Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Questionnaire on African Women Bloggers

For African women who blog on issues that are of particular relevance to other women on the continent, please take some time to answer the following questions. I'm working on an article on how African women are using blogs to promote gender equity and empower themselves. Don't be scared! It looks like a lot of questions, but you'll zoom right through them -I promise!

I have an online survey up now, so you can take the survey there, or if you prefer, you can copy and paste the survey below into a Word document and fill-in your answers before emailing to me (oreblogging@yahoo.com).

General Information:
  • What is your age?
  • What is your country of residence?
  • What is your highest level of educational qualification?
  • Are you currently studying?
  • What is your current employment status?
  • What is your occupation?
Background Information on your Blog:
  • What is your blog URL?
  • When did you begin this/your blog (month and year)?
  • How frequently do you update this blog?
Your Purpose of Blogging:
  • Did you start this blog with specific topic(s) in mind to write about?
    • If ‘Yes’, what were the topics?

  • Indicate on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being ‘Very Important’ and 5 being ‘Very Unimportant’) how important it is to you to empower other women through your blog?

  • Do you identify yourself as a feminist?
    • If ‘No’, what are your reasons?

  • If you hope to empower women through your blog, how do you do this? (e.g. Bring to light issues of in justice against women; Foster a discussion between you and your readers; Mobilise people for specific social action; Share your perspective on women’s issues; Other – Please explain).
Blogs by African Women:
  • How do you think blogs can be used to promote women’s equity and empowerment?

  • What would you say are the most commonly-discussed topics on the blogs by African women that you have visited?

  • Do you feel that there are enough blogs by African women that address issues of gender equity, feminism, social development (especially as it pertains to women) and/or general issues of women’s empowerment?
    • If you feel there aren’t enough blogs that deal with these issues, what do you think are the reasons for this?

    • How do you think more African woman can be encouraged to blog about these issues?

  • Please name 5 blogs that address these issues (include the URLs).
    • What do you like about these blogs?

  • What are the unique features of blogs (or other web 2.0* tools) that make them suitable for raising issues of women’s empowerment?

  • Please name some organisations that you know of which use blogs or other web 2.0 tools for collaborative project work.

  • Generally speaking, what are some of the factors that you think might prevent many African women from blogging?

Please send your responses to oreblogging@yahoo.com. Feel free to forward to any African women bloggers you know of who are using their blogs to promote women's equality and empowerment. Meanwhile I might try and put this into a proper survey tool.

* Web 2.0 refers to proposed second generation Internet-based services that promote online collaboration and sharing of information among users e.g. blogs, wikis, social networking sites (e.g. MySpace), tags, video-sharing sites (e.g. YouTube, Google Video), photo-sharing sites (e.g. Flickr). (Check Wikipedia for more info.)

Lagos State Gubernatorial Debates

I'm watching Silverbird TV's 2-part gubernatorial debates at the moment. Last night's debates featured Babatunde Fashola, Femi Pedro, Ladipo Johnson and Uche Ibukun Omihai. I'm not overly interested in politics, but I do want to know what each candidate is offering (it all sounds depressingly the same, though people more knowledgeable and interested in politics than I assure me that their manifestos are very different). I thought Fashola and Pedro seemed to have facts and figures to back-up what they were saying (though I have no idea how correct their stats are). They certainly seemed a lot more prepared than Omihai and Johnson (until last night, I didn't know who Ladipo Johnson was).

Tonight's debates features Jimi Agbaje, Musiliu Obanikoro and Hakeem Gbajabiamilla. Remi Adikwu was expected, but according to the host, Jacob Akinyemi-Johnson, she "unfortunately and unceremoniously did not turn up." If that is so, that was pretty rude, plus it made her look unprepared or just plain scared. I loved how the camera zoomed into her empty chair. I am multi-tasking and so haven't been paying too much attention to tonight's show.

How Could I Miss This?

Frances Uku attended a networking session with the cast of The Wire and posted pics. She also included a shout-out to me. Thanks, dear! And thanks for bringing it to my notice. I might have missed this.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

New Hair Inspiration

I just found my new natural hair inspiration. My friend's mum! The humidity has been playing havoc on my hair - especially since I am not wearing it in any form of extensions at the moment - and I have been getting a tad bit tired of the constant shrinking (which is a characteristic of natural hair when faced with a lot of humidity).

Just as my disillusionment with my hair was reaching a peak, I went to visit my friend's mum and met with the most glorious sight. E's mum is visiting from the States and got in last night. So today, I went to the home of the family friends with whom she's staying. When I got inside, E's mum was standing there to greet me and she looked radiant with her long, thick natural hair tumbling down her back. E's mum hot combs her hair and styles it with rollers. The whole time I've known her (and it's been many, many years), she's worn her hair the same way. Her hair is so beautiful that I could not stop staring. "I want hair that is as thick and lustrous as that when I am her age" was all I could think. So I am doubly resolved not to use any chemicals on my hair.

Back in the City of Chaos

I thoroughly enjoyed my week in Abuja. I felt 10 years rolling off me and generally felt a calm that tends to elude me in Lagos.

I went for a conference. My colleague and I were manning a booth and I had under-estimated the amount of hard work that it could be - talking up your work and repeating the same spiel countless times. At times, my mouth actually hurt from talking so much. Many of the other exhibitors complained about this year's poor turn-out and the lack of traffic on the exhibition floor. I don't know since this was the first time I was attending, but our table got a lot of inquiries.

On my last night I had dinner at a Thai restaurant called Thai Chi. The food was good, though not quite as good as Bangkok Restaurant I thought. When we left, they gave us calendars as a parting gift, which was filled with what I'm guessing are Thai sayings e.g. "Everything in moderation, including moderation" and "What we think we become." My favourite was "Do not speak - unless it improves on silence."

On my return trip to Lagos I felt my newly-acquired calm slowly dissipate. My Virgin Nigeria flight left an hour late. The flight was quite turbulent in parts and one particular dip had me clutching my stomach desperately for fear that its contents would spew upwards. When we arrived at Murtala Muhammed Airport, we were told that the conveyor belt was not working and that our luggage would be manually distributed. All the passengers crowded around the airport official doing the distributing and a little chaos ensued as everyone wanted to push their way to the front. When my suitcase came out, the handle broke off. Luckily though, it's a pull along and I was able to maneuver it out of the crowd. The drive home took forever on account of the traffic and on getting home I found that there had been fighting in Ajah for the last 2 days and (as a result?) the traffic on the island had been hellish. Ah, home sweet home.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Break from Lagos

Next week I'll be in Abuja for a conference with a couple of my colleagues and I cannot wait. Our organisation will have a booth at the exhibit and I'm looking forward to a few work-free week. Sure, I'll technically be 'working', but it will be a different kind of work - one that I'm increasingly realising that I enjoy. We'll be talking up our oil and gas career awareness program and getting to meet people all day. Plus, I get to walk around and take in different sights; things that aren't easy to do in the office.

I'll also be VERY glad to leave Lagos for a while. The traffic has been crazy in the last few days, with political rallies and then ensuing fights between layabouts with nothing better to do. The electricity situation now can only be described as dire. At home, we are lucky to have a solar panel and battery that generates enough electricity to carry the TVs, lights, fans (though not the refridgerators, irons, freezers, microwave and air conditioners). We have used this for the last 10 years or so whenever PHCN has struck, switching to the generator at night or when we need to use one of the 'heavier' appliances, and it has proved to be a reliable source of power. However, with the immense pressure that our solar battery has been under lately, it is starting to go on the blink.

I have always enjoyed visiting Abuja. It is a much saner place than Lagos. As soon as I get off the plane, I can feel Lagos's stress ebbing away. Now more than ever, I look forward to a respite from this mad city that is Lagos.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The NetSquared Innovation Award

NetSquared, the online community aimed at encouraging " responsible adoption of social web tools for social benefit organisations", is organising the NetSquared Innovation Award, a competition for projects using social networking technology to create a sustainable social impact.

Please consider applying if you are, or know someone, who is working on such a project that uses the power of community and social networks to create change; uses existing/newly developed technology tools for social impact; has a plausible financial model; has a clear way to measure success; exhibits extraordinary leadership, passion and resourcefulness; and exhibits a passion for social change.

Selected projects will receive an all-expense paid trip to the NetSquared Conference in San Jose, CA May 29-30, 2007.

Read more about the the NetSquared Innovation Fund on the web site: http://www.netsquared.org/projects/guidelines.

Submissions will be accepted until Friday, April 6, 2007 at noon, U.S. PST (8PM, Lagos time).

Appreciating Women’s Contributions to Development

My new favourite newspaper, Business Day, yesterday ran an editorial titled Appreciating Women’s Contributions to Development, which celebrated the immense contributions that women have made to the world economy. While honouring women in this way, BD stated that unfortunately this increased participation in the labour force has had a detrimental effect on family life.

"It is widely accepted that the family life is the nucleus of the society; and women are the very bedrock of the family. Hence women’s participation in the organized labour force invariably robs the family of the much needed care and attention it deserves from the mother. Some renowned social scientists have ascribed this development to the increasing social decadence that is pervading societies around the world. Nigeria is no exception, as crime and violence seems to be threatening the very social fabric of the society."
A very alarming statement, in my opinion.

The editorial ends with a call to the public and private sectors of all countries, especially Nigeria, to
"formulate and implement policies aimed at taking the domestic responsibilities of women into consideration so as to allow enough time to alternate and take responsibilities on both fronts."
When I started reading the write-up, I was pleased. Anything that celebrates women is a generally a good thing, in my book. However when it turns out to be a slightly backhanded compliment, there are obviously some problems to address. First off, I believe that many people are of the opinion that the world is becoming an increasingly more violent place – although times gone by were exceedingly dangerous with little of the rules of law, which we have today. However, to try to paint the picture that, in essence, this is as a result of women working is rather over the top.

I am a firm believer in women and men working together for social and economic development, and I would have loved for the editorial to discuss how greater cooperation between the sexes would lead to more efficient results. Wanting policies that give women greater flexibility to manage a career and a home is in itself not a bad thing, but it appears to excuse men from any home or family-related responsibilities. Maybe the editorial assumed that men would help out naturally, though judging from what I see going on in our society, I would say not.

Articles like this only help promote the idea that women should be supernormal i.e. Superwomen. Yes, many women are blessed with fantastic multi-tasking skills, but it’s usually because we have to be able to juggle a multitude of tasks at once. Last year, I blogged about how worried I was that I would not be able to live up to this expectation (where's my cape when I need it?). I still am, but I am determined not to worry too much about it. My future partner will have to truly partner with me in looking after our family, and I will support him with his career as I hope he will mine.

Now, I wish that the Business Day editorial had chosen to promote what should a symbiotic relationship, rather than placing, yet again, more pressure on already over-burdened women. This would have presented an alternative model to the traditional view of women as superwomen and served as a good model for harmonious and complementary gender relationships.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Pambazuka News Celebrates IWD

Sokari Ekine at Pambazuka News celebrates International Women's Day by profiling 6 blogs by African women. I am honoured that Ore's Notes was included among such exceptional blogs.

I am also happy to note that Sokari includes Black Looks. With Sokari at the helm, Black Looks has maintained its position as a blog extraordinaire with her incisive writing on social issues affecting the African continent. While readers might not always agree with what Sokari has to say, they know that they can expect blogs that continually challenge us to think about Africa's socio-economic problems. In the past year, she has continued to innovate by opening up her blog to a team of talented writers.

I hope that in the next year more African women are encouraged to share their thoughts on blogs - either on theirs or through contributions to someone elses.

Happy International Women's Day - March 8

Another year has gone by. To celebrate the last International Women's Day, Sokari and Mshairi had African women blog about other African women who had impacted us significantly in some way or the way. It was such a great idea and I loved writing my blog and reading what other women had to share.

This year's celebration almost escaped me - things have been kind of busy for me at the mo - but you can visit the Gender section of the Development Gateway web site for events marking the day.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Living and Working in Semi-Darkness

Okay, what's up with the electricity supply in this our great country, Nigeria? It has always been epileptic, to put it mildy. However, these last few months have seen the electricity supply go down to almost nil. Stretches of days pass by where we have no light. At best, PHCN will grace us with 15 minutes of electricity within a 24-hour period. WHY BOTHER? It makes me so angry.

One of my colleagues had to spend a day and a half queuing to buy diesel for our generator at work. Without the diesel, we would be totally at the mercy of PHCN and we all know that means that we would be spending the greater part (if not all) of our work day twiddling our thumbs.

African Women Blogging

I am interested in how African women are using blogs to promote women's equality and empowerment. As we well know, many women are using blogs as a tool for self-expression, to bring to a wider audience their unique perspective of life as an African women. I'd really love to hear about such blogs, particularly blogs that are pushing for social change and the upliftment of African women's socio-economic status.

I hope that was clear enough. If you know of such blogs or bloggers; or resources to read please post here or email me at: oreblogging@yahoo.com.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Latest Films Seen

One reason I love to travel is the chance it gives me to catch up on films and this last trip was no exception.

On the flight back, I finally got the chance to see Dreamgirls with the famed performance by Jennifer Hudson. The film was good, though not wonderful. I love musicals. I love to sing along and it was extremely hard for me not to break out into the chorus of "And I am telling you." Jennifer Hudson was incredible and to think that this is her first movie role. I guess she's what they call an instinctive actor. Beyonce was incredibly beautiful in the film, as was Anika Noni Rose (who no one seems to remember).

On my first day in Cambridge, I walked past the Art House Theatre, I think it was called, and went inside. It was your typical artsy cinema with posters for films that hardly anyone has heard about; most of them subtitled. There were so many films that I wanted to see, but the timing kind of decided things for me. I saw Notes on a Scandal. I really like Judi Dench and wanted to see her as a really bad character. She's such a wonderful actress that it was difficult to see her as a total villain. She doesn't reduce her roles to 1-dimensional people, but rather portrays them as human beings with many conflicting emotions. She played a very lonely and love-starved woman who found it easy to prey on equally lonely women or women who she could exercise some measure of control over.

I would have loved to have seen The Last King of Scotland, but that did not work out at all. I hope because of the African connection, it will be shown at NuMetro cinema here (you can but hope).

I watched Because I Said So, a film about mothers and daughters. There were only two men in the cinema hall. It was an okay movie; funny and endearing. Anyone with a mother or daughter, I suppose, would be able to relate. I like Dianne Keaton normally, though she seemed rather more frenzied and screechier than usual in this role.

Then, last and kind of least, was The Good Shepherd. Can anyone say snoooooozefest? 'Interminable' is the pefect way to sum up the experience for me. I kept wondering when the damn film would end. It boasted a star-studded cast and it turned out that it was directed by Robert De Niro. Well, good actor does not mean good director. And what kind of job was his editor doing? I would have made the film at least an hour and a half shorter. Maybe his editor was sleeping through it too! This is one of those films where you can sleep off for huge chunks of time intermittently through the film, wake up and find that you haven't missed a beat. Okay, perhaps I'm being a tad bit mean. It was slow, though strangely compelling. After investing so much into the film, I had to stay to see what was going to happen at the end.

Back to Lagos

It's funny how people always comment on how well-rested you look after you have been out of the office for some time. It's gotten to the point that I don't even know whether it's true or not. I 'returned' to work today after a week of meetings last week. That was work too, even though I wasn't in the office. Granted though, it was in Cambridge, which is a much calmer city than Lagos. I also got close to 8 hours sleep on most nights, so I suppose I must be looking well-rested. Since I don't consider my life here in Lagos all that stressful (though super-busy it certainly is), I guess my 'fresher' countenance must be a testament to the benefits of a good night's sleep.