Arnold and Alex, Commando Tanzanian style

February 11, 2011 at 10:29 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It kind of hits you over the head at the end with the message, but I love watching Alex recount the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando.  And its amazing to see Arnolds abs again!  It was produced for MamaHope‘s ‘Stop the Pity, Unlock the Potential’ campaign.  I like the sound of that message.


Can’t get enough Waka Waka

June 27, 2010 at 11:53 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The good thing about currently living in Europe is all the World Cup games are at normal time of day and there are TV screens everywhere.  So my Saturday night was spent in a public square watching the US get defeated by Ghana while a bunch of Germans cheered.  That was a bit painful, my national loyalties had been stirred.

But I have a new strategy for moments when I am feeling down, and I hope I remember it in the depths of winter a year from now.   Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’ never ceases to cheer me up.

While its been criticized for not being sung by an African, I think that is a cheap shot.  No one is a bigger GLOBAL icon than Shakira, and Africa and the World Cup deserves the very best.  Anyhow the song was first made popular in Cameroon in 1986

Cameroonians are glad to do their part, according to the New York Times:

Cameroonians are actually very proud of the remake. In cybercafes you see both versions of the song playing on repeat. Young people don’t know the original as it came out in 1986. […] But the older generations know the clip off by heart, especially the bit with the presidential guards’ parade. The song was released just after television arrived in the country so we remember it well.

I only hope the original songwriters get some royalties, their remuneration plan sounds a bit vague. And true to social media spirit, the song is being used for a good cause (universal education) and has inspired a global dance party — even dolphins are in on it

Now, a day after the sad defeat of cute Donovan, Dempsey and BocaNegra, all I can say is Go Black Stars! And call me if you want to do the Waka Waka.

Menstruation march in Rwanda – SHE is on the move!

March 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I am having a one-woman party for Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) today!   On Friday SHE held a mobilization in Rwanda “breaking the silence” about menstruation.  They gathered  hundreds of people for a march through the city, including some “Big Shots” like government ministers to call for:

-Open dialogue on menstrual issues;
-Increased access to health and hygiene education;
-Increased access to affordable sanitary pads.

The entrance fee to the event was a packet of sanitary pads, and participants received a bottle of water and T-shirt. I love that!  And lets be frank, a march through town about menstruation is a bold thing to do in Africa where things about sex, reproductive health and women’s bodies are not talked about in public.  Most exciting (and it cannot be overstated)  is that this is totally Rwandan-driven, with many students and local women’s groups taking the lead.

When I wrote SHE’s media strategy for my thesis I theorized that this kind of event is great for “trickle-up” media attention — coverage in the Rwandan paper will add credibility later for farther-reaching global media.

Julian (SHE leader in Rwanda) hits the nail on the head on the SHE blog when she writes:

I just realized for sure is, just as we all need management and bookkeeping skill, every one needs advocacy and awareness skills. Right now as I write this, my is 15 minutes away, and I can’t think of anything to do, other than work on the campaign, one of my campaign partners mentioned she cannot concentrate on a thing, until launch of campaign is done, no wonder this is full time job for some.

I am staying tuned to hear more about the reactions of the community to what happened.  I will be checking the SHE blog for updates.

“The power of mobile money” – new report from The Economist hints of development revolution

October 8, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In 1791, Thomas Edison started a project– to build a worldwide network for people talk to each other.  And according to experts interviewed last week’s report in The Economist, we can expect to see this project finished in our lifetime—100 per cent global teledensity is expected within the next ten years.  Of course, 100 per cent does not mean absolutely everyone, since some people own several headsets and sim cards, but it comes pretty darn close.

These days it seems everyone has a story about how a cell phone has changed a person living in poverty’s life, but the in-depth research of exactly how mobile telecommunications is spurring economic growth is still being written. That’s why this special report is so exciting; it compares telecom across emerging markets, stringing both anecdotes and research together, and pulling out the trends.

Some of the facts:

  • 3 out of the 4 billion mobile phones worldwide are being used by people in the developing countries.
  • Studies show that adding ten phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts income per person by 8-10 percent.
  • India leads the way with adding 128 million new subscribers in the last year, 89 million were added in China and 96 million across Africa.  Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil are not far behind.
  • Despite average customer spending $6.50 per month and .02cent calls, Indian operators still have a 40% profit margin, similar to Western operators.

While the article touches on nearly every region in the world, M-Pesa in Kenya has had the most success with using mobile phones for banking.  Here’s how it works: once a user is signed up using a mobile phone and an ID card, he or she pays cash to a vendor who then credits it to the phone account and gives the consumer a special code.  The code can be used to withdraw cash later or passed along to someone else. Around $2 million is transferred through the system every day, with an average transaction of $20.

There are many benefits to mobile banking–  no more carrying cash on long trips, keeping wealth in only livestock or jewelry, or risking losing the stash kept under the bed to a natural disaster.   Adoption of mobile banking in Kenya was aided by an unexpected cause, the 2008 post-election violence.  People that trapped in their homes in the slums during the violence used the system to send and receive money.  Some banks also lost the public’s trust because they were seen as taking sides in the ethnic conflict.

Many are studying M-Pesa in Kenya– so far there is no other country with such high rates of mobile banking adoption.  It seems only a matter of time before others reproduce the model; in many places the power of mobile brands are much stronger than that of the banks.

There’s much more to say – and hopefully more reports from The Economist to come —  but you should read the article for yourself!

A face to face with Emeka Okafor from Timbuktu Chronicles

July 14, 2009 at 10:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Had the pleasure of meeting one of my blogging heroes yesterday, Emeka Okafor from Timbuktu Chronicles. A self titled venture catalyst, he is the director of TED Africa, an African food imports entrepreneur, and connector of innovators.   Elizabeth from Sustainble Health Enterprises and I tracked him down to discuss all things Africa and entrepreneurship.

He is concerned about the missing links in the chain of innovation in Africa.  In the US we take this chain for granted — the university systems, funding for research, business plan competitions, labs where discoveries are made.   With all these pieces working together, a breakthrough idea can become a business.  But in Africa, many of these links are missing.

One thing he is doing is looking at how to invest in large scale women traders.  In Francophone Africa, these women are “cash madams” — moving thousands of dollars of merchandise through selling basic staples like salt, soap and plastic sandals.   In Eastern Africa they call these women “Dubai mamas“.  Like SHE, he is interested in proving that these are viable business networks ready for investment.   He says what these women are doing is not new, that in many parts of Africa, women have been the traders for centuries, patriarchy as a business model is a product of recent times.

To talk to him was to glimpse a community that he is slowly building – one where innovation and ideas are invested in, and business and creativity drive problem solving, not development aid.   Through him, I learned about a ning site for venture capital in Africa, and he is one of the people behind Maker Faire Africa a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention, will take place August 14-16 in Accra, Ghana.   It was inspiring to meet him, I hope to keep in touch.

I finally meet Nick Kristof

May 3, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Just wrapped up the Women’s Funding Network conference in Atlanta. One theme I heard throughout  was the need for foundations to use strategic communications to tell their stories, influence policy, raise more money etc.   Nick Kristof, the conference keynote, summed it up when he said, “the average toothpaste has better messaging than humanitarian organization.”  Here, here!

So, I have been waiting for my chance to meet Kristof for years. In his remarks he talked about the most effective interventions for keeping  girls in school – things like de-worming medication or sanitary napkins as opposed to building more schools.  Well, he said the magic words for SHE, and I had a chance to go up to him afterward and make the pitch:  SHE is launching women-led businesses in Africa that keep girls in school by selling low-cost locally made sanitary napkins!   He wanted to know how much it costs to keep a girl in school by providing a sanitary napkins – he is all about the best return on investment.

Fine.  But then my new favorite woman Yassine Fall from UNIFEM took the mic and told him the reason why girls don’t go to school was that structural adjustment from the IMF has stopped governments from investing in public goods like education and eliminating school fees.   Policy is the problem, not as Kristof suggested, men spending less of the family income on alcohol and entertainment and more on education and health. She said his analysis was demonizing African men as irresponsible fathers who only drink beer.  The confrontation was an exciting moment in the fancy hotel ballroom.

Well, its too late for Kristof to add Yassine’s perspective in his upcoming book called “Half the Sky” all about women’s rights.  He both opened and closed his speech saying: “I truly believe the struggle of the 21st century is a struggle for greater gender equity in the world.” Good messaging — take note women’s funds!

Youth Uprising in Kenya

April 11, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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George told me why we are holding the peacesummit next week, I mean I had ideas, but this story spells it out.  During the violence after Kenya’s election last year,  a member of parliament asked a group of 10 youth if they would go disrupt the opposition’s rally. The MP paid the group 500 shillings and they went and caused fear and chaos and stopped the opposition’s event. Afterwards, the politician gave all the money to one youth, and the others wanted it so bad they almost killed him to get it.  When the total was divided up it was 50 shillings per youth — less than one dollar.   And here these youth risked their lives and could have been arrested.    This made them so angry and bitter that they went and smoked weed and then took women and raped them.

Uprising Youth Club House

Uprising Youth Club House

He told this story to a group of youth we visited in the Machako Slums in East Naiobi called Uprising Youth to illustrate why we are holding this peace summit, because youth can be manipulated by politicians.  Uprising Youth is a group of young men that are brought together by a love of football, and their team is in one of the premier leagues.  In order to support the costs of the team, like uniforms, registration and transport to games, they have several businesses to generate income.  A few years ago there was a big trash dump right in the middle of the slum, so they cleaned it up and negotiated with the city to have the space where they built a club house, which they use for almost daily meetings  to plan their game strategy and business ventures.  Their first project was to manage the public toilets installed by city hall, which they still do.  But the toilets were not bring in enough money, so they got a small loan and built a shower next door, where people pay 20 shillings for a hot shower.  Business is thriving, and children play in the hot soapy water that pours out of the doors into the open sewer.

The group also manages 6 rental houses, but their pride and joy is a car wash.  They are the only ones in the area with a power washer, and this means they can charge more than the others for their services.  One month money was short right before a big soccer tournament, and the group pawned the powerwasher to the nearby NGO  for a loan in order to get the boys to the game.   It took them about a month to repay the the 7,000 shillings they borrowed (about $100) all in coins.



Several of them told me, “before I joined Uprising Youth I was a jailbird, a hustler.  I just wanted to be a criminal, and now I want to be the best soccer player in Kenya.”  A couple of the young men, holding babies said, we do this for our children, so they will have better chances than us.    Uprising Youth has also  accessed the National Youth Fund in Kenya, which is hard to do for all the bureaucracy involved, and got a loan of 47,000 shillings  (about $450).  They used the money to buy a PlayStation2, which they charged admission from kids to play, but parents started complaining so they temporarily suspended business until school is out.  They have almost paid the money back to the government.

soccer coach for Uprising Youth

soccer coach for Uprising Youth on right

This group of young men live in one of the most violent slums in Nairobi, but all they talk about is soccer and what their next business plan will be.   Dreaming big has paid off, after 7 years of asking, someone has given them a matatu (a van).  They will use it  to drive to their games, and on the other days they will operate it as a bus. Uprising is such a great example of what young people can do with a little support.  But what sticks with me is despite their difficult circumstances, these young men had passion and drive, and that can’t be bought.

Waiting for death, with no help from the church

March 2, 2009 at 12:45 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Fulata Moyo

Fulata Moyo

This year’s Commission on the Status of Women is discussing caregiving in the context of AIDS.  This theme is not well understood – and incredibly unequal because women are almost always the ones who care for the sick. Yesterday I heard Fulata Moyo from Malawi and the World Council of Churches talk about losing her sister to AIDS and her husband to cancer.   She focused on lack of care for the caregiver, unpredictable wait for death, and the use of sacred texts to maintain widowhood. What impresses me is that after her husbands death – she went around and told churches how to better care for the caregivers…

When people from the church came to visit me they only said that God would heal my husband.  The church told me over and over that God will heal him.   I did not want to tamper with that so I prayed day and night and did not sleep.  I was giving care to my husband but I also needed care.  Some Christian fundementalists visited the bedside and told me there were symbols on my outfit that were demonic so I burned that outfit.  I loved that outfit.

After he died the church people told me that God was my husband.  But after 6 months I had physical needs.  These are issues women face and they will not talk about it.  I asked my pastor, so God is my husband, what can I do? Our male pastors do not know what pastoral care for women is.  Most women do not talk about this but I do because I am one of the crazy ones.   If I had had daughters they would not have gone to school during this time because you also have to care for all the visitors that come to see the patient.  Praying was seen as the only way to be supportive, if the spirit was OK then the body was OK.  But I needed someone to cook the food.

After he died I went around and talked to churches in the region and shared my experience and called for a greater commitment to pastoral counseling.  My advice to people who are with someone who is dying:  ‘if you don’t have wisdom keep quiet, and don’t talk to a widow about being a husband of god.’

Thembi´s radio diary tells story of living HIV positive

August 5, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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On-air speaking about Living Positively

With her doll-like face, she hardly looks her 23 years, but Thembi has learned a lot about life. After she was diagnosed with HIV at age 16, she started taking a tape recorder with her everywhere. At, listeners travel with her to her first visit to the doctor, and hear when she learns about the decline of her T-cell count. The stories cover her progression to full-blown AIDS, starting ARV treatment, and finally giving birth to a daughter.

Presenting her story at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, she talks about how keeping a diary empowered her. “Ever since I knew my status my life has changed for the better. Ever since I started my diary I have felt more confident and comfortable and I am an inspiration to other young people.”

In a conference of thousands of experts, the most powerful presentations still come from personal testimony. In one of her entries, she reflects on the future.

I’m just imagining what a world would look like without me in it. I’m not scared of dying but of leaving my baby behind. I want to see her grow a little bigger. HIV will try to rule my life on the inside but outside I will be boss. I want to study and have a good job, I want to go on with my life.

Beyond the radio, Thembi also writes a blog. Attending a recent concert hosted by the South African government, she reflects below on how AIDS messages still don´t effectively reach young people at risk.

I felt like those images on those big screens with infected people had nothing to do with me. It reminded me of high school. When they would show pictures of thin, poor orphans that look like they are dying, and try to scare you out of having sex. But it never works because young, South African, at-risk kids do not see themselves in those images. They cannot imagine that it can happen to them.

Her shows have been used as a teaching tool all over the world and aired on National Public Radio in the U.S., and in the U.K., Australia and Canada, reaching more than 50 million people.

Unleashing the Girl Effect

July 6, 2008 at 7:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This video explains why investing in girls is a save the world strategy using just words and music. No girls even! I love it and I am planning to use it in a workshop I am doing next week for the gathering of the Women of the ELCA. If you watch the video directly from Youtube — and it is doing well with 63,000 views — there are companion videos that feature girls talking about their lives, like Addis from Ethiopiawho was married to a 40-year-old man at age 12 and had to drop out of school.

Though this is where my training in branding and gender justice collide. I love anything that makes more people aware of how poverty limits the full being of women and girls. But after the feel good music winds down I ask: We are just going to give a girl an education and a cow and everything will be fine? Is it really the obligation of a woman to make a new and visible economic contribution to the village before she is listened to by male leaders?

Well, you can’t get to every issue in a three-minute teaser. But the website could do a better job with linking people into action strategies. Right now it just links to a fact sheet that any 101 student could have assembled. I want to know more of the backstory and forward strategy of this video, it is a collaboration between UN Foundation, Nike Foundation, NOVO, Plan and others.

I’ll have my eye out for more impacts of the girl effect. I hope ripples of girl power are felt round the world.

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