I Am Back……..

Hello there! I have been silent for a minute….don’t worry, I will soon blog about my first summer in the T State and what has been going on so far….

As you know,  this blog is primarily about Public Health, so here goes:

This is a link to an interview that I did with Stephanie Okereke many years ago when I used to ‘work’ at a radio station in Harlem, New York. In this interview, she talks about her interest in the issue of child marriages and its effect (health effects). She talks about VVF (vesicovaginal fistula) as well in this interview. (http://pamelastitch.com/entertainment/film/376-life-movies-with-stephanie-okereke.html)

So, I was super excited when a friend of mine told me that she finally produced that movie that she was talking about.
Here is the link to the site: http://www.themoviedry.com/

I have decided not to share my thoughts on marriage and the African female or the African female in the diaspora but if you know my alias, you know that I have been pretty clear about where I stand. So, it is hump Wednesday, I will keep it positive and humping.

 

opusc

In An Ideal World: What Should Have Happened Was….?

 

Why is the abduction of these girls a Public Health Issue?

The reason that this is a Public Health issue is because it affects a population (country’s) mental, physical, emotional and even territorial health. It is also an issue of terrorism which is an area of concern for Public Health officials. Terrorism is when force is used to coerce a group of people, government, population into a mode of thinking or action. In this case, Boko Haram is pushing the populace into the arena of fear without any real clear aim. People are not sure what the course of action should be.

 

Public Health should be playing a pivotal role in this issue, in the area of surveillance, risk communication, intervention, planning and community wide response. It is unfortunate that because of the political structure (more historical than anything else) of Nigeria, there has been a lack of concerted effort to control this group. Controlling Boko Haram and bringing back those girls will take collaborations between Nigerian government, academicians, strategists, military and the international community.

 

Issues arising:

 

A couple of years when Boko Haram started their attacks, it was labeled as a religious and location issue, and as such anyone that got caught in the bloody fray was blamed for choosing to live in the Northern part of the country amongst Muslims. But Boko Haram is not about Islam but rather about fear mongering. Once Boko Haram made that first attack, there should have been a plan to ensure that was the last attack. An earlier post on this site, relays some preventative measures that should have been taken in the past and that should be taken now to forestall, the further growth of such an organization.

 

What is Nigeria’s response to terrorist attacks from within? Nigeria has a big brother role in conflict resolution around the continent but it is interesting that the Nigerian military seems to be dragging its feet in controlling these renegades.

 

These are steps that ideally should have been taken concurrently after the abductions:

1) The president should have performed risk communication immediately. The purpose of risk communication is to ensure that a) your authority is felt and that your people feel safe, heard and that you are in control. b) it controls misinformation c) It also provides guidance.

 

2) Get the Media involved. The Media is your ally. You want clean, clear and relevant information dispersed. Information that should have been relayed immediately were the names of the girls, their pictures and the media should have made the stories of these girls, via a blurb, more personal. The media and the dept. of information should have worked together to disperse this information using several media tools.

 

Set up a hotline that is easily remembered. E.G ‘Call Boko, if you have any information that could lead to the arrest of members or could lead to finding the girls’. Of course, if the information is good and works, those informants will need to be rewarded financially. The media should also be involved in putting together the hotline or dispersing the information about the hotline -jingle creation, information placement, information dispersion etc. The media and dept. of information should work closely during this time.

 

c)Gain the support of Northern leaders particularly states that these terrorists are working in. Ensure that it is clear, that this is now a federal government issue, they either step up , collaborate to clean up the reputation of their states or step away and let the federal government do what needs to be done.

 

d)Work with community leaders because they are your influencers. Let the message be spread in religious as well as community meetings that these individuals are working against religious tenets and the community since they were willing to kidnap individuals who are of the same faith.

 

e) Since Boko Haram has shown a penchant for the use of technology to spread fear. Technology use is an Achilles heel that can be used because most information on technological tools are traceable. By creating a map of where these terrorists are posting from, tracking their cell use,what they use, asking the right questions – it is possible to get a pattern that makes it easier to find them.

 

f) Create a technology strategy which might involve using traces, tracking systems, bugs and maps in areas in which terrorists are likely to use to disperse their information, particularly if they are using public computer systems for their work. They must have a reason for choosing particular business centers. Is it because it is isolated or closest to the center of the town? Figure it out.
Find out who has the user name that they are using to post their threats/demands on social networking sites – can that be traced? That is if they are not hacking into regular citizens accounts to place their threats. If they are using the telephone, the question becomes what numbers are they using? Are they using one cell phone or is it a disposable phone? How are they paying for these items? Is the credit card/phone /phone number traceable? There are always patterns, it is just having the right individuals who are trained to look for those patterns. If these individuals are not in Nigeria, maybe that’s where the collaboration with international sources might come in.

 

g)Follow up on information. There are many rumors flying all over the internet that the girls are in Sambisa forest. If that is true, then there is a need to get those who know the forest involved in working with the military in coming up with a plan of where these girls are likely to be kept. These individuals, probably grew up around the forest and know its nooks and crannies, caves and the caveats and these are the best guides. Also, it will not hurt, to get some helicopters involved in flying over and checking if they see anything that looks strange. Nigeria can afford it.

h) Get other West African countries involved, particularly the border countries. An easy way for these militants to sneak these girls to other countries to be trafficked as sex or labor workers is via the borders. Make it clear that any suspicious activity from Nigeria into their country via their borders should be checked and rechecked until those girls are found.

i)If the media, technology, community, checking the forest, checking the surrounding localities as well as across the border does not work – then there is going to be a need to have a discussion with other countries that might have stronger military and better surveillance and tracking techniques. Many Nigerians are opposed to getting help from better countries who are well versed in handling terrorism because they feel that this puts the country at a disadvantage. But, people do not disappear into the skies. They have to be somewhere. These are young girls and not adults, they are a cause for international concern and international action.
OPUSC
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Social Marketing To Curtail Boko Haram.

 

General Overview

 

On April 14th 2014, more than 200 students from a school in Borno state, Nigeria were abducted by Boko Haram Islamist Militants. As of May 20th 2014, some of these girls are still with these militants, there has been a lot of social media fervor about the abductions with the #bringbackourgirls hashtag trending on social media sites, a lot of misinformation about the abduction and generally lack of clarity about the happenings. This post is to analyze this event and bring about a more preventative approach to forestall future happenings.

 

What is Social Marketing?

 

Social marketing, for the purpose of this post is about getting a population or a target audience to choose to implement a change in their behavior of their own volition. It borrows heavily from marketing. Interestingly, promotion (which is the blitz /shiny glitz that is seen) is just one aspect of marketing. Marketing involves understanding the needs of the community (end user needs), understanding why your idea /product is the best fit(positioning), choosing how to spread your message (channel selection) and of course, evaluating if what you posited or implemented actually worked (evaluation). Social marketing implements all four with the purpose of creating a behavioral change.

 

Social Marketing:

 

Intervention to curtail the growth of terrorist groups in the country by creating awareness, information promotion education and safety promotion. 

 

Behavioral changes expected:

  • Awareness of the dangers of Boko Haram to community health.
  • Collaboration with the government to arrest Boko Haram members.
  • Refusal to support, join, implement strategies of destruction of members of the community and citizens of the nation.
  • Reporting Boko Haram or suspected Boko Haram members.

These are behavioral changes because rather than cover up individuals who are bent on destruction, it pushes the community to uncover these individuals and curtail their growth. 

 

End Users:

Citizens of Northern states in Nigeria, Citizens of Nigeria and Border countries. These citizens want to feel safe. Boko Haram has shown a lack of respect for lives and this is their Achilles heel because it shows their agenda to be fear based rather than religious or against westernization based. Boko Haram is not about a philosophy.

 

Positioning:

An intervention to create awareness, educate and promote safety is the best strategy because it ensures that individuals are informed, and they know how to relay information about suspected terrorists.

 

Channel Selection:

The channels that will be used are social media, real media and influencers.

Social media will be used because a lot of younger members of society use social media tools; moreover, social media tools are used by Boko Haram members to spread fear. Additionally, social media is a very adaptive tool that can be used to spread any message using different formats. Social media tools are twitter, facebook, tumblr, google, youtube, instagram and the list goes on.

 

Real Time Media: This is not really as adaptable as social media. But, its reach is generally older members of society. Real time media includes community newspapers, gazettes etc

 

Influencers: This involves collaboration with religious leaders and community influencers to spread information and educate.

 

Message selection:

 

  • To choose the right message/image and be culturally sensitive, there has to be collaboration between community leaders and those who will be working on creation and placement of the message. Community members have to be involved in message selection.
  • The message and image should impart the importance of curtailing and controlling the growth of this terrorist group for the purpose of community mental/emotional and physical health.
  • The message should also include an educational component because when people are informed, they often choose to make the right decision. This information should clearly state that Boko Haram is not for any religious group or any religious person or even about westernization but rather is a group of people who enjoy spreading fear and everyone is a target.
  • Ensure that the message contains an easily remembered number for those that might have information about Boko Haram and (or) suspected Boko Haram members.

 

 

Placement:

 

Create an access map to find out where young and older people gather and place informational products in those places and this could also be  virtual places as well. Informational products could be educational brochures created from information received from community leaders and community influencers.Informational products could also come in other forms. Virtual space could be websites or online meeting places that attracts younger citizens.

 

Beyond using technology, other media tools should be used like: radio, tv , community newspaper. Informational products should be placed in community centers like market places, hospitals, clinics, religious organizations etc.

 

Evaluation:

 

There are different ways to evaluate and they include:

  • charting how often messages are received before an attack occurs.
  • surveying to see how much information is known about Boko Haram and their message from the lay individual in the community.
  • Running focus groups
  • Comparing to see if there has been a reduction in attacks and abductions in the Northern area since the implementation of this intervention.

 

Special Note On #Bringbackourgirls campaign.

The #Bringbackourgirls campaign has been quite effective in creating awareness about the abduction of these young girls internationally. A lot of global celebrities have been seen with their placards and the words #bringbackourgirls. #Bringbackourgirls has created awareness and ensured that this atrocity remains in the fickle minds of the global populace. But Nigeria’s governmental media strategists/information center have to ensure that Nigerian citizens have information that is relevant, clear and on time. It is important that the federal government of Nigeria be seen to be physically doing something to get these girls home. This is not the time to shift responsibilities to the state government but rather a time to collaborate if need be. Some have argued that Boko Haram’s reason for operation is to destabilize the Nigerian government but if the Nigerian government does not take some strong actions. Boko Haram might win.

 

OPUSC

 

 

 

Random Thoughts: Nigeria- A Case Of Criminalization And Misplaced Priorities

Last year, a ban on same sex relationships in Nigeria was passed in the Nigerian parliament, and then a couple of days ago, it was signed into Law by president Goodluck Jonathan. This law which is called the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition bill makes it a criminal act to enter into a same sex marriage contract or civil union, it bans gay clubs and will imprison gay people who display public displays of affection. Any same sex marriage contracted outside the country will be considered null and void in Nigeria. The sentence terms for these acts are between ten (10) to fourteen (14) years imprisonment. This law can be read to say, you can be gay but we do not need to know. Remain in the closet. I shook my head!  (1)

Nigeria is a deeply religious country which often vacillates between a deeply traditional mindset and modernity. My shock did not come from the president making this decision but the fact that he signed this into law without looking at the impact that this decision will have on several law abiding citizens in the country. He has also refused to acknowledge that with the high corruption Nigeria has, this law has opened up an avenue for rampant abuse and blackmail to occur. This bill is one that is negligent in nature because it criminalizes adults who are involved in a consensual act.

As I mentioned earlier, Nigeria is an ultra religious country and many of its citizens are either Christians, Muslims or traditional worshipers. For many Christians and Muslims, the act of homosexuality is an abhorrent one that is not allowed in their holy books. But, what about the others who do not fall into these religious classifications? Should their perspective be nullified because they aren’t one of the majority and majority rules the day? Is there no sense of the separation between religious institutions and states or are people being forced to follow a particular religious order because the president belongs to it?

The president has argued that a poll was conducted and that about ninety percent of Nigerian citizens are pro this bill and they are anti homosexuality. I will love to see the questions in this poll to see if it was made up of questions with the questioners bias inherent in them? I will love to know where this poll was taken? The particular demographic details of those who responded?   Basically, how he came up with his numbers.

Many Nigerians will argue that the president is right about the numbers because homosexuality is a choice and that it is an imported Western culture. But, according to research, homosexuality might not be a choice  as many will think, there are those who are gay by choice because it gives them easier access into industries and money but then a majority of gay people believe they were just born that way. For many, they struggled with this difference for many years before they just chose to accept that’s who they are. Many gay people that I’ve spoken to, have argued that a thinking gay person will choose to be straight particularly with the kinds of persecution that exists for many of their kind. So, dear moralistic hypocritical Nigerians, could you be punishing people who were just born that way with this new law? (2)

The hypocritical part of this argument lies in the fact that there are many wealthy men and women who do not call themselves gay but they do sleep with young poor men and women. These poor menand women become the victims and if they are caught, highly likely these poor men and women will be the ones in prison. In addition, for many wealthy young people that are gay, they have no problems relocating to a place where they can be true to themselves. So, what happens to those who are too poor to relocate? This becomes an issue of economics.

Beyond the economical part of this issue, we have to look at the health impact. It is quite clear that this will have a psychological and possible mental health impact on many gay people in Nigeria, because now they will have to live in fear. Now, more will be depressed. I hate to say this, depression could lead to a more permanent ending. But beyond the psychological, there is another health impact which is the spread of STDs as more gay people will decide to hide in the closet to continue their acts. Now, some might argue that many are already in the closet in Nigeria but I will argue that it will become worse. Now, more gay people will need to prove their ‘normality’, many single men and women of the same sex loving persuasion will be forced to go into marriage and continue their now illicit relationships which might lead to the rampant spread of STDs to more innocent bystanders.

Another issue I have with this bill is one of the methodology of collecting information. Now, this bill leaves it open ended as to how people will prove that they aren’t gay. Will the courts of law just go by hearsay? Will the police just go with their gut instincts based on the superficial, i.e, how a person speaks, sits, the friends he/she has etc? What kinds of proof will be needed before one gets punished and will there be a standard way of collecting this proof?

My thoughts on this issue are quite simple. First, I do not believe that homosexuality is a western import. I believe that this has been in Africa as well as other parts of the world for centuries but that traditional Africans knew how to manage it. These people were given a place within society and in some parts of Africa were allowed to participate in society. For example, amongst the Igbos, women married women, I do not know if they had sex with these women that they married but the fact remains that traditional Igbo society of the past had a place for same sex marriage. (3)

Secondly, the misinformed fear that is being spread in Nigeria is that homosexuality is catching. That isn’t the case. If you are a person with strong values and you are heavily attracted to the opposite sex, then there is no way that you can get caught in homosexuality. It becomes ‘dangerous’ for those who have questions and are curious, then they might try and realize it isn’t for them or they might find out that is where they are most at peace. What of those with weak values? I will argue that those with weak values can be caught anyway either with aristos, sugar mummies, sugar daddies or same sex loving people. That homosexuality is catching argument isn’t a valid one.

Further more, I mentioned two years ago, that I was in Nigeria and I saw that Nigeria still needs a lot of work in terms of its infrastructure, corruption, education and the list goes on. I believe that will be a more worthwhile venture for the president to pursue with his bills than pursuing human rights violations against people who are participating in a consensual activity. There is a problem of misplaced priority and I wonder if this new bill is not being pushed by the 2015 election which is around the corner. Maybe the president is leveraging the verbally homophobic tendencies (because we know that many do other things in private) of the citizens to push this ploy of a God fearing president who would not allow his citizens to rot in eternal damnation. The problem is that he is forgetting that straight and gay are his citizens. He will be respected more and voted in without playing the homophobic card but by actually playing the card of the man who accomplishes what he set out to do. Obasanjo (that crazy ex-president who should seriously just be focused on his farm work) is tied to the mobile phone era and telecommunication in Nigeria, though some could argue that he was just at the right place at the right time. So dear president Goodluck Jonathan, what will be your legacy? Human rights violations?  Finally, If he is against same sex relationships and marriage because of his personal and religious beliefs, he could have left that bill pending and focused his energies on other things because that will be humane and will be protecting your citizens human rights. Same sex marriage isn’t an issue in Nigeria. Finding new cartegories of people to persecute will be an issue in Nigeria because of this bill.

 

1) http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/01/nigeria-passes-law-banning-gay-marriage-2014113151626685617.html

2) http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/12/11/scientists-may-have-finally-unlocked-puzzle-of-why-people-are-gay

3)http://blackagendareport.com/?q=content/tradition-same-gender-marriage-igboland-nigeria

 

 

opusc

When Activists Get It Wrong: The Case Of Basket Mouth

Basket mouth is a Nigerian comedienne who got into the wrong lime light because of a joke that he placed on his facebook page. Please note, that the joke isn’t an original one but rather one that had been forwarded by several people before he placed it on his page. I actually believe that the joke must have started off on a blackberry (which is a mobile phone tool that many Nigerians are fond of and that they use for such forwards) , then moved to twitter which is probably where he got it from and then moved to facebook. I saw that joke about 5 days before he placed it on his page.

Now, the joke is a crude one. One that talks about the difference between an African girl and a Caucasian one. One that states that with a Caucasian girl, after a few dates, it is very easy to have consensual sex. It is actually expected. But, with an African girl, after several dates, spending so much money, often times, nothing comes of it and some men then force their attention and then non consensual sex might occur. Basketmouth’s mistake was that he left the joke hanging he didn’t state where he stood on the issue. He left it as a funny occurrence/ a might happenstance. Activists saw this joke on his facebook page and before he could say ‘jack Robinson rabbit’, he became the man who is in support of rape.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, Basket mouth is a comedienne. That is what he does for a living. His job is to go up on stage, and make jokes about any and everything. Sometimes, the more irreverent the joke, the funnier it might be and of course, the more money he gets. If he wants to, he might use his joke to talk about something that he has seen occur within his society. But, remember the bottom line is to make you laugh for that moment and forget your worries. Now, a great comedienne is one who gets you to laugh and then when you leave that arena, you actually think about the issue that he has raised. I will have to say, only few comediennes have that ability.

Should Basketmouth have been crucified by social media activists ? Actually no, he should not and for several reasons namely:

a) It isn’t an original joke which he created. He just copied and posted.

b) He didn’t support rape with this joke. He didn’t put his personal opinion. He didn’t even respond to the comments. I repeat he just copied and posted.

c)He is a comedienne. His job requirement is to make people laugh and if he is using his job to talk about something that occurs in Nigerian societies, then he should be applauded. He should not be crucified by activists who are looking for a popular scapegoat to make a point. Rather, his copied joke should be looked at as a tool to further enlighten people about rape and its impact, what could lead to rape and create an open dialogue with both men and women about consensual and non consensual sexual activity and its impact. His joke gave activists a tool to continue the discussion but many were so caught up in the idea of punishment that they lost that golden opportunity.

What can we learn as activists from this faux pas?

a) Social Media is very powerful. It connects a lot of people and can create a negative or positive impact

. b) Before using such a powerful tool, we should make sure that we understand all sides of the issue. Is the person that we are going to make the scapegoat really the one that should be punished or are we using his/her ‘clout’ as an avenue to bring other issues to light?

c)Understand the issue. In many cases of activism, activists are talking about social issues. In this case, they are talking about how men believe that when they’ve spent money on you then you should pay back in sex and kind. This mentality goes beyond the dating scene and actually goes into the marriage ceremony and beyond. We have men who pay the brideprice in Nigerian society and believe that because they’ve spent that money, then the woman’s life belongs to them. As such, they treat the woman as a house girl/slave, sexual and otherwise.

d)Rather than look for who to punish, see if the situation has created an avenue to actually educate and illuminate.

Finally, I believe that Basket Mouth should be left alone to go about his business and his work/job which is to make people laugh. Activists should go about their work to create change, create a discourse or a conversation and to challenge the status quo.