Monday, January 30, 2006

The Life of a Woman

As I spend more time at home, I feel increasingly weighed down by thoughts of what lies ahead for me in life. Sure, I plan, hope and pray to have a fantastically-fulfilling career, with lots of opportunities to travel! A wonderful family life is also on my wish list and it is this that fills me with worry and (more than a little) dread.

All the women I know end up pulling double-duty i.e. working and taking care of their family and home. Even those married to the most progressive, new-age type of men! And as as much of a blessing as I know it is to have your own family, it always seems to be the same story:

I go to the office where I am on my feet/phone/desk all day long pushing along work that was due last week/fending off never-ending phone calls/putting out fires/firing back at the volley of emails being hurled at me (take your pick).

I leave the office when I can't take it anymore (typically anytime from 8pm). I battle through traffic to get home, where I work some more making dinner/checking homework/playing with the kids/giving baths/preparing clothes and lunch for the next day. By the time I am I ready to call it a night, I barely have enough energy to climb into bed.

And of course, this cycle repeats itself the very next day, and the next, and the next and the next.....

Being very used to mapping out my days solely according to my agenda, and even then, often not having enough hours in the day to accomplish most of what I need to get done, I feel that any chance of my succeeding at balancing a work and family life are totally doomed.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

On Leadership

I've often given thought to the type of leader that I am and, based on personal experiences, feedback and what I know of myself, I've always concluded that I have a somewhat maternal, care-about-everyone-on-my-team, hands-on kind of leader. I care that everyone on my team contributes to the process at hand and gets the opportunity to develop their skills and deepen their knowledge. At the same time, I still recognise that responsibility for the final decision rests with me.

To me, this has always been incongruent with the 'ideal' of leadership portrayed in popular media i.e. the stern, strong and very authoritative head honcho, who is capable of single-handedly pulling corporations from the brink of bankruptcy; reviving desperately-flagging staff morale; or resurrecting sports teams from an abyss of losses to capture that all-important cup, through the force of their speech and, very often, sheer bravado. In short, perhaps not me.

Business school, in my mind, is inextricably linked to that stereotypical concept of leadership and so has never appealed to me - particularly as I am so devoted to non-profit work. However, as I speak with friends who have attended or are currently studying at business schools, I start to learn the value of what they learn and just how broadly it can be applied. Business school now is no longer for self-proclaimed 'business types', nor exclusively for people who wish to forge a career in the banking and consulting industries. Instead, people from a broader range of professional backgrounds are being drawn to B-schools, not only for the rigorous grounding in business theories which they get, but also for the invaluable exposure to people from varied work and cultural backgrounds. I cannot count the number of people who have told me that they learnt far more from talks with their fellow students than they did from formal classroom lectures.

I stumbled across a profile of students at Harvard Business School and each person's background is surprisingly quite different from the next. I have never seen B-school in my future plans, but now I'm starting to keep a more open mind.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mentoring Young Bloggers

I'm so excited to be a part of a new project Young Caucacus Women. The project, which is targeted at young women from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, will train the young women to use blogs as a tool for personal citizen journalism.

Each week, "mentors" will post on a variety of topics to inspire the young women to write. In this way, they will gain confidence in sharing their views, commenting on others' posts and using the blogging technology.

It would be great to have something similar here in Nigeria or on the African continent. I know we have enough people to mentor others who are just starting out on their blogosphere explorations.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Maybe Not a Lost Case Afterall

Essence Magazine -- Feb 2006I'm referring to Essence magazine, which has been a long favourite of mine.

I was very disappointed with January's issue, but decided to take a chance with the February issue. It somewhat re-affirmed my faith in the magazine. Yes, there was the usual offering of what has now become typical Essence fare: Your Sex Life (Got game? Fun ways to reach orgasm ecstasy); On His Mind (Writer Omar Tyree's thoughts on sexual healing -- I guess he was just being honest, but I did not think it portrayed him and so-called "alpha males" in the best light); and the usual recycled money matters article. However, this issue also had some thoughtful and interesting pieces like The Search for My Beloved Margaret Garner (Writer Stephanie Stokes Oliver investigates the life of Margaret Garner, the inspiration for Toni Morrison's book Beloved to see if she was an ancestor); They Call Me Ms. Hill (Lauyrn Hill talks about where she has been emotionally since the break-up of The Fugees); and The Dating Game (Self-explanatory. You can teach an old dog new tricks).

Although this issue featured an article by Michell Burford about her journey towards accepting her natural hair, I have noticed an overall decline of images of natural hair in favour of straight styles. I always wondered if natural hair in the U.S. was just another fad. In Lagos, faux natural hairstyles (e.g. the afro-looking puffs pinned at the top or back of the hair and curly weaves and wigs) have become quite popular, though natural hair is still worn by comparatively few women.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

On Business Travel Blogging

There must be blogs on every subject imaginable under the sun. I came across this article in the NYT about (U.S.) business travellers who blog about their experiences on the road.

Again, that age-old ("old" in blogging years anyway) issue of anonymity is raised. How do you balance your right to share your personal opinions on everything from work, travel and life in general without necessarily talking about work?

Monday, January 16, 2006


Two weeks ago I visited Accra, Ghana. I had heard so many great things about the city and had to see it for myself. My travels around Africa had been limited to a woeful grand total of 2 countries (Sierra Leone and Benin Republic). Now that I'm back home, I intend to raise that number significantly.

I think you can tell a lot about a city by how clean and efficiently-run the airport is. And if Kotoka Airport was anything to go by, Accra would be miles above Lagos. Indeed in terms of cleanliness and orderliness, Accra was a model for Lagos as far as I was concerned. There was a clearly-marked information desk where we were told when to expect the next hotel shuttle.

On the way to the hotel, the spacious, well-tarred roads with ample medians and sidewalks spoke volumes of the city government's dedication to maintaining pleasant driving conditions. In the days that followed I could not help noticing how dutifully Ghanian drivers paid attention to the traffic lights and road signs, as well as adhering to basic driving safety rules. There was also a noticeable absence of that plague of Lagos roads: Okadas. Driving around Accra was a pleasure.

Accra StreetAccra Street. See how PATIENTLY the cars wait, well BEHIND the road markings, for pedestrians to cross the street.

In our time there, my brother, sister and I visited Makolo Market; the University of Ghana at Legon; the National Cultural Center; the Elmina and Cape Coast Castles down in Cape Coast; Accra's own Oxford Street in the commercial district of Osu (where we stumbled upon the flagship store of the very popular Woodin fabrics) and Aburi Botanical Gardens. It was a fairly lazy trip in that we did not cram our days full with sight-seeing, but instead took our time in getting-up and lounging around the hotel before, in-between and after going out. Ghana is so close that I know I can return and see more of the things I did not get the chance to this time around.

University of Ghana at LegonThe University of Ghana at Legon. While we were there, I caught myself constantly comparing it to the University of Lagos. Unlike UNILAG, Legon's campus grounds were beautiful and obviously well cared for, and the buildings all looked like they had just had a fresh coat of paint. It actually looked like a really nice estate.

Cape Coast CastleCape Coast Castle, the British seat of Slave Trade activities in West Africa. Elmina Castle, which we also visited, was used by the Portuguese and the Dutch respectively to keep captured slaves before shipping them out to different parts of the world.

Aburi Botanical GardensAburi Botanical Gardens. Aburi is about an 45-minute drive from Accra.

I had heard that Accra had recently celebrated 6 (?) years of uninterrupted electricity supply, so it was a rude shock when the electricity went off in our hotel on our last night there. It took close to 20 minutes for the lights to come back on again (no generators??), so it appeared that this loss of electricity was indeed a highly unusual situation. This was later confirmed when we heard an announcement of the city-wide blackout on the radio with a plea to the relevant authorities to quickly remedy the situation. I could not have been more shocked than if I heard of uninterrupted electricity in Lagos for ONE WEEK.

Zenith BankA new Zenith Bank branch seems to be popping-up on almost every other Lagos street these days, but still it was a big surprise to find out that Zenith is in Ghana too!

It is amazing (and sad for Nigeria) when you consider the fact that Ghana is just three years 'older' than us, but yet so far more advanced in so many respects.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Gender-Specific Indicators of ICT Use

I came across these presentations on gender-specific data on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use from one of the many women and technology themed mailing lists I belong to. These provide some meat to the article I linked to, a week or so ago, about differences in the way men and women use the Internet.

The presentations are a result of two ongoing studies by Orbicom and Regentic (IDRC) to collect and assess existing sex-disaggregated data on women's participation in the information society at the international level.

The first one, by Heidi Ertl and Heather Dryburgh of Statistics Canada, examines the evidence in a range of EU, OECD and developing countries. Some of the evidence so far seems to say that:

  • Where a digital divide does exist, gender differences in ICT access and use still exist. However, in countries where ICT use is generally very low, differences in men and women's use and access is neglible.

  • Men and women do use ICTs diferently. Women's use of the Internet tends to be "less frequent and less intense" than mens'. Women also use the Internet for a less diverse range of activities than men. In school, however, where access is presumably the same, girls use the Internet as much as men.

  • This idea of access playing a somewhat significant role in Internet use is highlighted in a look at 12 EU countries, where they found that women who work or are in school (again, presumably where access is not an issue), reach parity with men in terms of Internet use more than women who solely rely on access at home or at an Internet cafe.

  • Issues to look at when examining the gender divide include literacy rates of men and women; whether women ar equal partners in technology development and governance; the numbers of female graduates of science and technology programs (this tends to be low in both developed and developing countries); and under-representation in ICT employment.

The second presentation, by Sophia Huyer and Nancy Hafkin of WIGSAT, asks key questions in how socio-cultural customs, infrastructural and access barriers restrict women from acessing and using ICTs; whether women have the relevant educational and training to function in the Information Society; the severity of gender disparities in ICT employment; and if there are gendered differences in access and control of financial resources which can affect participation in the Information Society.

Both presentations illustrated, to varying degrees, how gender disparity in access and use of ICT is still an issue that needs to be seriously examined. If evidence shows that access to technology continues to be a problem for many women, then we need to think about how various tools can be made more available for them. Same goes for the other barriers to use.

I was at work today and as usual we had no electricity, but I was able to send text messages to friends and family using my cellphone. At that moment, I was incredibly relieved that in this country where lack of electricity is such a big issue, I have a way of keeping connected. There are obviously cost and training issues involved with cellphone use, but so much less than access to the Internet. I know the proclamation of the cellphone as "the next big thing" in closing the digital divide of developing countries is probably so passe by now, but now that I am living in a developing country again after so long, I realise the value of my innocuous looking mobile phone.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Idris Elba Nets Film Nominations

Idris ElbaThe oh so fabulous and very talented actor Idris Elba has garnered two nominations for his performances in The Gospel and Sometimes in April. I am happy about this because I feel that his work in The Wire has been unfairly overlooked in many mainstream film and TV awards, like the Golden Globes and the Emmys. Although The Wire is really an ensemble production with phenomenal performances all 'round, his portrayal of Stringer Bell really stood out.

So, as you can imagine, I am thrilled that the folks of the Black Reel Awards saw it fit to nominate him twice. Okay, so I have NEVER heard of the Black Reel Awards, but who cares? An award is an award. Right? I also heard that The Gospel was a dismal film. But let's focus less on this and pay more attention to how hard Idris must have acted his heart out in an attempt to save this film. Okay, so I haven't seen The Gospel either. And Sometimes in April. Okay, well, he's a damn good actor... just take my word for it.

Essence Magazine - Ugh!

After much anticipation, I finally got the latest issue of Essence in Accra (more about my trip later) and can I say What a big waste of time and money! Don't quite know what's happening with the magazine, but it's not good. All the little things that set Essence aside from the mass of 'women's magazines' out there are slowly disappearing and what we're left with is an increasingly bland Black version of Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, etc. Well, thank goodness for Nigeria's own True Love and Genevieve.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2005 was the Year of the Digital Citizen

..... according to a recent BBC article. And so it appeared to be, with the rising popularity of blogs, video blogging, podcasting, texting and capturing video on cellphones among other new technologies. Non-journalists like myself could share their views with a large Internet audience.

I came across another interesting article, which highlighted gender patterns of Internet use in the U.S. According to the article, men are more likely to use the Internet to try out new technologies and get information e.g. checking sports results, news, weather, job searches; while women tend to focus more on building and maintaining social networks through email and online groups.

It would be interesting to know how men and women in Nigeria make use of the Internet and whether the same patterns would appear. I know that I do a lot of research, browsing for news and information AND participate in various online communities. I would guess that the same applies for most visitors of this site and regular bloggers. I wonder about everyone else....