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I haven’t plugged the work I’m doing in Zambia in ages, so thought I’d share the HIV prevention spot my company Media 365 produced on behalf of our client UNICEF, for the Brothers For Life campaign in Zambia.

Finally! Pretty much since the day I arrived back in Lusaka I’ve been working on a campaign for UNICEF Zambia, which is an adaptation of a campaign that was rolled out in South Africa around the 2010 World Cup, Brothers for Life (B4L).

The premise of the campaign is actually a really good one, it’s about recognising the role that men play in the response to the HIV epidemic. In South Africa, they used known personalities to declare that there was a new man in South Africa, a new man that takes responsibility.

Interestingly enough when we pretested the materials the idea of a ‘new man’ didn’t hit home, because the young men – who the campaign was intended for – didn’t really see anything wrong with the so called ‘old men’. They couldn’t connect the dots that those men they saw as successful also had certain behaviours that put them at risk of HIV infection, such as multiple partners, not knowing their HIV status, alcohol abuse etc.

So we knew pretty soon that that message was not the one to go with for Zambia, not unless you explained the links and that was going to be too much for a largely shot form (60 second public service announcements) campaign. What we did like was the message of brotherhood, of fraternity and this is what we wanted to focus on in the creative. Also talking to some of the young men, it was interesting to see that they didn’t feel they had a good handle on what it meant to be a man. That was the next piece of the puzzle, don’t talk about a new man, just redefine what it means to be a man.

From this point, we realised that we couldn’t simple do an adaptation from the South Africa campaign but we were actually going to have to reversion it for Zambia. It was hard work but fun nonetheless.

The campaign in Zambia focuses on promoting condom use, HIV testing, address alcohol abuse and gender based violence. One shocking thing that came out of the campaign launch yesterday was when the UNICEF Zambia representative said that about 83% of women in Zambia believed that when their partner hit them, it was a sign of love (I paraphrase but you get the picture). That’s an absolutely shocking statistic but also a sign of why violence against women is so prevalent in the country.

Anyway, Brothers for Life Zambia has 10 personalities who serve as the inaugural ambassadors, all from across various sectors of society. Some of the ambassadors came together to create the campaign song, which is amazing. I hope I’ll be able to share it online soon.

The campaign made me really aware of the talent we have in Zambia, the singers are unbelievable, even tempted me to want to consider managing them (for another revenue stream! lol! but largely because I’d love to showcase that talent to the world).

Anyway, I’m so proud of the Media 365 team, for all the work and effort that was put in to developing such an amazing campaign. The campaign runs for another two years and we’re contracted to deliver a few more PSAs and a documentary, which I can’t wait to do as I really do find the campaign inspiring and I love working with the Ambassadors!

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.