Archive for the ‘Social Media/Work’ Category

Just did a short form post of this on Facebook but the matter hasn’t fully left my spirit so I thought I would come here and elaborate a little bit. I’m talking about advocacy and how some people believe (obviously erroneously) that they have a right to your beliefs and consequently social media posts.

So, someone posts about something and instead of identifying with it and moving on, or disagreeing with it and moving on, you come with, “but you did not talk about XYZ.”

For starters, this is absolute nonsense. I have very little patience for it. Nigeria is beset with so many issues everyone should be speaking about stuff, and all the time too!

Like, who has the register for what people should speak up about? Who made anyone the keeper of advocacy topics? And how does speaking (or not speaking) about one issue take away my right to speak about something else?

I am one person. I am somebody, but I am not everybody. The issues that affect me or I’m passionate about might not be the ones that awaken your activist bones. That‘s fine. The issues bothering me today might bother you tomorrow, and vice versa. That’s fine too.

This entitlement to the content people post on their personal social media profiles is silly, and the reason why Nigeria is what it is today. We talk about social media giving us a voice, yet refuse the individuality and ripple effect it affords us when we speak up. So confusing.

So we consciously or unconsciously ‘select’ people who should somehow know what we’re interested in, and talk about only those things. Otherwise, we heckle them. We outsource our civic duties and responsibilities to a select few, then cry when the monsters we’ve bred come of age. Sigh.

I read about a person who started #DistractionFreeFridays with a friend to get people to commit to driving without their devices on Fridays. We’ve seen hashtags like #SaveBagega, #NotTooYoungToRunBill, #CommonWealth4Peace, even #BBNaija. Do we tell one set of people to stop using the internet because we don’t subscribe to their hashtag? No. Live and let live. Advocate and let others do so.

You want to talk about female genital mutilation? Do it. Child marriage? Already. ‘Grasscutters’ and the other aberrations going on in the North East? Make it louder for those in the back. Audu Maikori and Elrufai’s sudden preoccupation with him? Go for it.

Whatever you want attention drawn to, start it. Gather information, and share it in ways that will resonate with people. Create a plan detailing what message you want to get out, who your target is, and what you want them to do when they’re aware of your messaging. Craft your messages in simple language, think about graphics if you can (the diversity of content is great and images are awesome as far as shareability is concerned). Sell your idea to your friends and get them to put it out for you at times when you know your audience is online, and keep posting/publishing. As it resonates with people, they’ll like, share, repost, retweet, whatever. And hopefully, they’ll take the commensurate offline action.

Here’s to your success, and leaving others to use their social media the way they want to.

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I was born in Kano, and raised (amongst other cities in Nigeria) in Kaduna and in Abuja. My mother says we spoke Hausa fluently at some point, and having lived in some western cities at some other times, we spoke Yoruba too. Matter of fact I vividly remember acting in Yoruba plays in primary school and coming top of the class in Yoruba. My parents are (still) fluent in three Nigerian languages, while I currently struggle with all three. Life isn’t fair.

Like every good student, I know the states and capitals and having the privilege growing up in at least thirteen locations in Nigeria cutting across most of the geopolitical zones, I have a fairly intimate understanding how people in these parts behave. Except the North Eastern part of Nigeria though – Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Taraba, Borno, and Gombe. My parents were never transferred there, and my travels as an adult never ventured there either.

From 2009, we heard bits of the North being famous for things other than agriculture, vehicles, fabric, or even cattle. Religious extremism (in various parts of the country), like a pot silently boiling over, peaked. Not the brand Kano, Kaduna, Benue, Nassarawa, and even Plateau had seen, a new wave challenging the tenets of Islam and more importantly, condemning everything Western, especially education. Say hello to Boko Haram.

With this sect came a wave of devastation and destruction I dare say Nigeria had not seen before, ravaging whole states, especially Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa.

Fast forward to 2016, my work with a client focused on the reconstruction of the devastated areas, and therefore an assessment trip to Borno.

At first, I had said no as the trip coincided with another trip I was to make outside Nigeria. Fluctuating forex policies/restrictions, an agent with an interesting attitude, and a lot of back and forth communication after, it was obvious to me I wouldn’t make my flight date, at least not without spending approximately #150,000 more than the ridiculous amount I had already spent. I decided I couldn’t afford it, retrieved what I had already paid, and said yes to Borno. Note that three months after I made that trip out of Nigeria at about half the cost of the original ticket I initially turned down.

The next few pieces chronicle the trip with all the accompanying visuals; I hope it comes just as alive for you as it was for me.

DAY ONE: The Trip.

We start as always, with movement. I woke up on Thursday morning, first off smarting that I didn’t wake up in Frankfort connecting to Houston and then suddenly afraid of what Borno might have in store. I had read the briefing notes and known we would be going to Maiduguri and then to Bama, using the same route the UNICEF workers had been ambushed on a few weeks prior. Apparently, we were scheduled to visit twice: cue apprehension.

I cleared my movement with my family (sans my mum, lol),  and my dad’s excitement helped me feel a lot more positive about the trip. And then there was the dash to the market to get a jalabiya (outer, over-all type garment commonly worn in the North) and a veil. The plan was to blend in as much as I could.

Quick stop at TATA’s for Brunch, some goofiness and emergency Hausa lessons(lol) and it was off to the airport to catch 1.30pm flight which didn’t leave till 3pm. We will skip that point and talk about my intense feeling of nakedness when I met the rest of the team.

I had assumed (erroneously of course) that I only needed to don my extras on the way to Bama. The other females (mostly northerners) on the team, however, were dressed to the neck with veils, hijabs etc. – one person was even wearing socks. Yours truly was blissfully sporting my favourite pair of jeans, my sister’s pink and grey tee, and my favourite slippers. Guess who had to dig through her checked in luggage, retrieve her jalabiya and veil and become culture/religion complaint before we touched down in Maiduguri? Yup! Me!

As we took off I prayed a few prayers, especially for safety, strength (both physically and mentally), and the presence of mind to be able to get solid work done/think through creative solutions for my clients. I wanted to have an interesting tip too, something to write about.  And then I prayed for safety just a bit more.

One hour five minutes later, we touched down , Maiduguri International Airport. Nothing remotely international (or even national) about it, but we’ll discuss this and more tomorrow morning when the next instalment is up. Tomorrow.

When I started TechHer in August 2015, more than anything I was interested in some sort of convergence point for women working in or around or with technology. In the same way that the ‘boys club’ exists and men grab drinks after work and that’s where the proverbial big decisions are taken etc., I wanted a community where women would feel safe to ask anything, say anything, and feel confident to be (or at least dream of being) anything.

By the way, if you’re female, working in technology, interested in enhancing whatever it is you’re working on via digital, please find us online – @TechHerNG (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) or visit our website – http://www.techherng.com and stay in touch with us! Alternatively, you can join our whatsapp group; send a text to 09083041940 and someone will sort you out. Okay?

Back to the story. In the course of running TechHer I’ve been privileged to meet all sorts of women running similar or different initiatives all geared towards increasing digital literacy amongst women or enhancing already existing skills. I’ve been privileged to meet, chat with, sometimes share a stage with people like Oreoluwa Somolu-Lesi of W.TEC, Helen Anatogu of iDEA Hub, Aisha Bello of Jango Girls, Titilope Sonuga, Ambassador for the Intel She Will Connect programme, Simi Olusola of Abocoders, the wonderful crew at Women TechMakers, etc. I’m always excited to meet new people, listen to their stories, understand why and how they do the things they do, figure out how we can collaborate, and learn what mistakes they’ve made I can avoid.

One person I’ve been really fascinated by is Simi of AboCoders. Simi is a freelance project management consultant. AboCoders empowers young women from low-income families in Northern Nigeria with software development skills. They set up a training centre in Minna from which they have trained 23 girls and out of which they are training the next set of beneficiaries (40 ladies between 18 and 30), all on coding. They have also set up collaborations with 5 schools in Minna to establish and run coding clubs for girls in their schools. Exciting stuff!

Even more exciting is their Camp AboCoders, a one-week residential coding camp for girls that held in Abuja recently. It’s the camp I want to talk about though.

I was invited, with four other ladies to the closing day of their camp last Friday, and it was really nice to meet the 16 young ladies, wide-eyed, excited, and very interested in what we had to say. Something else I really enjoyed was the speed geeking session (which is the same thing as speed dating once you exchange geek for date).

So, I spoke to the ladies in different batches about TechHer, what we do, what the opportunities are, how they can fit into our community (after they cross 18, lol), and then all of us speakers had a panel session where we shared on our experiences from choosing careers, support (or not) from our parents/family for our work, to things we did we wouldn’t do again if we had the chance to go back in time.

I asked the ladies what they wanted to do with themselves post secondary/university education, and their responses were as diverse as they were interesting. I even learned something; someone wants to study mechatronics (be honest, did you know about that before now?) and she knew exactly why she wanted to do that.

Here’s the thing. Of the sixteen of them, only four have access to computers, and very indirect access at that. Whether it’s from business centers, their relatives, etc. I thought about it long and hard, and decided I would try to do something about it. Maybe not I, but we.

Here’s what we can do.

We can buy them computers. All 16 of them. We’ve searched, and a decent second-hand computer costs N50, 000. TechHer has committed to buying one, leaves us with 15 to purchase. Who’s in? Can we do this in 30 days? Please contact Simi (email – simi at abocoders dot org dot ng, Twitter – @SimiOlusola) and help us buy computers for these young girls. Please. We would hate to cater to some and not cater to the others.

My pledge on this:

I will do one update blog post when the money for the 16 laptops is complete, or when the 30 days are up (whichever comes first). I will also do a blog post when they’re handed over to the girls. One of the updates will include a receipt for the laptops purchased, photos of the devices, and photos of the handover.

Thank you for joining us on this. We’re so thankful!

First off, two fingers in the air for period pain if you’re a lady reading this; it’s 4.40am and I’ve been up now for close to an hour because my belly is talking to me in ways I’m sure can be nicer and definitely less painful! In fact, can I get two fingers in the air from the guys as well, for obvious reasons? Done? Thank you very much.

Now that I’m awake, I started reflecting on a lot of things and first off is my round ups should be a lot more frequent! So I’ll work on that. A quick second is that I am blessed. Like, God has really crowned my year with good things, things money can buy, and the things money cannot buy. Especially the things money cannot buy! So grateful.

My niece turned six months old yesterday, and she’s an absolute beauty. Gosh! Just watching her grow, all the developments we’ve seen and continue to see, and her smiles. Sweet baby Jesus my niece’s smile can melt ice! Thank you God for such a gorgeous, healthy, happy baby!

In other baby news, our flu has cleared! So for three weeks or more Talia and I were coughing, runny noses, etc. Like cough syrup after cough syrup, one antibiotics course after the other, the flu refused to clear. At some point it occurred to me we were probably just re-infecting ourselves, lol. Glad to announce that we’re both fine now (the devil is put to shame once again, whoop)!

At the end of July I was invited to #TechPlus2016 to speak; had been pencilled down for two panels – one on cyberbullying, internet security in the age of social media, and the other one on increasing digital literacy for women. Both panels featured very interesting panelists, and I enjoyed speaking about TechHer, things we do, lessons we’ve learned and how they intersect with the topics.

So my friend Nana was a panelist as well, and so we were in Lagos together. I’ll attempt to chronicle the trip.

First off, that morning our flight was scheduled for 9.30am, and I had a prior engagement for 7.15am on NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) to talk about social media, entrepreneurship, etc. As you can imagine I had to be up really early to pack, head to the station to say my piece, and then sped off to the airport… Found a really nice, safe, but quick cabbie to drive me, and of course we’d detailed one of our friends working at the airport to check us in.

He calls and says that our tickets were for the 22nd of August, not the 22nd of July. W-H-A-T? And so the calls began to the organizers, they called the travel agents who booked the flight, we spoke to the airline, plenty talk. From no seats on any flight that day, to none for our class of ticket, to rescheduling us to a 10am flight that got delayed till 1pm.

We went into a restaurant to wait and encountered a very rude, uncouth man. Fathers and mothers, train your sons. Some things are unacceptable, including raising your voice or trading insults. Am I perfect? No, but in the last few days I’ve met some very uncultured young men. It is shameful.

Anyway, we finally took off about 1pm, and got into Lagos safely (praise God for that). Soon as we touched down, we were in the able hands and care of the #TechPlus2016 team, and I must take a full moment to appreciate the warmth and stellar logistics ground team they had in place to cater to us.

Got to the hotel, checked in, and barely had enough time to freshen up and head to my first panel. Interesting, intimate, just the way I liked it. Was nice to bump into my brother Chude on the way in…always a joy to see that man.

Panel done, we explored the exhibition area and I was so impressed! As a child of God planning an exhibition for TechHer myself, there was so much to be impressed by! We will get there, and very soon! I copped a ring, some bangles, and some gorgeous fabric, and I can’t wait to see what my designer #NitazCouture does with it! Been a long time since a designer/seamstress/tailor excited me, and it’s so refreshing that Francesca, head honcho at #Nitaz not only knows her craft, she knows my body and what works. So great!

Next day was easy. My session was about 4pm but we went to Nana’s session at 2pm and wandered off into the exhibition area again. We attended a few other sessions, including one with Teju Ajani, Frank Donga, and a few other people. Interesting how content is so dynamic but totally reliant on the principle of relatability. Can people relate with what you’re going to put out as a producer or curator? If it’s a yes, you’re on the road to doing well!

Sunday morning I worshipped with Pastor Ituah Ighodalo’s church, Trinity House. Amazing! It was the sixth anniversary of the church, and I remember the prayer his wife led, both in thanksgiving and committing the rest of the year into God’s hands. God is amazing I tell you. I had a great time, and I must visit again. By the way, their choir is amazing! Something the choir sang resonated with me so much, “my status is changing, no more decline, I’m on my way to better days”. In Jesus name!

Then, it was a dash back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to the airport. Airline? Arik. And that means that is a totally different article by itself. I’ll write it!

I made a few friends yesterday (all of them much younger than I am), and created memories that will stay with me for a very long time.

I talk about my church, HolyHill Church a lot, first because of the Word of God I’m exposed to there, and second because of the focus on charity the church has. Such a focus on charity and the community, and I am very proud to be associated with them. Matter of fact, my pastor, Sunday Ogidigbo once said it was better to give to charity than to give to the Pastor, saying God would ask about the former, not the latter (Matthew 25: 35-40).

And it’s not the pretty, applause-hungry rhetoric that is rife in churches these days, my church actually has a charity arm (www.hrelieff.org) that is focused on education, agriculture, medical and shelter support, and economic empowerment.

To be honest, the focus unit I know and have interacted with properly is the relief arm, and I am forever grateful for the privilege. I’ve dropped a (download) link to the HRelieff-2015 NewsLetter so you can have a read for yourself, while I tell you what I got up to yesterday.

So, there are 10 children I’ve been ‘catering’ to, students of Government Secondary School, Jiwa. More girls than guys, and all of them in junior secondary school. Most students have closed for summer holidays, and when I received their term reports/results, I wondered what they would do for the holidays. To be honest, we’re still thinking. Any ideas? Let me know.

Anyway, so I decided it would be nice to meet them, and HRelieff graciously facilitated the logistics of their coming to Silverbird Entertainment Center. I was really nervous (I don’t know why) but I was also really excited as well.

We met, and it was super awesome to match the names in a document to real people with real stories, real dreams, and real smiles. Real dreams. One of them wants to be a banker, another one an accountant, a scientist (because she loves the moon, sun and stars and likes looking into the sky to understand it); another one wants to be a footballer, and one of them wants to be a soldier. He said his father was a soldier who died in battle, and he has his father’s uniform in his bag at home. He’s 20 years old, and the only thing keeping him from applying is the fact that he isn’t tall enough yet.

Apart from asking him if he was eating enough beans, I tried to get him to aspire to be a lot more than a recruit, which is what he wants to be. Interestingly, he’s also an aspiring fashion designer, and wants to join the people sewing army uniforms. Again, I tried to get him to aspire to being the owner of the tailoring shop where the army uniforms are sewn (he beamed when I painted the picture of him being the boss, having people sew for him, and getting job orders to make for the army nationwide). Ehen. Death to small dreams biko.

Then, they went in to see a movie (Teenage Mutant) armed with popcorn and sodas, and I dashed downstairs to have a quiet, yet fun lunch with a very dear friend of mine. We talked about the children (they’re about 80 on average per class, despite having several arms) and he spoke about investing in the teachers as much as investments are being made in the children. And he’s interested in paying for extra teachers on a permanent basis for the school. Glory to God! Whoop! I have since relayed the message to the good people at HolyHill Relief, and I’m looking forward to us jumping on this offer soon!

Movie (and my lunch) done, we headed to Chicken Republic to grab some lunch they’d take home (much as I wanted to hang with them a bit more, it was super important to me that they got home while there was still light in the sky.

They got me a card, a beautiful thank you card that was as emotional as it was hilarious, with the varied spellings of my name. God bless them!

Amazing Saturday, very well spent. And I look forward to seeing my babies again soon.

Have a great week!

PS: This post is devoid of photos on purpose.

PPS: You can sponsor children through school too, or even join the volunteer teacher squad! I did that for a while but my insane schedule did not allow my greatness shine through. Visit the website, tweet @HRelieff, or call any of the numbers in the newsletter for more information.

 

My best definition of social media is people on the left, people on the right, and technology in the middle. It is the democratization of information and content, the convenience and equal opportunity to share and connect with others, and the fulfillment of “the world is a global village” prophecy.

For some, social media is a magic wand to be wielded as they please, whether positively or negatively. It is at the heart of discussions around the world, from boardrooms to houses of parliament, marketplaces to bedrooms. It is alternate reality for some, and a mask to hide behind to perpetuate falsehood, bully, or exact vengeance against others.

Social media is many things, and does many things for many people. It is the voice of the common man, the route to recourse for offended customers and the immediate audience for the citizen journalist. Depending on where you are, local and international case studies abound of people deploying their networks to bring about a desired action or reaction. Social capital has a new field of play, and the rise and rise of influencers is ignored at the peril of the social media manager or strategist.

Credit: hr-gazette.com

Credit: hr-gazette.com

In Nigeria, the advent of social media broke and is still breaking many ceilings as far as communication across board is concerned but especially as it affects power. As a people we’re traditionally wired to follow or submit to constituted authority, whether in the home, in our communities, at school, at work or via our various religions; our embracing digital however disrupted all of that. The proliferation of media has provided access to global thinking, cultures, new streams of thought on the one hand, and courage for expression of existing streams of thought on the other. Questions have arisen where people weren’t questioning actions or inactions before, and those already questioning became equipped to be even louder and more visible with these questions. We are tasking government and public officials in a manner that was simply unthinkable before.

Love, relationships, and marriages have also had their share of disruption thanks to an audience constantly in need of a good ‘awww-worthy’ moment. Public displays of affection are no longer public enough if they’re not broadcast to friends, family, enemies, and complete strangers. We’re here for those moments though, egging on lovers to push the boundaries of rationality in expressing just how much they love their partner.

On the flip side, the pressure to claim that significant other and shield them from potential competitors or replacements is real, and there are studies that say social media has bred a new level of paranoia and mistrust in relationships. From sliding into private messages (also known as Direct Messages on Twitter and Instagram), to the curse of the misinterpreted emoji left as a comment, to spats that end in publishing nudes that were exchanged in times of peace, even to pedophiles grooming and then abusing teenagers (and thankfully getting their comeuppance), there’s just as much evil as there’s good online.

A little while ago, poverty porn was an issue, with international organizations attempting to clutch at our hearts (and purse) strings by depicting suffering across Africa. I was always embarrassed to watch those calls for help, especially when there would be three in a row (in whatever order); one to raise money to provide water for an African child, another to adopt a pet tiger, and another to stop cruelty to dogs. I was never comfortable with them, probably will never be.

Say hello however to Poverty Porn 2:0, the new version enabled by social media. We are in the age of philanthropy that must be broadcast to the world. And so without recourse to the dignity of the human beings in question (adults and children alike), people feel it is acceptable to film and broadcast their acts of charity. It is arguable that the publications inspire others to do good but is that really why we do it?

What is social media to you? How has it changed your life from the first social network you subscribed to?

Hey you!

Hope you had a good week… Mine was great. Could have been better, maybe I would have done some things differently, but I have no regrets. I went to Lagos for a meeting and got back into Abuja the next day, and as always I’m grateful for traveling mercies. Very grateful.

Beyond sharing ideas and knowledge for a company I sit on the board of at the meeting, it was a time of great learning and reflection, and that’s what this post is about.

Where do you learn? Are you one of those professional, it must be in a class/board room setting, with set objectives and goals type of people? And that’s fine, we’re all wired differently. Or, are you one of those ‘we see life lessons in the sun, moon and stars’ kind of people who pick tips and tricks from everything?

I think I’m becoming more of the latter, while fully retaining the former part of me that does very well with formal learning situations. I have a friend, Adebola Williams, Co-Founder of Red Media Africa who makes me feel like I should have a Moleskine and a pen whenever I’m around him. It’s in the little things he does; the way he greets people, how he manages to make people (even strangers) feel noticed and special, the natural thought about optics and how things will be perceived or not, how he thinks so quickly about everything before it’s done, I could go on and on and on.

I have another friend, Francesca, who believes there’s a lesson in everything, and therefore will never let me give in to dreary situations, who always looks for the silver lining even in pitch darkness, who has a positive outlook on life that will put motivational speakers to shame. And so from her I learn to put my melancholic bits under control.

Errr, it’s just occurred to me that mentioning some and not mentioning others might start a fight (lol) so let’s generalize for the rest of this please.

There are a number of them of who send me things to read because they know these pieces will be useful to me, who push me with questions like “what new thing have you learned today, what book have you read, what’s new with you (that has nothing to do with boys or fashion, lol), etc.”  There are some who will tease me endlessly when I mispronounce a word, one who has tapped my head even (sigh), but who push me to continuously ‘upgrade’ my knowledge.

Do you have those kinds of people? Don’t have to do exactly what my friends do (like hit my head) but I think everyone should have someone (or some people) who are ‘devoted’ to their improvement, and we should be that for others too. Only fair abi?

Now, to my crush. Whoosh! I’m so in love! It’s the twinkle in their eye as they talk about rising from adversity and uncertainty to becoming (Francesca’s favorite word and I know she’s going to have my head on a platter for this, lol). It’s the calculated defiance, the refusal to be boxed in, hindered by limitations that were hitherto acceptable by everyone else. It’s their being able to stand in the face of grief and loss, and still be so awesome my heart is leaping within my chest just because I’m typing about them.

My new crush is Dame Stephanie Shirley. She’s only got space for one ‘crusher’, my honorable self so please, move back! The Telegraph said of her “If there is a constant thread running through the life of Dame Stephanie Shirley it is the refusal to let difficulty and disaster stand in her way”.

Such an inspiration! Big thank you to Tolu for sending the link to her TedTalk to me. I am a good person so I’m sharing it with you. I took out two things (actually I took out a lot of things but here are two I tweeted).

Screenshot 2016-03-12 08.53.58

And these below, are her keys to success. She says there are only two.

Screenshot 2016-03-12 08.54.08

She’s incredible. She has so far given away over £100million to both the development of technology (including being the Founding Donor to the Oxford Internet Institute) and especially to research around autism and management of people who are autistic. Why she gives away that much? She said, “The fact that I almost died in the Holocaust means that I’m motivated to make sure that each day is worth living, that my life was worth saving. I do it because of my personal history; I need to justify the fact that my life was saved.”

I have now found a much longer video which I will watch as soon as I can get some free time from my nephew, which is an hour-long speech she made at Gresham College which traces her life growing up, coming to the United Kingdom via Kindertransport, her career and breaking several glass ceilings, her son and his autism, etc. It’s like her biography, only in the flesh. Excited, and I haven’t even watched it yet!

I’m off now, have tons of work to get through this morning.

Have a brilliant Saturday (and weekend), and never stop learning.

Welcome back! Part one is here, and ended with me falling asleep, despite my best intentions to watch Minions!

Addis Ababa.

We disembarked, and I met up with Fatu and Shamsudeen who were going on to Kigali, and Japheth and Rotimi who would spend the night and meet us the next morning.

And then the struggle for WIFI began. I’d flown through Addis at least three times this year, and I knew the airport didn’t have WIFI. But, my companions said to ask one of the Customer Care agents and she pointed us to one connection that didn’t work. So we went to a café and they said if we bought stuff worth $30 ($10 each), they would let us connect one device each. Didn’t make sense either, so we walked around for a bit, and then it was time to get on our connecting flight.

Oh, before I forget, while we were waiting in the departure area, there was this guy playing music really loudly from his phone. Like, with every song, the music became louder. So, I brought out my Bose mini speakers, covered it with my poncho, connected it to my phone, and started playing Nigerian music. Turn up! Didn’t take long before the guy turned off his music. (I’m sorry!)

We boarded, took off and for some reason I was really hungry. Ate, went back to sleep (again movies were useless), and then interestingly I dreamt about the movie Raid on Entebbe. When I woke up, even more interestingly we’d landed at Entebbe to drop off some guys and pick some others. I told Shamsudeen we were in Uganda; he said we were in Kigali. I looked at the time and said we were more than an hour early to have landed in Kigali, but somehow he convinced Fatu and they both got off the plane.

Hian. I thought about it again, got out of my seat, and went to the door of the aircraft. I asked one of the hostesses and she confirmed we were indeed at Entebbe, and then I saw my friends standing there (by this time they’d found out they were in the wrong country), smiling (shaking my head).

Anyway, so we got back in our seats, and it was back to sleep for the hour-long flight to Kigali. We touched down at 2am.

Hello WIFI! Like, it was a bit like Frankfurt airport, where you’re spoiled for choice with WIFI. Apparently, there were a lot of us who’d come in, and after we finished with immigration, sorted our visas we got into buses and headed for our hotels. Mine, the beautiful Lemigo!

My room was reminiscent of the old bedchambers I’d seen in movies, so quaint, so warm, so beautiful. Want to see?

2015-12-04 03.17.55

Fit for my royal majesty!

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What a beauty! When I make up my own house I must have a bed like this…

By the way, there was a beautiful Bible on the bedside stool, and two packs of condoms in the drawer beneath it. Lol. I stayed awake long enough to take in the beauty of the room, and then it was lights out. Literally.

By the time I woke up, it was already time to head to the first of the sessions; rushed a bath, grabbed a bite (their food is gorgeous), and off to the meeting halls we went. God being super merciful, we were lodged in the same hotel the event was holding. Good stuff!

Potatoes, the sexiest sausages I've had in a while, and eggs. A bit of a tale with the eggs, communication, and language. I asked for egg whites with peppers only, even pointed them out to the chef. I got eggs with bacon. #StillGrateful #INeedToBrushUpMyFrench

Potatoes, the sexiest sausages I’ve had in a while, and eggs. A bit of a tale with the eggs, communication, and language. I asked for egg whites with peppers only, even pointed them out to the chef. I got eggs with bacon. #StillGrateful #INeedToBrushUpMyFrench

I thoroughly enjoyed the panels, listening to election issues and hindrances to youth and female participation across Africa. Interestingly, the problems are the same – high cost of participation, election funding, tokenism, lack of intergenerational trust and knowledge sharing, partial election umpires, patriarchy, I could go on and on. In that regard, can’t we say that Africa is a country? Up for discussion.

Then it was lunch time and after we said hello to a bunch of people (ticked off the ‘networking box’) we made our plates, and joined a table where one lady was spitting half her food out as she spoke. I was happy to leave the table. Urgh.

We got back into the sessions and Nana who was supposed to be up the next morning had been moved to that afternoon. Boy did she bring it! She spoke as a young female actively involved with a political party, and I was so proud. So very proud of the knowledge she brought to the panel, the confidence of her delivery, and the passion as she expressed truth after truth. So proud!

That night, we decided to go to the hotel gym. Brethren in Christ, it was an intense workout! According to my Polar, I burnt about 750kcal; very productive.

Dinner was a drag. I rang room service, ordered chicken and chips, and they said it’d be ready by the time we got downstairs. We got downstairs and it wasn’t ready so we waited. 30 minutes after we sent the first person to the chef, nothing. He didn’t even come back. I was irritated by this time cos I was hungry and the language barrier made communication a bit more difficult. Nana sent the second person to the chef but it seems the thing that swallowed the first guy swallowed this one too!

Of course we left. Ended up in a lounge called People’s and the music was off the chain! From Nigerian songs to the 90’s, to chart toppers, the video DJ (like audio wasn’t enough) dropped hit after hit, after hit! Turn up! Oh we had an amazing time, and I had two bottles of water instead of ordering food because I was distracted by the really great music, and it was really late anyway.

Got back to the hotel about 3am and the receptionist said my food was ready. Shaking my head! I just went to bed. Good night jor!

Hello people!

So, let’s catch up on my Saturday, and some thoughts accruing from that.

So I woke up to photos published by Dele Momodu in his new The Boss Newspapers about Diezani Allison-Madueke and how cancer has ravaged her body. It reminded me of my first degree, and how a particular lecturer would always say, “the medium is the message”. So, for instance, former president Goodluck Jonathan (and now President Muhammadu Buhari) have a peculiar penchant for talking to foreign media over our local journos. Why? The medium.

I feel like if that interview had been published by anyone else (insert the name of a print publication you trust/favor/think are credible), the backlash and accusation of image laundering would have been greatly reduced.

That said, I don’t like to have discussions about cancer when I can help it because it’s very personal to me, and regardless of who it is, somehow I’m always drawn back to 2013 and my aunt, etc. And I talked about that a bit on Saturday because I think that we’re slowly losing our humanity – this rejoicing we do when harm befalls someone. I talked along these lines when the death of Diepriye Alamieyeseigha was announced, I might publish thoughts on that too.

Another thing that amuses me is the deluded way we now ‘hold court’ on Twitter. Has someone committed a crime? Report to the appropriate authorities. Sue them. Charge them to court. Research, find out how you as an ordinary citizen can strengthen the case against them either by gathering signatures for a petition or writing to your local or national representative. But coming on Twitter to pronounce them guilty? Lol. So unfortunate. Even worse, you hear people say things like “they have to come on Twitter to defend themselves”. To whom/before who? Or else? Who are you again? This thing people smoke/drink that gives them wings should be studied.

It’s a dangerous trend we’re setting; ruining reputations on the basis of what one person (many times faceless) has said. What’s to say it’s not a smear campaign? What’s to say the facts haven’t been exaggerated? What’s to say… I could go on and on. And even if they were true, Twitter is not the place where a murderer or a rapist gets their comeuppance. If, for instance, someone’s been raped, the (logical) thing to do would be to report it. If the Police Station doesn’t treat you right (and that’s the more probable thing that will happen), come; let’s march to the Police Headquarters with you. Let’s write letters, raise a storm online that will translate to offline justice.

But don’t come on social media and ruin people’s reputation hiding behind a computer, especially with incomplete, potentially incorrect information. It’s just awful. Ugh! We say trials by the media are bad, well, mob action via social media is worse!

My mother says if you call someone a thief in the marketplace, if/when you find out the person is not a thief, you won’t be able to call everyone back to say you were wrong. Social media in many respects, is a marketplace, with no barrier. “The phone has become the predominant portal for Internet access,” says David Greenfield, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in West Hartford, Connecticut. “Which means you can do it all the time. There is literally no threshold to cross.” So a lot of us have become thumb warriors, wreaking havoc and causing grief either because we’re influential, or because we want to be influential. It almost becomes a competition to see who can be the nastiest, who can be the most brazen.

This is where personal social responsibility comes in. Would you normally say everything that comes to your mind? Hopefully the answer is no. Why do we feel the need to act differently then because we’re online? Why do we not spare a thought before we click ‘send’?

We must as a matter of urgency, do away with the school of thought that says that the things we say online are without consequences. On the other side of the great power/influence that social media affords us are the greater risks. Freedom of expression/speech? Definitely, but with freedom comes responsibility. We cannot be touting freedom as an excuse to incite others to violence, to mask hate (under intellectualism especially), or to provoke mass hysteria.

A lot of us end up with egg on our faces because we jump into conclusions we’ve formed based on one side of the story (we and whoever we influence as we go) when we can look to the appropriate quarters for complete information.

We can do better. Let’s do better.

 

I’d like to tell a story (one that is long overdue); one that I hope will inspire you, confuse you (like it did me at some point), and more importantly open you up to do things even you thought you were unable to do. Ready?

So, I studied social media for a Master’s Degree, knew as soon as I was done that much as I loved my job at the BBC World Service Trust (now Media Action) producing the award-winning Story Story, I wanted to start a consultancy, teach people to communicate with their audiences using social media. And I did. I’ve been privileged to work for the best of the best since then.

While I was outside Nigeria, I benefited from a host of events, support groups, picked up tips and tricks, and generally enjoyed the opportunity to share knowledge, learn new stuff, stay on top. Some of these events were as particular as ‘black women in tech’, ‘black women who code’, etc.

I didn’t have that here in Nigeria, and after a while, I grumbled. And moved on. And grumbled, and moved on. I mentioned this need to my friends Fatu Ogwuche and Nana Nwachukwu once, talked about the need to hold an event/create a community of women, and still moved on. I even had a conversation with Iyin Aboyeji of Andela at Salamander Cafe and I remember him encouraging me to stick with women as against males and females for the event. Angel Adelaja of Zahara Spa popped into the cafe for a separate meeting but somehow joined our conversation and promised to support it!

One day in August 2015, I was in the office with Andy Madaki, and I said I was going to hold an event to see how many women were working in technology in Abuja, see what we could learn from each other, and how we could collaborate, and support each other. And while I was talking to him, I knew immediately that if I didn’t commit to it, I wouldn’t do it.

We talked about a name for it and for the sake of pride I won’t mention the names I came up with! By the time I was done with a concept note, Andy coined the name TechHer, and I loved it. And his designer created the logo, and I loved it too!

#TechHer

Then he showed me how to create a Google Form (I’d never had to create one before that day), and in minutes there were six questions and a link on Twitter. In 24 hours 45 women had signed up to attend. I thought, “huh? Where are we going to keep them?”

Our registration form!

At some point we had to close our registration form because we panicked! Then we opened it the next day for another 24 hours because I got inundated with emails. What a great problem to have!

I told my bestie Wumi and my sister Adaora about it; also spoke with Tolu Onile-Ere of PlayHouse Communications, my friend Blaze Otokpa of Blazing Images, etc; by this time I was looking for gifts for our fishbowl raffle. Tolu immediately said his organization would give us N20, 000 worth of data. Whoop! They were our first donors and a much-needed boost at a time when most people I’d spoken to had started disappointing me, stopped replying emails, that kind of thing. *Smile*

I was with my mom and sister in my sister’s office one day, almost pulling out my hair cos we didn’t have a venue. And then I thought, “I’ll just call Jackie Farris”. And I did, and soon as I mentioned what I wanted, she said, “sure, come have a look and tell me what room you want.” Boom! Tears of joy baby! They ended up giving us the gorgeous Exhibition Hall of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center, and sound equipment too! Thank you!

My friend Nana paid the stipend for the photographer Blazing Images gave us for the day, and I’m so thankful to Nana, and to Blaze because we wouldn’t have been able to afford their services!

There were also people like Amplified Radio and HolyHill Church who livestreamed, Zahara Spa who gave us a voucher to give out, and every other group who gave us gifts to give away.

Let’s backtrack a bit now.

When by the third day of the link being out, we had over 90 people registered, it occurred to me that this was becoming a little bigger than I’d intended it to be. That meant I needed to think. We decided to build a site and get on social media formally, and here I must thank Dimgba Kalu of Learn Code who built us a pretty website in less than 72 hours. Check on it www.techherng.com. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram too.

Where was I? The day was glorious (there’s a roundup here) –  big thank you to my dad for flying my mom in and out of Abuja to support me, to my sister who ended up staying outside the hall to pack the refreshments we got into bags, to Wumi who kept calling to encourage me, to Fatu and Nana – you girls will rule the world I promise – thank you! And to God, who placed the idea in my heart, who keeps strengthening my team and opening doors, we’re so thankful!

Since then, we’ve started a Whatsapp group where we have periodic giveaways, vote on whether Chrome is better than Mozilla’s Firefox, share opportunities, interesting stuff! We also send out periodic newsletters.

What else? On Wednesdays, we profile women in technology who are doing great things, on Thursday we teach a tech-related topic across all our social media, and on Fridays we publicise female businesses across our social media.

TechHer is hinged on three things – support, learning, and collaboration; the idea is to enable whatever women are already doing via technology, and everyday we think of new ways to achieve that. We think of going beyond the call to get women into STEM and are focused on how to keep the ones who are here; how to help them be better at things they do.

We also have to events planned in Abuja this month of November. The first starts on the 17th of November (next week Tuesday), and is ten classes on coding. There’s an entire module prepared for that; please email hello@techherng.com if you’re interested. It’s free.

We also want to teach our women to design, develop, and manage their websites themselves. That’s on the 27th of November, and is also free. Please register here.

Also, we’re planning a TechHer event for Port Harcourt this December, which I am very excited (and worried) about. I know it will come to pass, despite the odds we seem to be facing now.

So, that’s where we are, what we’re doing, and what we plan to do! From a trickle to a roar! Are you female, curious about or working in technology? You should join us! We might come to your city next!