This is a blog about me and the things that make me laugh, smile, hurt or cry!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The President's Website

Recently, the President of Zambia, Mr Rupiah Bwezani Banda set up his own website, separate from the State House website.

At first glance, it appears simple and to the point, with a prominent notice that this website is not paid for by the Zambian tax payer, but by the President's supporters. I was aghast when I went through the site. I feel that as the leader of this nation, they could have done a lot better for him than this. The most obvious thing is that it appears to be what one would set up in order to tick off that, "I have a website".

1. My first gripe is that they did not use a .zm name, when this is what identifies us to the whole world as a Zambian website. If it really was a personal website, why did they not go with They went with, which could just as well be a website dedicated to the late ng'wazi Kamuzu Banda, first president of Malawi. They should have identified the website with Rupiah Banda, if it is indeed developed by his supporters. As usual, we are thinking of today and not tomorrow. or .com would have been a website to outlive his presidential term of office.

2. The intro is too long and too texty. It is difficult to know what it is all about.

3. News. This is the worst page. With our poor internet connectivity in Zambia, to require each news item to be downloaded in pdf is restrictive. So many people actually access internet by phone, and you must have a smart phone to read and download attachments. I should immediately get a sense of what news there is about the President with snippets (not headlines only), on the site.

Secondly, to effectively communicate with his people, the website should also generate its own stories. They (he) should set the agenda and not allow it to be set for them. In this respect, this news is passive.

4. The pictures are a mish mash and require flash (again, not ideal for our average local internet cafes). Also, it is not a proper gallery with captions. What are the pictures there for, what are they about? They don't tell a story or give us any more information about the president.

5. The videos, the same. They are adverts as opposed to telling us about what the President is actually doing.

6. Even as a vanity project, it fails. As such, i don't see the need for an alternative site from

7. Feedback. The website is clearly about Dickson Jere and not about the President. The perception should be that we are communicating with the President and not with his press aide. Of course, there is always a protocol, but we don't need to be distanced from the President, right when we want to talk to him.

8. Learn from others. It may be cliche, but is a good place to start. It's not my favourite site, so check back for an update once I have completed my research on great websites by political figures. Why not a facebook page too. A simple search will reveal just how many Zambians (of all shapes and sizes) access facebook on a daily basis.

Childhood Gone Wild

There are two issues in the childhood discussion that really bother me. They both entail asking children to grow sooner than they should.

Sexy Clothing
The first is what I call the 'sexualisation' of childhood. Walk into any shop and see the kind of things that are on sale for little girls. Apart from the sizes, there is no difference with what adult women wear. I have friends that are size 6 or 8 who sometimes shop from the kids section. Underwear, clothes, shoes, accessories. We are starting young and younger. What is there to look forward to when you grow up if you can do and wear everything while you are still a child. When do you tell a girl that the revealing clothes she has been wearing all her life and now no longer appropriate at any and every occasion. Why does a five year old girl need to wear halter-necks with a plunging neckline? There is no distinction, when in my view, there should be.

The no childhood thing manifests itself in other ways too, the most common in Zambia being skipping grades in school. Parents claim that this is so they can save money by cutting down on school years. Children work harder and harder than ever before. They have hours of homework and a mountain of organised extra curricular activities designed to push and push. Like parents, they must perform at all levels in all areas.

Why is finishing high school at 14 such a bad idea in my view?

Some things, we only learn through time and age. Why should we decide our lives so young (15 years), when many are still figuring it out decades later. Why would a parent want their child in college at 16 years old. Why would any father want that for their daughter, when he knows the mind of a young man. There is a reason why child psychologists all over the world recommend six or seven as the right age to start school. In developed countries there are restrictions on school age and I don't know why schools here (especially private schools) are allowed to admit children into grade one at the age of four. This is just wrong. Just because you are able to write grade seven and age nine, doesn't mean you should.

As someone who went to college at age 16 (in a class where the average age was 22), I saw first hand why going to college at 18 is a much better idea. Closures and the like meant that I was 18 plus when my second round at first year rolled round in November 1997. Further closures meant that instead of graduating at 21, I left school at 23. Because we had both started university at 17, my room mate and I have always been thankful for the closures as we were so much more mature and ready to take on the world when we did.

"Look Under Your Seat"

"Look Under Your Seat". I had dreamed to one day hear these words when, by some stroke of luck, I won an all expenses paid trip to Chicago to attend a screening of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Naturally, I would take my mother with me. This is the ultimate Mother-Daughter dream trip, followed by shopping and a make over, of course.

Sadly, we have just begun the final season of The Oprah Winfrey Show and I will have to strike this one off of my life's To-Do List, as I did last year with 'Seeing Michael Jackson Live'. However, I feel that the occasion behoves me to share what The Oprah Winfrey Show has meant to me over the last 18 or 19 years.

Oprah Herself
The highlight is Oprah. Whatever people say about her, I think Ms Oprah Winfrey is an inspiration to me and millions of people all over the world. I truly believe that she is genuine and has dedicated her life to doing some good with the position of influence that she has and with the wealth that God has blessed her with.

Key Moments For Me
1. The fat in the wagon was probably something I saw on the news first, before seeing the show. But it is an iconic television moment.
2. I have NEVER understood what all the fuss was about regarding the Tom Cruise jumping on a couch episode. I have watched it many times (not just the clip, but the whole interview) and I still cannot for the life of me understand what the big deal was. I think it was just Tom Cruise haters, who resent that the guy was happy about his new love. What is so wrong with that? And because Tom and Oprah are friends, he was able to let go of his emotions more with her.

Celebrity Interviews
That's another thing I have loved about Oprah. Being a mega celebrity herself and way richer than any of the most famous super star, it made interviews very different from all other shows. I think that we often saw a candidness and an insight that you don't get from many other talk shows. I remember the Michael Jackson interview. From watching her show, you can tell that John Travolta really is one of her best friends. I loved when Hillary Swank went on with her mum and they both cried. You see, I'm not the only one for whom being on the show is a dream come true.

Texas Beef
The Texas Amarillo episodes when they sued her for saying she wasn't gonna eat a hamburger again. Whatever! I'm glad she won. I will always remember the white middle aged dude who recited her lines from The Colour Purple. Hilarious!

The Feel Good Factor
I remember reading an interview with Carmen Electra in Glamour magainzine, where she talked about a rough patch in her life and how we all have those moments when we need to get ourselves together and we end up watching lots of Oprah. I loved that. It is so true. Even though i don't follow the show that much these days (since I no longer watch TV), when I stumble upon a show, the feel good factor is always there.

The People
Celebrity or not, Oprah does ordinary people really well too. In  fact, that is why she is successful as she is. There are so many people that have appeared on her show who inspired and motivated me, who touched me and from whom I learned something. The indomitable human spirit has been celebrated time and again.

The Causes (good and bad)
1. Child Abuse. Oprah has done SO MUCH to tackle child abuse (especially sexual abuse). From the Oprah Bill that was signed by Bill Clinton; to the campaign to catch child molesters which I really disagreed with. I thought it created potential witch hunts. Being accused of being a child abuser is something you can never shake off if people get it wrong
2. The Gratitude Journal. The discerning reader of my Big Three Oh 30 things I'm Grateful for birthday email picked up that this was a gratitude journal. This is one of the most effective things I have ever learned. It always pays to count your blessings
3. Leadership Academy. If I am ever blessed with a huge amount of money, I will establish a Leadership Academy to teach and inspire young, gifted people. If not, I will do my best to influence the people who can to ensure it is run properly.
4. Books. Oprah's Book Club has done so much to get people reading proper books from which we can learn something about ourselves, other people and the world. My own book club that I started owes a lot to this great lady who has championed the writtten word and brought reading back into fashion for people ALL OVER THE WORLD.

The Give Aways
This entire post is centred around the stuff Oprah gives away. The fact that most of it is donated by corporations is completely besides the point. She gets these companies to do it for deserving people. The Car episode is still the most awesome as was the whole dream thing. I remember families given new homes, women given new looks. The list is endless. "Look Under Your Seat!"

The Weight
Oprah's weight loss (and gaining) journey is probably one that has resonated the most with people (especially women) everywhere. It is what makes her normal, just like you or me. About three years ago, I learned from Oprah about truly accepting myself for who I am and believing I was beautiful and sexy, just the way I am. This doesn't mean I have never tried to lose weight (it is healthier for you after all), but it is about self-image, worth and esteem. I will never be the same again.

I love you Oprah!