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My fasting and prayer worked well. I’m feeling truly blessed and even had some positive things come my way. I also feel better, probably helped to cleanse myself of all the junk that I put in me.

It had me thinking about my life – I spent a lot of time to talking to God – so led me to some self-reflection. Like holding up a mirror to myself. I felt like there was a disconnect.

People have one view of me and I have another one. They don’t really align. But the problem is that I’ve spent too much time believing or at least portraying the one others believe to be the true. And actually it’s exhausting living up to something you’re not.

For too long, I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror (not the superficial asthetics – nothing wrong there 🙂 ), but what I carried in me, or what people thought I was, yet I perpetuated it. I allowed people to judge the book by its cover. Not even letting them read the foreward.

So now that I’m a week away from my 3… birthday, Paulo Coelho‘s words can’t ring truer: ‘You may not know your path, but you must know what you don’t want in life’. I don’t want to pretend anymore. I want to be true to who I am. You may not like me, but you don’t have to. (How exactly is this my problem?)

Another thing I’m going to stop doing is explaining myself, I am who I am. We spend way too much time trying to please people, people that don’t really matter either. As we get older, we get more comfortable in our skins and less concerned with what others think.

This is another step in achieving my personal legend; re-inventing myself, or more appropriately giving everyone the real Cathy.

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Stuck at home, terrible cough (ok and I’m broke – since it’s started pouring down with rain, I’m definitely happy to be home). But this is a good thing because it’s been awhile since I just chilled – on my own. And I can catch up on my university reading – management by Boddy.

It’s been an interesting week, two of my friends have had great successes with their entrepreneurial skills; Octavia’s blog, the TwentyTenClub has been shortlisted in the Best Business blog for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards. And my other girl, Susan has had her independent production commissioned (can’t say more than that because it’s top secret), and this happened after she’s got back from a freelance gig in Nigeria with MTV base. (Slight digression: can’t believe MTV base is geo-blocked!). So good look for both of them and I’m very proud of their achievements.

Today, my former driving instructor came over to collect his last cheque. After being let go by his company for some silliness, he’s literally started his own company doing confidential courier services. He didn’t sit around wondering what to do, he just go on with it. So impressive.

I’m sitting here, thinking about reading my book and bearing in mind that I also have the Gates report to do (yikes!), and people are getting the best out of their lives. I just feel demotivated because I’ve been doing what I do well for so long, that I no longer know what I want to do with my life.

I’m obviously very passionate about what I do, a cause I believe strongly in, but is there not more to my life? How do we find the challenge in our lives?

Aaah then I also have my girlfriends giving me dating advice. Why do people put so much pressure on you to figure out what you’re doing? I’m quite content with where I am right now – or I’m too busy thinking about my career and my dissertation. I just don’t need the additional pressure to think about whether or not I’m in a relationship – is it really important?

So here I am, on a saturday afternoon, having that eternal debate with myself; what is the purpose of my life?

And also feeling sorry for myself every time I go onto twitter and see I still only have 25 followers – boohoo. Though I am enjoying it. I’d spent so long slagging off the people in the office for being on twitter – ‘isn’t it just for narcissistic people?’ – but I’m loving it. And following the right people, I’m actually learning a lot.

I think my tweets will get so much more interesting once we go into production. I could tweet about this year’s World AIDS Day programme because I’m actually quite excited, yet anxious about it. Done right, it’s going to be great.

Well I think I might take a nap, or maybe mediate for a bit – need to clear my mind – though if I meditate, I’m more likely to fall asleep!

Oh but before I forget, have to congratulate Media 365 for having Club Risky Business shortlisted for an AfriComNet Award for Strategic Communication in Health for Africa. Gutted that we nominated Shuga in the same category but weren’t shortlisted, I’m still very proud of my siblings. Please check out the newly launched site too: http://www.media365.co.zm

With the International AIDS Conference just over a month away, we’ve decided our focus for the conference is going to be on leadership – yeah, we know the theme is rights, but hey, leadership is equally important.

And it got me thinking, leadership in the fight against HIV is crucial, it just is, but then again leadership in general is just as important. And i mean this in our every day life, yet few people are willing to take up that leadership position and I wonder why?

I don’t mean leadership in the sense of ruling over the masses, but much more about taking control of your life and responsibility for your actions and the decisions we make. I find this too often in the work place, people are generally afraid to make decisions. I would understand this predicament if they weren’t empowered to do so, though that begs the question of who is not empowering them to do so?

Maybe I’ve never worked for a controlling, tyranny of a boss (because that would be me), so I’ve always had a sense of getting on with the job and making decisions. It helps to have strong convictions that you’re right!

I don’t always get it right, but I learn, dust myself off and move on. I’m not sitting around waiting to be told, I just get on with it, freeing up time for my line manager who doesn’t need to micromanage me. I don’t understand why other people can’t do this. I believe when you are given responsibility for something, a project, an event, a business unit, or even just a title, you have been empowered to take the leadership role for that initiative. There isn’t any excuse not to be a leader.

Now leadership in my personal life? Ok, that one I’m still trying to figure out, in that case I’m much more of a reluctant leader – I find it easier to make a decision on a $1million project, than what I should eat for dinner (the healthy option or the one I really want to eat despite the pounds it will add to my waistline). My conviction in my sense of self isn’t quite as strong I suppose.

Focusing on personal leadership and responsibility is so important. We can’t expect the so called leaders to solve all our collective problems, and sitting around moaning about it isn’t going to help either, but personal responsibility and personal leadership might just tip the scales in our favour. Just saying…

Zambia - home to the mighty victoria falls

Going home was a somewhat welcome break. I did go for a family emergency, though the emergency was less so when I arrived, but was good to be there.
I got to soak up some sun for starters, which was funny because my parents kept asking my why i wasn’t cold (er because it was 20 degrees!). But also to hang out with my family and catch up. Being from a country where 1 in 4 people are HIV+ it’s quite common that the conversation will come up – because most of us having relatives living with the disease – as well as the all too common conversation of ‘suspected’ cases. This I find quite disturbing that on one hand, people insist that stigma is mainly self stigma, that most people are used to HIV, so don’t stigmatise, yet there’s still the whispers of people who may or may not be infected.
I found out about a cousin who is infected – but I’m not supposed to tell anyone because she doesn’t want people to know – so said her sister. My aunt then later told me that my cousin is open about her status and that she wants to fight it and live a long life, and wants to make sure other relatives do the same by sharing her story. So I’m a bit confused as to whether she is publicly open or only open to relatives, or maybe even select relatives. Either way I was glad to hear this because she is so full of life and to give up would have been so devastating.
Then I have the other relative who is so clearly in denial. He’s just recovered from an illness, where we just weren’t sure he was going to pull through, thankfully he did. But it made us realise that as a family, we need to talk about what is going on. We can’t continue to leave him to live in denial and us wait until he’s ready to come round, he needs to start taking care of his health and we need to help him.
But it was an eye opener because I realised that as much as I know about this disease, I really know nothing about it. I was thankfully when I was talking to Aric from Discovery Channel’s Global Educational Partnership, about their feature length film on AIDS in Africa (for Africa?), that they really want to tell the real story about HIV/AIDS. I think with some script adaptations, their film has the power to do something very different and unique when it comes to HIV. Too often funding is tied to what we can or can’t say, and while I understand why in most cases, it does make you wonder whether the true stories will ever come out.
Aric had a good point when he talked about prevention (and i’m using my own words here, so maybe i misunderstood him!), how can people prevent a disease they don’t understand? Most of us don’t understand the science of the virus for us to prevent it, or help take care of the people we love who are infected. And maybe the onus is on us to find out more, I really can’t say why I haven’t taken the time to understand this more…But as communicators, we also should be imparting this information, as much as we do the ‘use a condom’ message.
Every time I go to any part of Africa, I do get a bit sad, but I also have a huge sense of hope, because even though people are dying, there is still a sense of hope; people still smile. But this has being going on far too long, we really need bold actions and more research to really start making long lasting changes.
The New York Times article recently pointed out how the money for treatment is running out, this is really important because it’s yet another reason highlighting the importance of investing in prevention. It’s cheaper than treatment.
People, who think that I’m a bit of an African elitist, probably think this is an insensitive thing to say, well I’m not an elitist, I don’t come from a rich family that bankrolls me or my relatives living with HIV, but the reality is that if the money isn’t there something has to give.
Our own governments should do more too. But that’s for another post.

People who know me know that I’m a very private person. If you don’t know me, you could think that I’m a bit stand-offish, and a little bit of an enigma (at least I like to think so!). But once you get to know me, you know that I’m a lovely person with a big heart.

So I’ve decided to stop only giving my work voice here and let you into my life as well. Hopefully that means the blogs will be less depressing and more interesting – don’t get too excited, my life isn’t really that exciting!
Anyway, will start with the my stint in Zambia next week and give you some insight from there.
Until then, have a lovely weekend!

I’m off to Zambia on Monday. I wish it was under better circumstances, but it’s to go and be with my ill brother, to spend some time with him and help him get better. At the same time I think it will be a good time for me to go and get a reality check.
When your work revolves around HIV prevention for young people, it’s kind of hard to do it effectively when you’re 1,000 of miles away from the problem and not getting a sense of what’s happening on the ground. Yes I read the reports and the briefings and try to keep up to date with what is proving to work and what doesn’t work. But whenever I go back to Africa, or any region with high prevalence rates, you sometimes get the sense that some of those reports are just words. You can’t know for real without seeing and experiencing the impact firsthand.
Working to improve the lives of people, whether it be through poverty, infant/maternal mortality, sexual health etc, is hard. It’s hard because even the small progress made is still insignificant to the problem. It almost seems insurmountable. And then when something hits home – especially for those of us who are personally invested in these issues, you get the feeling of ‘why do i bother? if nothing is changing, why do it?’
I know for some people this is a job, for me this isn’t just a job, it’s a huge part of my life. And if we’re not going to get it right, why are we doing it?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not demotivated, I’m just feeling challenged. So while I’ll be taking a time out to be with family, I hope I’ll come back re-focused, with some lessons learnt that I can incorporate in what I do.
Anyway, I’ve hardly been that regular with my blogs these last few weeks, but hopefully I’ll come back full of stories to tell!

I’m trying not to feel jaded. It’s hard not to when I try to think of the good tv programming on HIV/AIDS – that isn’t a predictable, done before format.

Is it because HIV/AIDS is such a difficult issue with loads of political ramifications? Is it because people don’t care? Or people are too scared to offend some people?

I really don’t know what it is, but sometimes, I wonder what the end goal is with some programming ideas. I’m not talking about any shows in particular, just generally thinking of what I’ve seen in the last few years.
I did like the story line in Greys Anatomy which was set back in the day when AIDS was called GRID. That was good because it looked at it from the stigma point of view, but then brought into perspective other discrimination/stigma from the day i.e. inter-racial dating, black and female doctors being the first of their kind etc. (not first, but you know what i mean). And I thought that was good because it put it into a context that people could relate to. It just made HIV/AIDS more accessible i think.

That’s one of the things I struggle with – definitely for the audience I have to reach – how do you make HIV/AIDS accessible? The reality is, that while there are millions of people living with the virus, and countless other affected by it, there are even more who are not infect and seemingly unaffected. That’s the audience I want to reach, because in this day and age, in the global world we live in, how can you think you’re unaffected?

I want to re-establish the African thinking of ‘it takes a community’. We, as a people, inhabiting this planet are the community. Call me the eternal optimist (in all my cyniscm), but I do believe that if humanity comes together we can stop the spread of HIV and at the same time create an environment that protects and supports those already living with the virus. But people have to want to do this, people have to be moved to do this. We need a new generation of people who care about us and not about me – the ‘we, not me’ generation (as coined by someone in the office). And I do think that media has a big role to play in making this happening. Aaaah if only had had loads of cash myself, the programming i’d make! one day…

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.

Bono has been championing the Red campaign for a few years now. Like most initiatives it has its critics and it has its supporters. I’m not sure where I sit on this one. On one hand it’s a great example of innovative financing – allowing consumers to contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS. But I’m not a fan of the message.
I get that HIV/AIDS is having devastating effects across Africa, but to have the tagline of Buy Red, Save Lives (in Africa)?
As an African I hate it – again I get that you’ve got to portray an extreme picture to pull on the heart-strings – and therefore the purse-strings – but for the millions of people who’ve never been to Africa, it only tells one story. And that story is that us poor, starving, disease ridden Africans can’t do anything for ourselves and always need the West to bail us out.
I can see how this story can help raise cash for Africa – and I’m not saying we don’t need it – but isn’t there a way we can do this so the world can see that Africa does do some things on its own too? And this is what should be supported?
And now Bono’s the mouthpiece for Africa? I know I should be happy that someone as important as Bono has made it his mission to do something for the world’s poor (in Africa), but I just hate that it also perpetuates this air of hoplessness of Africa. But maybe that’s Africa’s fault too.
In most place – bar Rwanda and Liberia and a handful of other countries – we need new leadership. Not the old guards who are from the independence days, but younger, people with fresh perspectives – we need our Obamas. Young Africans also need to take up the challenge, with social media sites there is no reason why the work and advancement they are doing can’t be communicated and spread.
For now, I hope that campaigns such as OneLove Kwasila – though paid for by the US government – but implemented by young Africans can be one of many examples of the not so futile situation in Africa.
Maybe I’m just cynical or patriotic to a fault. (Oh, I forgot to mention the ridiculous ad spend to support Red products as well – in 2007 alone it was $100 million and guess how much they raised? $18million. I’m sure that ratio is better now…) Ok maybe I’m just a little bit mad at my own foolishness of getting a Red credit card and despite the money spent on it, I’ve only contributed about £50 to the global fund – I should have just given them the money instead – hell, I should have donated to a charity in Africa directly!


One of a series of animations from the OneLove Kwasila campaign

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