Apr 30, 2010

This Week

Sierra Leone has launched a free healthcare programme for pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and children under five-years-old. In a country that, according to the UN, has the highest mortality rate in the world for children under five this is a first step in the right direction. Obstacles such as inadequate utilities, personnel shortages, and compensation still remain but if addressed competently, this plan has a chance of succeeding. 

Nigeria’s interim president, Goodluck Jonathan, has sacked the country’s election chief, Maurice Iwu. Iwu faced much criticism and widespread protest after the last election in 2007 which was widely seen as fraudulent. There have rallying calls for his ouster since then. 

Botswana’s leader is facing continued criticism from former members of his party, the media and others for eroding democratic principles. He is accused of “shutting out” those who disagree with him and deep divisions remain on the media practitioner’s law, passed in 2008 – which is seen as a means to undermine independent media.

The development blogsphere and twitter-sphere blew up this week with the launch of the 1MillionShirts campaign. In a nutshell here’s the idea – a young American entrepreneur is using social media to get people to send in their unneeded t-shirts along with a $1 donation (to help offset shipping costs). These shirts will then be shipped to Africa (not sure which country) to “kids and families who don’t have shirts to wear”. Needless to say a lot of people have chimed in as to why this is a poor idea and there’s been no shortage of good reading material. Here’s a well thought out response to this campaign that I really appreciated. 

Apr 29, 2010

Leadership Pipeline

When Zambia’s now former president, Frederick Chiluba, was making a push to amend the constitution to allow him to stand for a third term, one of his primary arguments was that his agenda was unfinished, and that he needed another term to “improve the conditions of the country”. I have heard echoes of this with the recent re-election of Sudan’s al-Bashir (who has already ruled for 20 years) and from Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi (also at the healm for 20 years).

“Is the need to finish an agenda, a good enough reason to do away with constitutional terms limits?”

No, it is not. Development is a continuous process, and does not revolve around a president and a few key personnel. As a president 'exits the stage' someone else will take over and continue the work that is left to be done. 

With our history of cult personalities and life term president(s) in Zambia, and Africa as a whole, it is critical to prevent these occurrences. Prolonged time in office allows for greater centralisation of personal power and the deeper entrenchment of corruption and cronyism. 

When I hear arguments in favour of no term limits to avoid power vacuums and instability, I see this as self-serving and a symptom of a larger deficiency - a lack of leadership development. A disproportionate amount of power lies in the hands of an elite few, and it is in their best interests to retain power and continue enjoying its benefits. This stifles the growth of new and better ideas, and provides no incentives for new leaders to emerge.  And as a result we continue to recycle the same politicians often with the same failed policies and end up with the same results.  

There are no easy answers on how to move towards true political maturation with leadership renewal and a balance of power that is not skewed to the benefit of a few. 

The following are some conditions that need to exist to ensure strength in a country's foundation and in its democratic processes: 
  • A strong electoral system independent from the Executive branch, and free of political interference. In Zambia, the president has the authority to make appointments to the electoral commission, and in essence can determine the date of elections or even who is deemed eligible to stand.
  • Independent and impartial law enforcement that is not used as a tool of the ruling class to intimidate and harass would-be candidates and their supporters.
  • An independent judiciary which protects the rule of law and civil liberties.
  • An independent media that provides exposure and coverage to all political parties, and representatives.
  • Coordinated and engaged civil society organisations.
At the heart of this discussion is the need to have a competitive political climate; where people have the freedom to seek public office without fear of intimidation or harassment, and where the free exchange of ideas is fostered and encouraged. Only then can we have genuine multi-party democracy.

Apr 27, 2010

Zambia's 'death traps'

The Prisons Care and Counseling Association, and AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa joined Human Rights Watch in issuing a report that documents the state of Zambian prisons. It focuses on the poor conditions that persist for inmates.

There is some very compelling evidence contained in this report, and it paints a very painful picture. I really hope this report makes it to the President, Zambia Prisons Service, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, parliamentarians, and the general public. 

Rethinking global health

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that Bill Gates is rethinking his approach to global healthcare. The Gates Foundation has given almost $1 billion in grants to eradicate polio, and yet the disease continues to spread across parts of Africa and south-east Asia. 

Instead of focusing solely on fighting single diseases, emphasis also needs to be placed on building stronger and more efficient health systems with widespread immunisations, expanded maternal and infant healthcare, etc. This may not eradicate one single disease but will improve the overall health of people in developing countries, and mitigate the risk of rampant disease outbreaks. 


It's comforting to see the Gates Foundation recognising the need to change their approach. Bravo! 

Apr 26, 2010

Owning our Story

As I was reading the NY Times last week I came across an opinion editorial written by Africa’s Crusader, I mean, Bono and found myself very irritated. The source of my irritation wasn’t necessarily content related but rather author related. I let it go, and went on with things…until this past weekend. I noticed a new World Cup ad on the sports channel, and turned up the volume. Only to hear Bono’s voice over and some U2 song in the background, going on about how this is Africa’s moment on the centre stage for the world’s biggest sporting event, yada yada yada.
So, if this is Africa’s moment, when did Bono or U2 for that matter become representative of that occasion?
I am sure Bono has noble intentions in his advocacy work but I am absolutely fed up of celebrities and their media counterparts co-opting a story that isn’t their own. Stop drowning out the voices that can tell the story in their own authentic manner!

Africa has many narratives, and all are rich and diverse. We need to take ownership of these narratives and tell the complete story. As Zambia tackles Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), mineral and property rights, access to healthcare, etc, I want to hear Zambian voices in mix. I believe it’s critical to give a balanced view of Zambia by Zambians, of Africa by Africans.

It’s not all about corruption, inefficiencies and poverty. Let us re-write the story and move beyond the stereotype of being a voiceless people to be pitied and aided.

Apr 25, 2010

Criminalising HIV transmission

A bill was recently introduced in the Malawian parliament that will make it a crime for a person who knows they are HIV positive to infect someone else. Malawi with a population of 13 million is said to have some of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Official figures put the rate at 12 percent. According to Deputy Women and Child Welfare Minister, Catherine Gotani, “the bill seeks is to ensure people make informed choices."

This looks straightforward at first glance, but it raises serious questions. How do you prove that a person knew his/her positive status and knowingly infected someone else? HIV testing is not universally compulsory and not everyone knows their status; and exposure to risk factors is not a reliable indicator of a positive status."


It’s quite easy to see how the person who first learns of his or her HIV-positive status may be accused of having “brought” the virus into the relationship though it may not be clear who was first infected. In many cases women are often the first to know about their HIV status particularly as governments “move towards provider-initiated HIV testing and counseling in pre-natal settings.”


I really wish I had a copy of the bill because I am curious to see where the law would stand on the non-sexual transmission of the virus. This would include mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, birth or through breast feeding. Are we to see mothers standing trial for passing the virus to their children?

With the passage of this law, are we likely to see fewer people getting tested to protect themselves from prosecution and subsequent incarceration? If this is indeed an unintended consequence, we can expect to see fewer people on life-saving antiretroviral treatment - since you have to know your HIV status to start treatment.

To make a lasting impact on the fight against HIV/AIDS, governments should focus their attention on
proven methods. These would include:

  • providing HIV information and support to people so they can avoid exposure to the virus by practicing safer behaviour,
  • increased access to confidential testing and counselling, and 
  • addressing cultural norms that exacerbate HIV-related stigma.
Update: 26/4

I neglected to mention in my original post that sex workers in Malawi have already voiced their opposition to this bill. Under bill’s definition it means that HIV positive sex workers who fail to inform clients of their status are liable for prosecution. One has to ask if the same will be true for clients who fail to disclose their HIV positive status.

I can certainly see a disproportionate number of sex workers being prosecuted and convicted with the passage of this law. Attitudes still prevail that place blame on this group for transmitting HIV, and this would add another layer of stigma and discrimination. 

Dambisa Moyo appointed to Barclays Board

Dambisa Moyo will be joining the board of Barclays Plc and Barclays Bank as a non-executive member on May 1, 2010.  She will be the only woman, and from what I've seen on their website the only black person on the bank's board. 

I'm sure this is causing a stir in the financial world given her recent notoriety. See the full announcement here and other reactions from the ever busy Lusakatimes posters

Apr 23, 2010

Elias Chipimo Jr

The Zambian political scene has added another player. Elias Chipimo Jr recently launched a new political party - the National Restoration Party (NAREP).

I am interested in seeing what Chipimo has to offer as a young, up and coming politician. There really hasn’t been much in the local media, and I know very little about this new movement and it's founding members. More information can be found at their website or on Facebook

Big thanks to my friend, Kanyanta, for responding to my Facebook gripe and forwarding me the information. 

Apr 22, 2010

Invest in Women

Never underestimate the power of investing in human capital. I could throw many different statistics that show how lives and communities can be changed when someone provides low cost feed or fertiliser to a small farmer, or extends credit to a small business trader, etc.

I think of the legacy of my maternal grandfather who saw the value in educating all his children, daughters included, despite pressure from his family not to do so. He was asked "what's the value in educating a girl?"

My mother is a biologist, and her last born is university bound in a few months. Through one man's hard work and unshakeable belief, a family and future generations was changed - there's the value!

This short video from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs could be the story of my family and many others. 


Apr 21, 2010

Sex Crimes and the Catholic Church

As the Catholic abuse scandal continues to unfold and dominate news headlines, I’ve been struck by the revelations about abusive priests being shuffled from one parish to another, signed oaths of secrecy, and little else done in terms of disciplinary action. It is frightening to see the number of priests implicated in these abuse cases and the number of victims too.

We recently learned that the current pope, during his time as the church’s enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings about a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys. This serves as further evidence that the church has been deaf and dumb on the scandal for too long.

I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. These cases cannot be isolated to the U.S., Canada and Europe. As I think of this I am cognizant of the culture that exists in Africa and Zambia in particular. Matters of a sexual nature are very private, and often regarded as taboo.  This coupled with a weak legal system make it hard for victims of abuse to come forward with the stories and for the accused to stand trial for their crimes – but it’s not impossible!  We’ve already seen positive changes with families being more willing to step forward and report such crimes resulting in more paedophiles being prosecuted for their crimes. 

With that said, I hope that by seeing the courage of others we do the same. Let us start talking about this openly in our homes, our parishes, study groups, etc. Those that have suffered from sexual, emotional and physical abuse need support not only from their families but the larger community as well.

I applaud the victims of these crimes who have already stepped forward, and those that are championing for the lid to be lifted on this boiling pot of filth and shame! The church has betrayed a sacred trust in its inability to protect innocent children. Let us not be complicit in this shroud silence by looking the other way, and refusing to speak up against the crimes committed by “men of God”. 

Apr 18, 2010

Mugabe's empty words

 "As Zimbabweans, we need to foster an environment of tolerance and treating each other with dignity and respect irrespective of age, gender, race, ethnicity, tribe, political or religious affiliation." 
These words were part of Robert Mugabe's address as Zimbabwe celebrates 30 years of independence. While he  was delivering that speech, four members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were serving their fourth day in detention. Their crime?  Protesting high electricity tariffs and poor service delivery. 61 other demonstrators were arrested by riot police, and later released but the leaders of the organisation remain in custody. 

Is this the tolerance, dignity and respect Mugabe was talking about? 

Who will speak up?

News coming out of Somalia in the last few weeks is nothing short of disturbing. The hard line militants rampaging in the country have banned radio music and school bells from chiming to signal end of classes because they are un-Islamic. This comes on the heels of other harsh restrictions and enforcements of Sharia law which include public stonings for adultery.

In February these extremists announced that they were forming an alliance with Al-Qaeda to establish an Islamic state and to fight a jihad across East Africa. The African Union currently has a peace keeping force in the country but they’re in no position to stem the violence, and the current government is weak and can do little effectively.

The questions I have are these - who is speaking up against these actions? What right does a group that does have not popular backing of the people have to make such decisions? They are enforcing their tyranny through the intimidation and bloodshed of innocent Somalis and the continent largely remains silent.

We’re always eager to point accusatory fingers at the West when they bring attention to such issues and ask that fixes be made. Yet when given the opportunity to be proactive we sit back and look the other way while Africans are denied basic human rights and are killed with impunity.


I also want to know why the Islamic world is not speaking up. Where are the loud protests against violence committed in the name of Allah? Will these voices only be heard if and when foreign troops are sent in? 

I do not see this just as a Somali problem, but symptomatic of the greater ills that plague Africa. How are we to move forward when situations such as the one in Somalia are allowed to flourish? We always argue for autonomy free of Western interests and yet stumble when it comes to taking responsibility. 

Apr 16, 2010

This Week

In the world this week...


Sudan witnessed what should have been a historic event. The first multi-party elections in almost 25 years. Things went by with little violence, but the process was mired by accounts of harrassment and intimidation of voters by security forces, and many of the major political parties withdrew their candidates before the polls opened. So, Bashir will be re-elected and his party will hold a majority is parliament. What's next for this country? 


World Cup fever is spreading in South Africa. Thousands queued up overnight to snap up 500,000  tickets across the country. I am sure this is a welcome reprieve from the nastiness that has unfolded in the last few weeks with racial tensions on the rise. I really hope this turns out to be one of the best tournaments in recent history! 


Tanzania granted citizenship to refugees who fled Burundi 38 years ago. Most aren't still living in camps, and have integrated into the larger community. This is truly unprecedented, and hats off to the Tanzanian people and their government!


Implementation of Zimbabwe's indigenisation law has been put on hold. The law requires that businesses worth over $500,000 have a 51 percent ownership by indigenous Zimbabweans. 


Reports from Lusaka, Zambia have confirmed that a cholera outbreak has killed over 130 and sickened close to 5,000 since March. This outbreak has been attributed to the recent flooding after torrential rains. 

Apr 15, 2010

Easterly, Moyo, Sachs et al

The (dead) Aid debate shows no signs of abating, and there is an increasing number of diverse voices in the debate. This is definitely a good thing, and hopefully policy makers are paying attention. 

Bill Easterly's Aid Watch blog can be relied on to stimulate good debate because he's firebrand, and doesn't shy away from criticising well known aid agencies and proponents. I will admit he sometimes crosses line, and could probably spend more time making suggestions on fixing the system. With that said, I find his writings worth the read. 

Lindsay Whitfield from the Global Economic Governance programme also provides a welcome analysis in this discussion of aid. She calls for a fundamental change in the way we think about aid - we need to stop arguing in "for and against" terms, and start understanding development processes and the impediments. 

This is definitely not a topic with an easy solution but I believe we'll get there. I'll post some of my own thoughts a little later, but I encourage you to do some reading if this topic is of interest to you. 

Hapless Opposition

It has become increasingly tedious to read the daily news from Zambia with the build up to the general elections next year. On an almost daily basis the so-called front runner in the “main opposition” party is quoted hurling insults at the President, his ministers and anyone else that is not part of his coalition pact. I fail to see how such actions are supposed to foster dialogue among politicians and among the citizenry.

Isn’t it about time we moved from petty name calling to real issues? Mr Sata, you’re a career politician, and have had a presence in the Zambian political scene forever and a day. If the opposition wants to differentiate itself from the ruling party we need real solutions to the everyday problems facing our country. What are you going to do different if elected as President?

1.  What are your plans in the farming sector? How do we encourage subsistence farmers to go into larger scale farming so that Zambia becomes a major producer of food in the region and not a net importer of food?

2.  What are your plans to stimulate and sustain economic growth? Are we going to keep relying on multilateral aid or will there be systems put in place for more Zambians to enter the formal markets?

3.  What about the antiquated educational system that forces thousands of young children out of schools when they are unable to pass the grade 7 or grade 9 exams? Or the grade 12 graduates who are unable to get into university due to the lack of space at two main public universities?

4.  Labour reform –
a.  The mining industry has become almost synonymous with hazardous and substandard working conditions for its workers, how do you propose making changes to this? Or are we to continue taking what few concessions the foreign investors offer and look the other way?
b.  How much longer will we see productive workers being forced into retirement at 55? This is an antiquated system and I fail to see when it ever made sense.

5.  And what about manufacturing? Our market places and shops are flooded with cheap imports that could easily made in our country while providing jobs to thousands and aiding economic growth. How do you plan to encourage Zambians to go into such ventures? Would this be through easier and more affordable credit? Tax breaks? What?

The list could really go on, but I’ll leave at that. I do not believe these are unreasonable things to ask of anyone vying to be Zambian president, especially those who would have us believe they hold to the keys to succes. It’s time to move from being a loud mouthpiece to a real agent of change who can and will improve things in Zambia.

Do not think that all Zambians are foolish, and will be shouting adulations at you because they are offered free bags of mealie meal, and another lot of empty promises. If you are deserving of the top job, tell us what YOU ARE going to do different! If you cannot, please step aside and stop wasting airtime. There is too much at stake to let this business of usual go on.

Apr 12, 2010

In the absence of leadership

Julius Malema, the ANC Youth League’s president, has been the subject of much talk in recent months, and is constantly grabbing headlines for his controversial antics. He is as much a creation of the media as he is of the ANC’s failure to keep him in check.

Some argue that if you just ignore him he will go away. He may well self-destruct in a few months or a few years, but what damage could he cause before then?

We have already seen what happened during his “fact-finding” trip to Zimbabwe. He openly declared that ZANU-PF was the youth league’s preferred party in Zimbabwe and snubbed the MDC. Now, let’s not forget one important thing – Jacob Zuma is the chief negotiator in the Zimbabwe political talks. The aim of the talks is to rescue that power sharing agreement and have a functional government. So, how is it then that an ANC leader can behave with such impunity without facing strong criticism from the party he represents? Just how serious is Zuma?

At a recent press conference in which he was reporting back on the trip to Zimbabwe, he evicted a BBC reporter, “rubbish is what you have covered in that trouser — that is rubbish. You are a small boy. Go out. Bastard! Go out! You bloody agent.”  All this was because he was asked a pertinent question.

This pattern of behaviour is indeed disturbing and should not be taken lightly. His childish rants and public tantrums are destroying the reputation of the ANC, and making a mockery of what was hard fought for during the struggle.

If Zuma continues to see him as a “leader in the making” who is worthy of “inheriting the ANC” – then we’re all in trouble.  


Apr 11, 2010

How (Not) to Write About Africa

I came across this earlier, and it made me chuckle. It's an essay written by Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina called "How (Not) to Write About Africa." It's narrated by actor Djimon Hounsou. I'm sure the content will resonate with many. 


Apr 9, 2010

Empowerment through Information

If you’ve been alive for the last decade and more, you have doubtless heard about African leaders who refuse to relinquish or share political power. The rule rather than the exception is that many African countries are what George Ayittey calls vampire states – “a government hijacked by a phalanx of bandits and crooks, who use the instruments of the state to suck the economic vitality out of the people to enrich themselves, their cronies and tribesmen. All others excluded.”

So, if we know all this, why do these vampire states continue to flourish? I boil it down to the lack of empowerment of the African people.

To borrow the words of Ayittey, “empowerment requires arming people with information, the freedom and institutional means to unchain themselves out of the vicious grip of poverty and oppression.”

Information

A free and independent media is critical in ensuring the free flow of information. State controlled media has no inclination to expose corruption, human rights violations, and other crimes committed by the state. In fact, it’s easier to plunder and repress people when they are kept in the dark. The media needs to be taken out of the hands of the government. There can be no effective checks and balances when the government is a prominent player in this field.

Furthermore, to protect freedom of speech, we need to develop stronger constitutional and legal safeguards. In Zambia, while freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution, the relevant language can be broadly interpreted. To illustrate this, libel cases can be pursued in either civil or criminal court, and defamation of the president is explicitly a criminal offence. See a case that arose in March 2010 on this very matter. Unfortunately it doesn’t take much to defame the Zambian president; it’s a very broad brush.

Independent radio has given a voice to millions of Africans. These radio stations operate in rural areas and reach the masses through their own languages. This is an advantage over newspapers in urban areas which primarily reach a smaller segment of the population and are predominantly in English or French. These stations have the ability to mobilise people for social change, as well as community involvement. Unfortunately, as is the case in Zambia, these community radio stations carry little political coverage, as the government uses libel and security laws to discourage it.

Criticism is a necessary evil in politics and civil society as a whole. Governments cannot continue to work in darkness – striking deals to auction off public property to cronies and so-called investors at less than fair market value, buying arms to be used against their people, borrowing concessional loans for white elephant projects, etc.

I have to add a caveat to this. A free and independent media does not translate into a platform for launching personal vendettas against government officials for personal slights – it goes beyond that. This is about keeping a populace informed, offering objective insights, and provoking critical thinking and intelligent discourse. This is why editorial and management independence is vital.

Conclusion

In almost every African country, there is a need for further legal and institutional reform to entrench the commitment to media freedom, and to prevent government interference and censorship. It is critical for the success of our societies, and to move towards sustainable progress.

**************
Update: April 11 - After I posted this, I had a rather heated exchange with a Zimbabwean friend, and he is of the mindset that access to information is not necessarily a positive trigger for political and economic progress for Africans. To put it simply, he asks - "do Africans really care about what their governments do?"


He has a point. We are so used to electing officials who are supposed to represent our interests, and our involvement in the political process pretty much ends once we step out of the voting booth, purple thumb evident. So,  if confronted with the wrongdoing of government officials through an open and transparent, what would we do? 

Apr 8, 2010

Deadly Cargo

The following is an audio slideshow from the Guardian newspaper. It covers the sex trade in the Zambian border town of Chirundu. Chirundu has a population of 4,000 and has about 350 sex workers, and has been dubbed an HIV-AIDS transmission hotspot.

For anyone with limited knowledge about sex workers in Zambia and Africa, as a whole, I want to add something before you watch the slideshow. Many women engaging in commercial sex trade do so to earn a living. Many admit and acknowledge the danger of engaging in commercial sex and say there is little they can do because they have to survive at all costs. Some are widows with children to raise, and others are orphans - whose parents have sometimes succumbed to this disease. These claims are supported by high levels of unemployment and poverty, limited educational opportunities, and the like.

So, before you throw stones, consider the desperation it takes for a woman to sleep with multiple partners in order to put food in her belly, and to provide some semblance of a normal life for her children.


Apr 7, 2010

Lusaka housing and flooding

In recent months, several areas of Lusaka, Zambia have been submerged by flood water. This is primarily due to heavy rains coupled with poor drainage. I found some footage of that shows the story and really puts a face to this sad situation. Some of the displaced residents are now living in tent camps, and it raises the question - how long will this temporary housing last?

The central government recently deployed national army reserves to dig temporary drainages to allow stagnant water to flow into the main waterway systems. An effort has started to sensitive people on clean hygiene to stem the spread of communicable diseases such as cholera.

These are all good first steps but larger issues still loom:
  • what is being done to prevent this catastrophic flooding from happening again?
  • are there plans to construct safer houses in planned areas with adequate drainage systems?
Link to Video Story

Apr 5, 2010

The Colour Complex


At one point I thought the skin-lightening craze was one of black Africa’s dirty little secrets; little did I know that similar practices are employed by African Americans, Jamaicans, and South Asians among others. The trend is seemingly on the rise with inexpensive black market products containing powerful but illegal bleaching agents selling briskly in the developing world.

Why is skin lightening practiced?

One commonly repeated rationale is that a lighter complexion is associated with wealth, and physical attractiveness. It is well known that during slavery years and periods of racial segregation, light-skinned people were often given preferable treatment as compared to their dark-skinned peers.

In modern times, television and advertising clearly have a role in perpetuating this perception by portraying “whiteness or lightness” as a symbol of what is attractive. As an example, cosmetic companies promote products designed to help dark-skinned women look “lighter”, and this lighter skin is portrayed to be glowing and healthier. L’Oreal has one such product on the Asian market
called White Perfect. Part of the marketing tagline reads: “Less yellowish complexion, more rosy glow. Reveal your true inner fairness!”

To be fair, while some of these social norms are remnants of slavery, colonial rule and deep rooted cultural stereotypes, we as a people need to shoulder some of the responsibility. We need to shed this burdensome psychological baggage.


How do we move forward?

Banning skin lightening products will not stop the products from entering the marketplace, and will only have the effect of driving them further underground. The only way we can make a positive impact on preventing this practice from spreading is through continuous campaigns raising awareness. There needs to be a shift in perceptions and educating people on the long-term side effects of using these products.

I know this sounds overly simplistic and perhaps naïve, but we have to start somewhere.


Talk to your sister, your daughter, your friends, your co-workers, anyone! Start (or continue) the conversation – “why do you think people lighten their skin? Is it to fit in, or to feel more attractive? Do we have cultural stereotypes that exacerbate this practice?”