few days after I arrived back in Lusaka, while having dinner with girlfriends – a bunch of successful, strong, beautiful women.  Though I had maybe one bottle of champagne too many (champagne hangovers are the worst, think I’ll stick to wine or vodka now), I enjoyed every minute of being around like minded people who allowed you to just be you.  We weren’t worried about taking the best selfies to post on IG, or tweeting our night out.

I went back to think on the last week and the ups and downs I’d had from before going to Lagos, to Lagos, to being back in Lusaka.  My phone camera being broken definitely allowed me to be present, but during my moment of being still, I realized that my best moments, not to mention my worst, have never been lived out on social media (at least not in the last few years).  Yes, we can look at some amazing photos on Instagram that make us envious of people’s lives, but we don’t know the real story behind the photos.

When we are still, it’s easier to remember who you are as a person, what you value, what grounds you, and even the clarity of what we want in life starts to appear.  I haven’t completely figured it out yet but definitely will be still more often now, and be grateful for all I have, for the people in my life, and for the experiences I’ve been blessed to have.  So my advice to you all, be still every once in a while – life demands it.

I just came back from Lagos, Nigeria. I was out there to support MTV’s Africa Award (MAMA) show which was amazing. I also went to Lagos to try to leverage resources for the production and campaign of Shuga 2, both through non-profit and commercial organisations, which led me to UNICEF.

Having a great global relationship with UNICEF, thought it would be good to meet with UNICEF in Lagos and give them first option to buy into Shuga. It was such an insightful meeting – maybe not necessarily for Shuga, but more insight of how HIV/AIDS is impacting people in Nigeria.

Like many places with low prevalence rates but large populations, Nigeria is still not taking HIV/AIDS as seriously as they should. Vulnerable people such as street children are significantly hard to reach – not only because they move around, but because programmes aren’t created for them with them. Policy papers and briefing notes aren’t truly capturing what these kids are going through, it’s the same issues that you read about but not really reflective of what is going on.

Sara, the head of UNICEF out there in Lagos, said she was not prepared for what she heard when she talked to street kids. Having previously served in Nepal, she was used to hearing shocking stories from the streets, but being told about kids selling kids for sex and their casual discussion of drug use, still upset her.

I can’t lie, it upset me too, and I wasn’t hearing it first hand. We talked about how to make sure that whatever we did was sustainable – these kids left home for a reason, we couldn’t be another group to let them down.

It’s not an easy project at all and one that will cost significant resources to undertake. I do get when Gates and others are saying that we’ve got to find cheaper solutions that are effective but I think the problem is everyone is now looking at the $ sign and not the actual project or innovative solution. Also I don’t get the idea of evidence base – evidence shows that peer education doesn’t work that well but people are still putting money into it. Evidence shows that media campaigns can and do work, but no one is investing in the right media initiatives. So… what’s really going on?

I think we could do something really good and rewarding, and informative for street kids and maybe even manage to create some sort of economic solution for them, but can we find the money for it? I hope so, I hope between UNICEF and MTV we have enough clout to make this project work, at least for the sake of those kids. Who knows, if it works in Nigeria, we could roll it out across other regions.

On the other side, the MAMAs were amazing – African music is set to take over the world. They have been in the shadows too long, but they are ready. The eclectic mix of artists from all over the continent – the best of the best – coupled with Eve, Rick Ross and T-Pain and the legendary Public Enemy gave an explosive experience that shows why MTV still is the best at what they do.

So nice to see something positive coming out of Africa again. When you live in the West, it’s easy to forget how much positive stuff is going on in Africa as all you ever hear about here is poverty, pain, civil strife, corruption and a host of other negative stories. If I for a moment wasn’t proud to be African, the MAMAs reminds me of everything that is right about Africa and makes me hold my head up just that much higher.

I’m addicted to shopping. There I said it. In the last month or so I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on handbags, clothes, electronics and other personal items. I am an emotional shopper; frustration, anger, sadness all lead me to the nearest shop in sight. And you know you’re an addict when you hide your purchases from friends and family, and even colleagues at work! Or make excuse, ‘no, I didn’t buy it, so and so gave it to me, aren’t they nice?’ I’ve been doing that for years.
But I’ve noticed that my purchases have become a little bit more expensive, a Marc Jacobs handbag, a Michael Kors clutch, a MacBook, a professional straightener (erm my 3rd one!) and I’m beginning to wonder if its influenced by what I see around me. In fact I know it is – that and the fact that I can now actually afford it. I see these products in my favourite magazines, with women I admire and maybe even someone talking about it being a must have. And then I feel I must have it!
So what if I change my environment would that help? I don’t know. Ok maybe if I’d never been in the environment in the first place, then I’d still have the shopping addiction but for less pricey stuff.
I was actually going to relate this to HIV messaging and how messaging to the individual is no doubt crucial, but equally so is messaging to the community. How the community dictates what is acceptable and what is not, making it a healthy environment to talk about sex without shame or discrimination, allowing it to be a good thing to use protection (condoms) in relationships (including marriage) etc.
And that in turn would make people within the communities have better, safer behaviours and create enabling environments for those already living with the virus. A win win situation right?
But then I thought back to my original statement; I have an addictive personality and I’m addicted to shopping. That’s within me, it’s not a product of my environment.
Maybe the whole nature vs nurture argument is just a cop out, an enabling argument for people who don’t want to take responsibility for their behaviour? If it was socially unacceptable to be a shopaholic, I’d lie about my sprees. Oh wait, I already said that I occasionally do that too, though Lord knows why. But my point is, this is the same thing that people who don’t want to change their behaviour will do.
It’s funny – and now I’m completely going off on a tangent (as I usually do) – I was having this discussion with a friend and talking about the sexual risks my friends (ok myself included) took back in Zambia. Using condoms or not, we’d still have sex. Russian roulette with our lives right? Some of those friends regrettably did end up with the bullet. It didn’t stop us.
Then I moved to London. Now, I’m not particularly a fan of the media (ironic i know), but I just see how this can be manipulated, and I do take everything I see on TV or hear on radio with a pinch of salt (if i wasn’t there myself, not sure it happened, or certainly the way the media said it did). But anyway, there was something about the way AIDS in Africa was reported and depicted or the way people talked about it that scared the crap out of me. Now, if I have sex, when I go back home for holidays or whatever, it’s always protected! – oh wait, so wasn’t that as a result of my environment?
Point is, we need to do both – change the individual and change the community.