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Since I got back to Lusaka I’ve been loving my free, single and ready to mingle life. When I was in London I was so sure I wanted to settle down and focus on maybe doing the whole wifey thing. As touched down on African soil that all changed!

Wedding bands

There are a lot less people in Lusaka than I knew growing up, most of them having moved out of the country, gotten married (therefore are never seen) or died I guess. It is definitely harder to find someone in the age range I usually go for (older than me these days) who are single and have no drama or baggage. I know a few of my friends who also relocated back to Zambia, opting for dating younger men.

I actually have been lucky to have been asked out by a couple of eligible bachelors. Once I got back on the dating scene I loved it, it had been awhile in the UK. But once I started dating, I started questioning if I really did want to settle down in a committed relationship.

Dating in Lusaka is definitely fun – guys don’t go dutch (well rarely), nor have I picked up the full bill – a welcome change from my dating days in London. Money aside, it’s also a nicer environment to get glammed up in – I never have to worry about wearing my heels because I don’t have to walk anywhere – well maybe from the car to the door of the restaurant. And Lusaka is so small, you’re bound to have similar stories or mutual friends to talk about when you run out of chit chat – so might help keep the date interesting a few minutes longer!

But it’s not only that. After some reflection on why I’d pretty much done a 180, I started to realise that it was my emotional unhappiness that made me want to settle down, thinking that I would be more satisfied in life if I had someone to share it with. Now that I’m back in Zambia, my family around me and leading an exciting career path, I don’t feel unfulfilled. I’m happy with my life.

However, the other day I did meet someone, he’s older, sorry more mature, than myself or indeed anyone I’ve ever dated before and it’s caught me slightly off balance. Unfortunately I don’t think we’re on the same page so doubt it will go anywhere but it’s had me questioning what I want in life and what I’m willing to live without. And though I’m sure that I want more, I also can’t help but be drawn to him. It’s not the older, wiser thing that does it – he looks no where near his age, and can be quite ‘young’ acting (not to be confused with childish), so I’m not even sure what it is…

At the same time, I haven’t officially stopped seeing the Adonis, but since he doesn’t call or text me as much, I’m safe to assume that he’s moved on to a new catch.

My real problem is that I’m also attracted to men who fancy me. I rarely fancy someone first and maybe that’s what is the problem with my ‘relationships’. I’m too busy basking in their attention, and then I feed off it and feel like I’m really into them, when I never really got to know them (or them me) to decide whether I really liked them or not. Could be a reason I can move on to someone else so quickly after a break up? Maybe…

I had lunch with an ex – who I didn’t speak to for close to a year because he’d been a dick – and he said that I needed to be honest with myself about what I wanted because he felt that one moment I was so confident and sure and the next… not so much. I guess he could see that in our relationship alone – I didn’t speak to him for ages, then called him inviting him out for drinks like nothing had happened. Though that’s me simplifying it, but the point is, when it comes to men, I can be wish-washy. Now that I’ve met Mr Mature, it has me questioning what I want all over again. I really wish I could be the kind of woman, who when it comes to men, she knows exactly what she wants… Though I guess knowing what you don’t want is half the battle. We’ll see how this goes but might be time for me to start doing things differently.

At first I couldn’t understand why these beautiful women with great bodies were going around dressed in outfits that made them look homeless. They kept saying to me that they didn’t want to be sexy or attract attention. I didn’t really get that, because I think if I look good on the outside, I’ll feel good on the inside. And let’s be honest, some people can’t help but look sexy, especially if they are well put together. It’s not even about having to show any skin, but if you have a good body and your clothes fit you well, and you carry yourself with confidence and class, someone will think you’re sexy right?

I didn’t really get what the big deal was until I went on a date last week. It would be an understatement to say the guy was easy on the eyes – you could look at this guy for ours and be in awe, he is in short an adonis. What started out well enough went horribly wrong when it soon be came clear that he was more interested in getting into my pants than getting into my mind (and initially I had thought he just wanted to pick my brains as we are in the same line of work).

By the end of the date I was pretty peeved off. It’s always flattering to have someone be attracted to you, but it is frustrating when all they actually see is T&A. In fact when I remarked that it would be nice to date someone who didn’t want to have sex with me, he’s snorted, ‘with that body? good luck!’. And it dawned on me then and there why the women I’d previously mentioned decided to play down their God-given assets.

I really try not to over-analysis every situation – but let’s be honest, I’m a woman, of course I do! – I couldn’t help but wonder if this is why a lot of women in Zambia end up in situations they don’t want to be. 1 in 5 women in Zambia report having experienced sexual violence in their lives. And this is probably just the more obvious sexual violence cases. I wonder how many people think of reporting coercion. It’s such a subtle form but when you feel you have to have sex with someone even when you don’t want to, it’s never a good idea. But I digress.

I hope one day men, especially in Africa, learn to respect a woman – whether she’s saying no or yes. Because that’s the other side of the coin. If I’d met this fine man and was sexually attracted to him, then it would still have been a problem having sex with him on the first night – as a woman, either way you’re screwed (no pun intended).

Sometimes I wish I lived on a deserted island, where nothing is that complicated. Or I wish people would understand that I simply don’t care about what other people think, because either way, if people don’t understand you, they will always have an opinion of you, so why get worked up about it? Aaaah because society isn’t that simple. So back to desert island it is.

Twitter is interesting. I used to think it was a tool for narcissistic people, of course now that I’m on it, I’m not singing that tune anymore. While I’m still trying to learn the ins and out of it – what is the hashtagging about? – I have found it very interesting to learn stuff people I respect and admire tweet about.

One of those people is Reverend Run. I usually love his tweets as they’re inspiring and motivational. Something that I like to read when I get up in the morning and right before I got to bed. However, the other day he tweeted ‘Fellas:::If she’s amazing she won’t be easy, if she’s easy she won’t be amazing -Jamal Bryant’.

I see where he was going with it, (and I suppose I must clarify that it is someone else’s quote), on one hand he can be seen to be empowering women to be more virtuous. On the other hand he’s reinforcing women with low self esteem who do have sex easily to be kept down.

I’ve seen it too often, young girls who got caught up in a bad situation – be it some form of sexual abuse – or just not loving themselves enough to say no, or peer pressure or something else that made them make that one decision to have sex when they didn’t want to. On the first night too. It’s hard to come back from that.

It takes real strength to break that cycle of having sex with men who don’t deserve you, and to say that if you have sex that easy you’re not worth much is pretty irresponsible if you ask me.

Black girls especially have it really hard as it is, sexualised in the media, not many examples of black men loving black women and treating them right (thank God for President Obama), that it’s easy for us to suffer from lower self esteem, dysfunctional perceptions of our bodies and believing we’re nothing more than a show-piece or sex toy for our men. But it’s time we change that.

First of all we need to show young black girls that being beautiful doesn’t mean you need to be half naked (Beyonce please put some clothes on in your videos), and also celebrate our diversity. There is not one definition of black beauty. Once we can instil that love, pride and respect within them we can move onto sexuality.

Our bodies are our temples, or should be, but we have to be more clear about that message. If a woman who loves herself, has self-respect and high self-esteem generally wants to have sex with any number of men, should we persecute her? Why does that make her less amazing a person?

How can a person be defined by the number of times she opens her legs, or to the different number of men? She could be an amazing person who has had bad things happen to her in the past, or she could be an amazing person who just likes sex?

Makes me wonder how come there are enough male celebrities who claim to be sex addicts but no female celebrities – could this possibly be because they’d just be labeled sluts. It is a double standard. Should we not then be saying than man-whores are not amazing men (well generally they aren’t), we just need to hear it more often – and not be the scorned woman.

Though maybe I misinterpreted the quote and what he meant was that it takes work to get and keep an amazing woman! That she has standards that might be high, but that’s what it takes to be with such an amazing woman. I’d prefer it if that is the message, so I’m going with this version, so that I can still keep Rev Run as one of my inspired personalities to follow on twitter.

Of course it’s also spurned me to think that there might be something else I should be doing. Watch this space.

This is a re-post from www.staying-alive.org but I really liked it so wanted to share:

When I told my friend Sam that I was a “vagina warrior,” he couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
“A vagina warrior?” He questioned, “What does that even mean?”
A fair enough response to such a statement… similar to mine when I first heard the term. “Vagina warrior” conjured up images of a jousting labia and an armored clitoris fighting other labias and clitorises for world vaginal domination… or something like that.
In reality, the term is far less comical and far more important.

Vagina Warrior: a vagina friendly person of any gender identification who embodies the spirit of equality and empowerment, and assists in the battle to end violence against women.

Sufficed to say, Sam was thrilled that despite his penis, he could join the Vagina Warrior team!

The term was coined by Eve Ensler, activist and author of the critically acclaimed Vagina Monologues. Ensler also created V-Day, her own “holiday” of sorts that corresponds with Valentine’s Day and raises awareness about violence against women and girls. On V-Day, Vagina Monologues is performed in thousands of locations worldwide.

But, as vday.org will tell you, “Performance is just the beginning. V-Day stages large-scale benefits and produces innovative gatherings, films and campaigns to educate and change social attitudes towards violence against women.”

The money raised is distributed to thousands of different organizations but every year the V-Day team choose one particular initiative to spotlight. This year, they’re hoping to empower women and girls of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They rage with a raw yet truthful statement, “STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE.”

Certainly this type of brutality and dehumanization isn’t a fun or popular topic, but it is an important and all too pressing one.

Violence against women (and women not feeling empowered in general) is arguably one of the largest contributors to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Sometimes it’s as complicated as rape and sometimes it’s as simple as a consenting young woman lacking the confidence to say, “put on a condom.”

And yet in these sad circumstances, there is reason to hope. If violence against women, inequality, injustice and dis-empowerment are central causes to HIV/AIDS then it would stand that peace, equality, justice and empowerment for women have the potential to be an arsenal in the battle against HIV and AIDS.

Turning the tide for women won’t be easy and, as strange as it sounds, it certainly isn’t something that women can accomplish by themselves. We need to call upon all the penis-clad warriors to rise with us. Yes we need to educate our daughters, sisters, mothers, friends but we also need to educate our sons, brothers and fathers. (And of course those who don’t associate with just one gender as well.)

But, as my teacher (and vagina warrior on her own accord) Mrs. Mary Morris likes to remind me, “it’s all about setting manageable goals.” So perhaps we can’t change attitudes over night but we certainly can have a starting point.

So I’m going to use V-Day as a launching pad and issue a challenge to anybody who is willing to take it up.

Define “vagina warrior” on your own terms, what it means to YOU and how you can implement these principles into your life. That can mean removing certain derogatory words for women from your vocabulary, mentoring young people or having a heart-to-heart with someone you love.

I’ve sought out some incredible young people to give you their definitions. Use them as a starting place, an inspiration, a jumping off point. And, if you feel compelled, share with us your response in the comments section below.

For Cassie Hoeprich, director of the Women’s Action Committee at the University of Washington and Co-Producer of her schools production of The Vagina Monologues, being a vagina warrior “is more than just advocating for women. It’s about becoming aware of how all aspects of society have created inequalities within gender, but also within race, class, ability, etc. Acknowledging intersectionality can help us understand the different experiences that different women have. Eve Ensler has done quite a bit in advocating for what she had come to see the female voice as, but now it’s time that we start realizing it is crucial to actually include every voice instead of speaking for one another. Being a vagina warrior is respecting the range of people that identify as women and seeking allyship through out the process.”

For Tomek Latak Fior, artist and musician, “I consider myself a vagina warrior because when I’m talking to a girl I treat her as if her life and what’s going on in her world is as important and valid as my own. Like, if she mentions her period or concern over getting pregnant – I know that it’s legit conversation (instead of acting like a douche like some of my friends do). I see girls as human beings, not some idea of what “girls” are supposed to be like. I find that people like being treated like people.”

For my handsome friend Sam being a vagina warrior, “means treating all women with the same respect that I would want shown to my mom. It also means calling people out when they’re not showing decency and respect. I know a lot of guys who think that as long as they’re not being an ass, all is good. But they need to remind their friends to behave as well. I’m a vagina warrior because I treat women like people… I also really dig vaginas.”

The lovely picture of vagina warriors was taken by Lalita Love, a vagina warrior herself.

This post is by Carina Kolodny

Carina Kolodny is a writer and expert coffee shop loiterer based out of NYC. When not writing (or loitering) she can usually be found traveling the world or jumping out of airplanes. She became interested in HIV education while working with the Red Cross in Fiji. This was an enriching though terrifying experience as she hates snakes almost as much as she hates grammar. She counts Fiji, Cuba and Tanzania as second homes and strongly believes in the power of self love and red lipstick.

Sorry I’ve been away for awhile, I’d gone away to help a friend ‘find herself’. As a ‘grown up’ woman, I do find it sad and hard to believe how many so called grown women are still battling with self-esteem issues. I suppose in a way we all have those feelings once in awhile where we doubt ourselves in one aspect or another. But this women, she seems to perpetually be in that state. On the surface, she’s a beautiful successful woman. She’s intelligent, and has a body to die for. But inside, it’s like she hasn’t caught up with that exterior. She’s like a young girl, stuck somewhere between being a little girl and being a woman.
This causes all sorts of problems for her in her personal life, she always seems to be caught up in destructive relationships – with men who cared nothing for her. If you meet her you’d think she’s a strong, independent, opinionated woman, but know anything about her relationships and you’d wonder if it was the same person. She tended to be with men who treated her like a plaything, often times these men had other women in their lives and only called on my friend when they wanted sex with minimal drama.
The problem was as a young girl, she was violated in the worst way possible, raped by two men who she knew – well two different occassions but within a few months of each act, amounting to three times in total. I think this pretty much screwed up any self love she might have had for herself, especially since she’d been an 18 year old already struggling with her looks. And I don’t think she ever recovered.
But the problem with her and other women with self-esteem problems is that because they don’t love themselves they put themselves in situations that can be harmful – like having unprotected sex with men they barely know. That was the thing that worried me about my friend – she’d know to get herself tested but even if the men she was sleeping with didn’t want to get tested, she’d still have unprotected sex with them.
Her story isn’t unique at all and this is what bothers me. We focus a lot of our prevention campaigns around using condoms, getting tested and saying no to sex. But the reality is we need to tackle the fundamental issues of self love. It’s already a hard battle for women in my generation (not that i’m that old!), but what about teenage girls growing up in a world where someone as talented as Beyonce is half naked in all her videos? Or even the videos where men seem to be talking appreciatively (until you actually listen to the words) of the curvaceous, skimpy clad girl dropping it like it’s hot?
They are being groomed to be a sexual object to be here to provide sexual gratification to a man, who if he really likes her will ‘spend it all on her and make her bed rock’.
I know we hear people talking about self-respect, but how do we instill respect in women when the media is full of images that promote anything but respect for women – whether it’s self-respect or from men (that’s another blog post for another day)?
If women, young and older, loved themselves, had higher self-esteem and self-respect, they wouldn’t be putting themselves in situations where they are disrespected or put at risk because of wanting to bend to a man’s sexual wants.
I’m happy to say that my friend finally acknowledged that she suffers from seriously low self-love after spending a weekend with a man who treated her badly – but had lots of sex with her – and she’s now seeking help. I have to admit, she’s one of the lucky ones, considering her sexual network – she’s very lucky.

Interestingly enough the circumcision issue brings up a lot of debate – people feel very strongly on the issue. But the problem with – and therefore what is great about – the internet is that it’s free range for people to voice their opinions. Some opinions also hurl abuse, while others are informative. It’s almost like people forgot their social manners when it comes to online space. I had someone comment on one of my posts – saying my stance on circumcision was irresponsible. I have allowed other comments of people who are opposed to my view because it’s informative – we should have a space to discuss issues – and they weren’t plain rude and offensive – and since it is my blog, I decided to have my own rules – freedom of speech that isn’t obnoxious.
I think I was also slightly peeved because I don’t write these blogs just for fun. Yes some may be humorous, but actually this issue is very real for me. Being from a country where approximately 16% of the population is HIV+ (down from 20%), I know enough people, including my own relatives who have lost their lives as a result of this virus, and many more, some extremely close to me who are still living with the virus. I don’t want to lose anyone else, even if it is inevitable for those already infected, but there is nothing worse than losing a loved one to a disease like this. Or any terminal disease I suppose.
So when I’m sharing these thoughts on what the top health bodies are suggesting are key to stemming the spread of HIV, I’m not doing it as joke, but hoping to share opinions on it and understand the issue, and hearing both sides of the debate helps this.
I don’t know if the person who chose to send the comment has ever lost someone to HIV or if perhaps he is living with the virus himself, but I think not having discussions on different aspects relating to HIV and AIDS is irresponsible. I think not talking about the realities of HIV, whether you’re infected or affected, is irresponsible. However, if he thinks that my comment about men getting circumcised if that means they won’t have to use condoms means that a whole bunch of men will go out and get circumcised, well then he clearly thinks I have more influence than even I could have imagined! (And clearly it would be a whole bunch of people who can’t really read because I’d already said that even if a man is circumcised he’d still have to use a condom. Sigh)
My point is that these blogs are my thoughts on the issue, that I want to share, because I care too much about this issue to sit here not doing all that I can do, and if that makes me irresponsible, I guess I’m happy to wear the title.

The London Evening Standard did a survey asking people if they’d tell their current partners how many people they’d ever slept with. A surprising proportion of them said they would – ok it was about 10 people surveyed and about 8 of them said they would.
Sexual health dictates that we encourage people to talk openly about their sexual history and all that. But is there a way that you can do it without revealing your number of partners? Who doesn’t remember that scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral when Andie MacDowell’s character counts off the number of partners she’d had and Hugh Grant squirms and sweats as the number progresses over 10?
Is that not still the reality? Men are uncomfortable hearing how many people (male or female) their girlfriend has had – though could this be because they’re worried they can’t live up to expectations of her experiences? And women worry about being labeled.
I think we should encourage people to talk about sex so that they can talk to their partners about sexual health issues, getting tested and even sexual boundaries (some people are into more weird stuff than others).
But do we really need to get into numbers? And do we start judging people because of that? I.e. would a more sexually experienced woman have an issue with a man who’s only had two sexual partners in his lifetime? Would a man want to be with a woman who’s slept with 20 odd partners?
I don’t know, I just think the numbers game is a very tricky one. I think the Evening Standard went on to say that because the people were more open to disclosing their numbers they’d be more open to talking about their sexual health and other sexual issues. But if that’s true it clearly hasn’t done much, because the UK still has among the highest – if not the highest – rate of teenage pregnancies in Western Europe.
So again, I ask, what is the point of discussing your numbers? Keep it to have you had any sexually transmitted infections, can we get tested together and what method of protection will we use? – straight to the point.
Of course it would be nice if we could get to a point where sex is not so taboo and people can discuss anything without fear of judgment. Until then, I’m keeping mum about my number of sexual partners. I’m guessing one or none is the ideal number your partner wants to hear, and I don’t like to disappoint.

I know I’ve touched on this before but it really is such a big issue in the world of HIV prevention that I have to address it again. But this time from a woman’s perspective.
They do say to get men to do anything you’ve got to get them to believe that woman prefer that specific behaviour change – which I suppose makes sense (though I’ve never managed to convince any of my ex partners to clean up after themselves – it never sounded at all sexy I suppose).
But I’ve pondered this point – relating to circumcision – and even asked a few of my girlfriends – I’m not really big on promoting something I don’t actually subscribe to.
I come from a country where circumcision isn’t the norm, but do know people from other tribes and other countries where it is the norm. And this isn’t the first time women have discussed the whole circumcised, not circumcised thing, it’s a debate that has been raging on for years. Some women don’t care – especially those who have largely only had uncircumcised men, or have never been with a circumcised man. But those who have, they swear by them, insist there is nothing better.
I don’t sit on the fence on this one, I know exactly where I stand – and not just because of the seemingly well documented facts that circumcision is a step in the right direction for prevention.
A study in Uganda found an overwhelming majority of the 455 women surveyed stating that sex was equally, if not more so, satisfying after their partners were circumcised. That doesn’t surprise me either. I know more than a handful of women who after being with circumcised men have never looked back, and even just for the aesthetics – let’s face it, it’s a lot prettier to look at when it’s circumcised.
However, I have yet to find an uncircumcised man willing to get circumcised just because I said I preferred it. Either way, the condom still has to stay on and I still see that as being a big barrier. Tell men that if they get circumcised they don’t have to use a condom – that’s when you’ll see the queues at the local health centers going on for miles (obviously defeating the point though…).

Using celebrities in social campaigns is always a risk. Celebrities in essence are hit and miss, especially when targeting young people. Young people aren’t stupid they want authenticity. But the problem is that those types of celebrities are usually really old – they don’t necessarily appeal to young people. Or young people want to see the big names, the Beyonce’s of the world. Hmmm, think of your not for profit budget for flying Beyonce and her glam squad, manager, assistant, her riders etc to some remote place… yeah not sure about that.
But sometimes you get a celebrity who isn’t superstar quality but has his own following and just interested in doing their bit in the fight.
So this year Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes ended his journey with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, by producing a track will all proceeds from the sale going to raise much needed funds for the Foundation.
You can hear it and donate for it here:
http://traviemccoy.bandcamp.com/

sorry i have been absent. the last month has been crazy busy as we prepare to unleash four new productions this year – all of which i’m pretty proud of, some more so than others, but that’s to be expected.
so the craziness started when we decided to throw a black tie dinner to raise awareness of our Foundation and the fact that Travis McCoy had recorded a track called One At a Time, exclusively for the Foundation. the track is released on 1st December World AIDS Day. We had less than 3 weeks to pull it off and thanks to the Westbury hotel in London, and some great people, we did it. and it was hosted by the gorgeous Idris Elba

Cathy and Tasha with Idris Elba and Myron Rolle

Three hours sleep and then i was off to Nairobi, Kenya to launch Shuga. The premiere there went down a treat. Everyone loved Shuga! so the question is – where’s the funding coming from to do Shuga 2?

On the red carpet for the premiere of Shuga

Two of the male actors on the red carpet of the launch of Shuga

While I was enjoying the fanfare in Nairobi, Georgia, the SVP of Social Responsibility for MTVNI, jetted into Zambia to preside over the launch of Shuga there.

Ms G hanging with the Cast


If you’ve ever been to the Lusaka Playhouse, you’d be amazed as to how Media 365, who organised the whole launch in Zambia, transformed it. Even the VIP attendees couldn’t believe it! In short Shuga went down a treat.

Back in the office to oversee the distribution of programming – Travis McCoy’s Unbeaten Track, Shuga, Tribes and Embrace me – all for WAD – which at this point was in less than 2 weeks away!

But our premieres are not done yet. Ukraine will be unveiling Embrace Me this week – i just saw the offline and despite the fact that i couldn’t understand it, it looks good – hmmm some competition for Shuga?

And Ben, my trusty coordinator is off to Trinidad tomorrow to see the launch of Tribes. hmmm lucky him, i’m missing the sun already!.

I’ll have pictures from those events next week. But make sure you keep up to date with all things related to MTV Staying Alive Ignite here: http://www.staying-alive.org/ignite

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