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Author Archives: Neetah

Skin Lightening Practices; A PanAfrican Emergency!

Every country in Africa is rife with skin lightening practices. Women, men and children engage in these practices with alarming prevalences being reported from all over Africa. It has become a Panafrican emergency.

Mama Africa’s heart is racing because her people are losing their identity. Decades after the chains were unbound they are still mentally enslaved by the wiles of the trans-atlantic billion dollar cosmetic companies.

We believe that lighter skin is better, more beautiful, more attractive to the opposite sex, signifies higher social class, leads to better job opportunities and gives higher self-esteem. The media has played a huge role in sending these subliminal messages that have changed our perception of black skin and led to these unnatural beliefs.

“Nothing can be better than the melanin you were born with, nothing can be healthier than your natural skin tone.
But how do we open their eyes to see this truth…?”

Skin lightening practices have been associated with considerable morbidity and mortality including skin cancer, liver and kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and various skin conditions including infections and premature aging.

Studies have shown that the African child first starts skin lightening practices in secondary school. However, younger children are becoming victims and pregnant women have begun to use pills to lighten their babies in utero.
An increasing number of men are engaged in skin lightening practices and this emergency spares no gender, educational or socioeconomic level, age or tribe.

But has this problem gone unnoticed for decades? Definitely not! There have been many measures howbeit half-hearted and unsustainable which have been put in place to address the issue:

– The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Nigeria in 2002 re-emphasized the ban on mercury, hydroquinone and steroid containing creams and soaps.
– Cyclical international and local anti-skin bleaching media reports and sensitization.
– Medical practitioners repeatedly cautioning against the adverse effects of such practices.
– A lot of research conducted to observe and understand the phenomena.
– Some well proven harmful brands phased out of the open market.
– The media occasionally celebrating a few dark skinned celebrities for their beauty. Lupita Nyong’o was named People Magazine’s most beautiful person in the world in 2014.

But why isn’t it working???
– Lax regulations on the sale of these agents.
– Thriving black market for banned skin lightening agents remains unchecked.
– Employers not bound by laws that ensure inclusion of every skintone. Colorism still thrives in the labour market.
– Media still focussed on lighter skin as the epitome of beauty.
– Foreign media influence on African culture and societal norms.
– Sunscreen with an SPF suitable for African skin is either unavailable or too expensive.
– Cosmetic companies not held accountable for the messages sent through their adverts and the contents of their products. Poor consumer protection.
– Stigma attributed to skin damage as a result of bleaching fosters desperation to continue at any cost.
– Harmful agents freely available over the counter without enforcing prescriptions.
– Paucity of health education for the masses.

Every African knows someone who engages in skin lightening practices. Together we must work together to protect our identity and our health and kick colorism and skin lightening practices off the continent. We need to be our brother’s keeper and stand for change!

Please sign this petition to restrict the sale of harmful skin lightening agents over the counter.

PETITION

Be the change you want to see!

#embracemelanin
#theNigerianDermatologist
#blackisbeautiful
#endcolorism

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Posted by on August 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Colorism and the concept of peace! #livingmandelaslegacy

Peace is the concept of harmony of mind, body and soul. A concept that can only thrive in the absence of hostility. It creates a safe space for people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse beliefs to be able to express themselves in every form without judgement. Peace is not only the absence of war and conflict in our nations but an ideology that each person must internalize and find before they can advocate for it externally.

Africa is under attack but not by armies from beyond the Atlantic but by brothers and sisters of the same tribe. Brothers and sisters who after fighting the common enemy have begun to fight eachother. Can you as an African say you are truly at peace?

I am an African woman with dark skin. I was never sold as a slave, I never lived with the prejudice racial discrimination brings and I was born in the 80s- the post colonial era when my people were free. Yet from a tender age I was told I was too black, no better than a shadow or a golliwog from one of Enid Blyton’s stories. The market women would eagerly beckon to me, “a little of this cream to make you beautiful my dear”. The boys looked at me and some of them said “if you were a little lighter, you would be so much finer”…

The media celebrated light skin and I was lured by the beauty promised in a bottle of bleaching cream. A beauty that seemed to guarantee social acceptance, better job opportunities, attraction by the male folk and peace…It promised calm to my inner turmoil and a silencing of the screaming voices that told me I was not good enough or pretty enough.

77% of Nigerians are currently lightening their skin, 59% of the Togolese, 35% of South Africans, 27% of Senegalese and 25% of Malians. No country is exempt. This has become a Panafrican pandemic!

Less than 10% of users are aware of the side effects which go beyond skin diseases, skin aging and skin cancer to encompass liver and kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity and there are others. In some cultures, it is taboo to even talk about it. The people who lighten their skin may be admired but they are invariably shamed for it when the side effects set in. Society has always been fickle.

Many of these people resorted to bleaching in a quest for peace because the lack of acceptance by their own people caused them inner conflict and a rising inferiority complex. Colorism has robbed so many of a peaceful existence.

Men are not spared, neither are children or even unborn babies as pregnant women have begun to take pills to lighten their fetus and birth a more attractive, lighter skinned child. Self- acceptance knows no gender, education, socioeconomic status or tribe.

“Our mind must make peace with our heart before we can make peace with the world” ~ Roxana Jones

Embracing peace means not discriminating against your African brother or sister with darker skin tones.

Embracing peace means deliberately choosing darker skinned models and actresses in the media.

Embracing peace means letting our children see heroes and TV personalities that they can identify with on African TV #wakandaforever

Embracing peace means full disclosure of the ingredients and side effects of skin lightening agents on every bottle.

Embracing peace means lighter is not better but every shade of black skin is equally beautiful.

The path to inner peace is through self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is most often based on the community’s viewpoints about our values. Mandela fought to end apartheid but isn’t colorism an apartheid of sorts and mustn’t we fight it as hard as he did?

“Until the minds of men become united, no important matter can be accomplished. At present, universal peace is a matter of great importance but unity of conscience is essential so that the foundation of this matter may become secure, its establishment firm and its edifice strong” ~ Abdu’l- Baha

Embracing peace as an African means embracing melanin and breaking the shackles of mental slavery. You cannot change the practice until you change the perception!

Together we can end colorism in Africa and kick skin bleaching off the continent. If you are interested in joining the movement send an email to embracemelanin@gmail.com

#livingmandelaslegacy

#mymandelalegacy

Mandela said “it always seems impossible until it’s done!”

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2018 in Inspirational

 

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The Little Finger Phenomenon

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Have you ever sensed that a person may not be all they seem to be? That behind the smile lies a lurking darkness that you can’t quite figure out?

Have you ever felt your instincts kick you in the guts every time a certain person assures you of their loyalty or friendship but you try hard to ignore the ill-feeling?

Have you ever felt like someone you trusted could stick a knife in your back if given the opportunity or would bring you down in a heartbeat if they had the chance?

Have you ever felt a persistent unease around a certain person, the kind of unease that only grows the moment you start divulging classified info or things too personal to share with someone who truly doesn’t have your back?

Don’t suppress the flight or fight emotion, the outcome could be deadly!

At one of my old workplaces there was a woman who was always hanging around me and her words and body language showed she was interested in a more meaningful friendship but I couldn’t shake off the niggling doubts I had deep down. We became acquaintances and as time went by I learned to block out the unease. One day she comes to report a close colleague to me and said a lot of horrible things about the person trying to get a response out of me. As I opened my mouth to speak I saw her hand working very deftly on her phone and my instincts start screaming ‘DANGER’. Of course, she wasn’t looking at me cos her eyes were fixated on whatever she was doing. I leaned over the table and saw her activating the voice recorder. She looked up suddenly and caught my eye and the guilt in her eyes finally cleared every doubt I had ever had. I asked her why on earth she would want to record one part of a private discussion without my consent especially about such a sensitive topic. I walked her out of my office and the charade ended that instant.

What if she had succeeded? She would have messed up my reputation and my friendship with the other colleague without roping she and her inciteful comments in. Sometimes we never actually realise the reason for the uneasiness with certain people. However, it’s safe to say that if your head keeps telling you to be careful and you don’t have a history of paranoia, you should take it seriously.

I call it the ‘Little Finger Phenomenon’. Little Finger in the Game of Thrones Series was my most hated villain because he seemed so helpful and charming and was able to gain the trust of unsuspecting people only to advance his selfish ambitions without caring who he hurt or who he ruined. He did get his comeuppance but at what cost?

Jealousy, ambition, competitiveness, hate, obsession and bitterness are some of the emotions that can trigger your instincts about another person. The negative energy is often hard to ignore by the subconscious mind. So people, today I am asking you to screw the dictates of polite society by not accommodating anyone who constantly makes you uneasy. Keep a more than respectful distance and let your words be few because ultimately you are better safe than sorry!

Have a good day Chutzpah fam,

xoxo

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2018 in Inspirational

 

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JFK Blues

I was recently selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders and this is exactly how I felt:

It made the opposition I received from men, women and even learned colleagues who were all standing on the table I was so vigorously trying to shake by speaking out against skin lightening practices totally worthwhile. #thefightcontinues #saynotobleaching

So I packed my bags ready for my dream trip to God’s own country. Eager to be moulded into greatness and to rub shoulders with the other fellows. #letsgothere

Had some hiccups in the days leading up to the trip but in Naija we know village people must always try themselves fortunately, God pass them!

So I would love to end the post here and say my trip to obodo oyinbo was uneventful but when you are making soup and Lagos traffic, faulty airplane, TSA, missed flight and spiritual cold are ingredients you know you are cooking up a storm so just grab a plate and let me continue…

Air peace got me to Lagos right on time. They give me the kind of assurance that aerocontractors had in its glory days. The kind that makes you wanna call them ‘your girl’.

Had a 10 hour wait till my next flight but had gotten an email to be at the airport 2 hours before checking in for some last minute instructions.

Called up my mama (you know I am a Lasgidi girl through and through) and she suggested we go somewhere outside the airport to chill for the 4 hours I had to kill.

That’s when my village people started laughing in Isoko. The traffic from the International airport to the nearest eatery in Ajao estate was ‘unholy’ to say the least. We finally spotted one Mr Biggs after being in traffic for over an hour. I had already started doing the mental calculations about how much time I was allowed to eat, gist and then hit the road again so I’d not be the star actress in ‘stories that touch’ episode 78!

We got back to the airport in record time after my beloved mama had prayed over me, anointed me and kissed me all over intermittently giving stern instructions and nuggets of advice. I love me an African mom any day, any time! #bestkarmaforanytrip

Everything else was uneventful at least for a while. I had to look frantically for a place to charge my phone. Why oh why are all the ports at the airport broken? Naija I hail oh!

I boarded my Delta Airlines flight to JFK ready for my amazing journey and undeterred by the fact that I was sitting between two African mothers who needed this ‘daughter’ to show them the buttons, adjust this and that and answer all manner of questions. Guys my new name is Anita Fixit!

Then the absolute worst happened. It was like a dream…first the monitors went off, then the airplane became very hot and then the lights went off and only the emergency lights gave us any form of visibility. I put my hands on my head! If this was Arik air, I would just hiss and wait for the pilot’s announcement of a delayed flight due to technical difficulties (Yes, Arik has shown me pepper plenty times #sorrynotsorry) but this was an oyinbo airline for Okoro’s sake! I thought of a zillion things- the missing planes and plane crashes and the domino effect a delay in one flight would invariably cause.

Soon we were sweating and then panting and everyone had the same bewildered look on their faces. The air hostesses passed out cold paper towels and we got progress reports from time to time. I sent a message to la familia to ‘bẹrẹ gbadura‘. Hubby sent me a youtube link to this awesome song and my frayed nerves found some calm.

Ada- I Testify

In a couple more minutes we were on the move and I testify that it was smooth sailing all the way to NYC. Well apart from the time when the waitress asked if we wanted chicken and yam or beef and rice and I picked beef and rice and aunty beside me picked ‘anything’ only to start wailing when she saw the mutilated chicken sitting untop mashed yam swimming in a pastel colored gravy. At least my excuse for jollof rice was edible!

Got to JFK, breezed past immigration (All Glory To God), checked in my luggage for my next flight and got my boarding pass. Connected to free wifi and then went in search of some cake and hot chocolate. To better understand the events that unfolded afterwards I would like to add that I went to the departure area but some stern looking Fed told me it was too early to be there since my flight was in 8 hours and I should find something to do with myself till much closer to departure. (Who sent me to even ask question sef? Shey I could have just wakad jejerly to the departure lounge).

When it was about an hour and 15 minutes to departure I strolled like a boss to the departure area only to see the worst queue I had ever seen in my life. The queue had twists and turns and interceptions and people walking like the undead. I panicked! The oyinbos were in no hurry and I mentally willed them to go faster. When it was 20 minutes to departure I kept begging the TSA guys to let me jump the queue cos I was gonna miss my flight and they’d calmly say ‘ma’am we should be over and done with in a couple more minutes.’ I was gobsmacked!

I left the TSA 10 minutes to departure only to realise the actual distance to gate B51. I ran and jogged and searched frantically for a cart to assist me with the commute and then ran some more till my lungs felt like they would burst. Got to the boarding gate at the exact time of departure printed on my boarding pass and was about to breathlessly congratulate myself when the woman at the desk informed me that my flight had gone 10 minutes before.

The kind folks at Delta airline put me on the next available flight which was 8 hours later and I became an omonile at JFK! The sort of person who hadn’t showered in 24 hours and who was unimpressed with the facilities around and just wanted to get home! The hours flew by kindly enough. I got busy with a course I’d left pending for some weeks and covered good ground.

Finally it was time to head to Washington DC and I made sure I was first in line. I had been assured that my luggage that arrived 8 hours earlier would be waiting for me. In Naija, the luggage would have found a new home! The plane was really small and for some odd reason my feet were freezing cold like rock solid cold even though the rest of the airplane had ambient temperature. Had to wrap my pashmina around my feet.

Finally got to the place I would be calling home for 6 weeks and I was offered a roll that tasted like boiled unseasoned beans wrapped in a slice of bread- they called it a burrito!

To be continued…

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

What Are Your Intentions?

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I was walking out of a meeting when an elderly colleague accosted me. She asked me to follow her into her office and wait there, then she proceeded to bring three other women also senior colleagues into her office. Being a smart woman, my brain had already figured out that there was going to be trouble and that it had to do with how I looked because this woman and I had never crossed paths before now. I looked at my hair, neat not over the top, not coloured like a rainbow. My ward-coat was clean and neat and my shoes were flat and demure and then I saw it. My red dress (yes doctors wear red every once in a while calm down!) had ridden up a little to my knee instead of staying where I put it (which was below my knees)- not that that should matter which is why I hadn’t bothered adjusting the pesky thing since I had a coat on but alas I had been called into the principal’s office so all offences mattered. I hastily adjusted my dress as she walked in with the last senior colleague.

hattie-mcdaniel-gone-with-the-wind

“Oh you have adjusted your dress! Why do you think it’s okay to walk around with a dress like this? And see her earrings, her hair obscures them but they look to me like chandeliers”

I was dumbfounded and embarrassed all at once. Words failed me. Not that they would have helped at that point.

She looked at the other women. “She must be unmarried and a house officer or one of the new registrars just starting residency!” She finished. Awaiting their nods and oohs and aahs of similar disapproval.

I was chagrined!

One of the women spoke up. “She is actually married and a senior registrar”.

Madam was taken aback. Maybe if she knew I wasn’t a newbie she may have decided to call me privately into her office like a mother would instead of subjecting me to such open ridicule.

My ears were hot.

“Well then she must be a product of your institution because a graduate from MY prestigious school would not dress like this.” She muttered in further disdain.

One of her colleagues smiled quite a knowing smile and then asked me; “Young woman where did you finish from?”

“UNILAG ma”

At this point I would like to pause and say that ‘the woman never hexperrerit!

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I was married, a Senior registrar and an alumnus from the very same school she finished from! She thought she had me all figured out and as such had acted as accuser, judge, jury and hangman but I was actually just some married woman who left her house in a hurry that morning only to discover the fashion faux-pas as she raced to clinic. A faux-pas that I tried to salvage by leaving my ward coat on all day. I wasn’t a villain, I had never been accosted for ‘provocative dressing’ and I sure as hell didn’t have a secret agenda for the men in my department.

I found my voice…

“Ma, please I do not usually dress like this. This was a fashion faux-pas which I only noticed after I left the house. I am sorry”.

The matter ended shortly and she told me they all would be watching me for future offences.

The other senior colleagues had been quite uncomfortable throughout the whole exchange and one of them sweetly called me the very next day to assure me that the whole debacle had stemmed from only good intentions. I appreciated the call but I was still a bit shell-shocked. You kinda assume that when you’re married and part of the old girl’s club, older women will treat you more like one of their own and less like an errant teenager.

One of my friends who is a banker had so many issues with her line manager till she finally put in for a transfer. The woman was always picking on her dressing, accusing her of not dressing like a married woman even though her dressing was within the confines of the bank’s dress code simply because she was blessed with the kind of coke-bottle shape that made a sack look sexy! (HR would have promptly sent for her if she was erring) and even went as far as calling her husband an irresponsible ‘yahoo’ boy. A husband the woman had never even met! Another woman I know wore mildly distressed jeans (distressed at the knees) out with her husband and while he was parking the car, an older woman came to lecture her on why a married woman should never dress like this and then once the woman spied her husband, she said the younger woman’s behaviour was excused simply because she had her husband in tow! One of my older colleagues had gone for a meeting and had been chastised by a woman there that her suit was attracting too much attention and she shouldn’t have worn it. The suit in question was a dress suit with a sleeveless dress and jacket (she had the jacket in her hands because it was hot) her exposed arms were the woman’s problem.  My colleague calmly pointed to another woman who was wearing a very provocative suit and said ‘Why don’t you start with her?’ The woman promptly replied that the other woman was married with a son almost in the university but she had heard that she was single. My colleague shook her head and corrected the woman, she also was very married and her daughter was in SS2! I taya for some people oh. So if my colleague wasn’t married it would have been okay to embarrass her like that? And do women need to wear bigger wedding rings- not to ward off men but to ward off unsavoury comments from other women? These are the issues!

An older woman should be a mentor regardless of age difference- agreed! But what is her intention? To build up or tear down? To effect change or sprout bitterness? Is she speaking the truth with love? Or just telling it like it is regardless of who she hurts? A hurting human is more likely to be obstinate and resist change. Like one woman I know put it, sometimes a woman who is out there correcting other people’s children either has no control over her own or imagines hers to be perfect. Another woman pointed out that a scorned woman may be projecting her frustrations on the next seemingly happy woman beside her enshrouding her bitterness in chastisement. We have all been corrected in the past- old, young, single and married. The gentle old woman, who calls you aside to secretly help you adjust your skirt makes a more lasting impression than the one who loudly points out that your skirt is tucked into your briefs at the back when you exit the ladies room.

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Ladies- regardless of age or our diversities, we need to debunk the widely held beliefs that women tear each other down. Let’s be patient with each other and speak our truths with love. Let’s stand with each other and build up instead of tear down. The next woman will not steal the shine off your crown neither will she rob you of your spotlight, make you feel redundant or steal your man and she definitely isn’t the cause of all your problems in life. So many women have missed networking opportunities and opportunities to bond simply because they judged and misjudged another woman too hastily. Let’s be mothers and sisters before we are haters and fighters. Let’s spread love wherever we go. Sowing good never brought forth evil! What are your intentions? Let this guide your words, thoughts and actions.

FYI, the red dress in question is currently serving time at the back of my wardrobe! It cannor come and embarrass me and get away with it!

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Have a lovely Saturday Chutzpah fam,

xoxo

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2018 in Me, Myself and I

 

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Pointing Fingers

“A wise man once said that every time you point a finger to accuse someone else, your other four fingers are pointing right back at you…”

A friend of mine called me one day out of the blues that she had just lost her pregnancy and I experienced a rainbow mix of unexpected emotions. I was shocked and confused because I had seen her almost every day prior to that and had no clue that she was preggers. I felt sad and heartbroken because she had lost something she had wanted for so long. I felt hurt and betrayed because she hadn’t trusted me enough to confide in me till she needed a shoulder to cry on. For the time being I put my feelings aside and was there for her. I was everything she needed me to be.

It didn’t take too long however, to realise she wasn’t the only one that needed comforting. I called my mom to unburden my chest and she told me it was usual for some friends not to tell each other sensitive stuff like this because of our culture and the ‘you don’t know who is really happy for you’ mentality and that maybe the couple had reasons for keeping it in and I shouldn’t let it affect me. But it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. All my other friends had told me the news as soon as they peed on the stick and this friend had shed tears more than once that some other friend of hers had excluded her from the baby announcement and since some of her inner circle knew about it, I felt I had been deliberately excluded.

So I called up one of my oldest friends to whine about it and as I was going on and on about the seeming betrayal, I let it slip that all that time I had confided in this friend about the procedure I had done, and she had never once felt the need to trade her own secret and voila, the next instance something unexpected happened. My dear friend cut me short and asked when I had the procedure done. I told her and as it dawned on me that I had goofed, I felt the embarrasment creep up my neck. I had kept the details from my friend even though she had initially suggested it and asked me about it once or twice. I hastily replied that I wanted to be sure the procedure had worked and was waiting for the right time to break the ‘good’ news which unfortunately never came. I tried to convince her that I hadn’t excluded her for any negative reason and that it was just more convenient to tell my other friend because she was going through the same issues that I was. Right then it occured to me that I had been feeling hurt and betrayed when I had done exactly the same thing to my other friend!

So many friendships have had bad blood mar them because one friend hid a new man, new job, a pregnancy, an engagement, a wedding announcement, a party, a promotion, a hangout or some other opportunity or good news from the other friend. We have done this to protect their feelings, prevent jealousy or bad blood, protect our good news from frenemies (and village people) or just to keep our matters private but most times we inadvertently hurt someone who has only good intentions towards us. The worst part is that the friend doesn’t know which of the above reasons you had for excluding her and many times emotions make people assume the worst.

So how do you control the dissemination of your private affairs without sacrificing a good friend on the altar of secrecy? Here are 3 points to note. This points don’t apply if you deliberately excluded the person for any reason.

1. Be consistent. Let your friend know exactly what place she occupies in your life. Every person has different circles of friends. If you have 2 best friends, don’t tell one and leave the other out unless it is a known fact that you are closer to one of them. If you tell only your inner circle a secret, a friend in the outer circle won’t feel excluded unless you have given her reason to believe that she was part of your inner circle.

2. Be sensitive. Don’t assume that your friend understands why she wasn’t included. Take out time to explain to her and to gently tackle how she may be feeling. Invest more time, attention and love into the relationship so that you restore the balance that was there before the big reveal and so that she is assured that she wasn’t excluded for a negative reason. This may take time, don’t be in a hurry to move on unless you are sure she has.

3. Be fair. The world is so intertwined that many times we get as good as we give. If you are a private person then don’t get mad if someone else keeps their information private. If you planned to keep the information private but a couple of people already know about it, tell the people who are important to you rather than someone in your inner circle hearing it from a random friend outside or finding out she was one of the few people who didn’t know. Remember gist gets around pretty fast.

Life isn’t static. We will always have our own secrets and not be privy to someone else’s. Even though we may be inadvertently or intentionally excluded from certain circles of trust, we must be careful not to point fingers for with someone else we may have unwittingly crossed the same line. People have different characters and if you choose to be friends with a secretive person, you must own this and not get upset when the person is just being herself. You must also understand that some secrets are kept out of fear of past personal failures (they don’t want to jinx it) and not fear of what you can or can’t do to ruin it.

Finally, if you choose to keep a secret, do it for your own reasons and not because of advice from some random third party who doesn’t understand the depth of your friendship and has made you suspicious of the very people you trust. Your friend knows you and as a result can anticipate your reactions and odd behaviour hurts even more.

Nobody is perfect, may the force of friendship be strong within us and may forgiveness, love and understanding guide the ones we love and the ones who love us!

Have a lovely day Chutzpah fam,

Xoxo

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Memoirs

 

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Am I too black?

Am I too black?

skin-bleaching (2)

I was 12 years old when it hit me that I could be too dark. Perhaps God had been a bit overeager with the melanin and where the manual said a pinch he threw it all in.

But the preacher says God doesn’t make mistakes…

I was walking through Tejuosho market that blazing hot afternoon and a couple of innocuous market women bored with the fact that they hadn’t made any sales all afternoon decided to shake the very core of my foundation perhaps for sport or maybe the way mothers do when they think they are doing what’s best for you.

“Sisi you too black”

“Come make we give you cream”

“Man no like black skin like this oh”

“No mind her black and shine, come make I give you the one wey go tone you small”

“This one go maintain your colour make you light small, all the big girls use it”

And so they hovered around like birds of prey while I tried desperately to escape their greasy palms.

Something changed that day and I became acutely aware that I had lived with these jibes for most of my life. My friends called me “Blacky shadow”, family often referred to my darker skin tone. I was often described as the black girl which wouldn’t have been weird if I lived abroad but I was somewhat bemused because everyone around me was black- well racially speaking.

I tried to fix my inadequacies by attaining flawless skin by hook or crook! Tried using my mom’s creams and soaps. Even reacted to one of them, a French cream given to her by a friend which turned out to be liquid soap and yours truly slathered it generously on her face before bed and woke up to swollen eyes and lips which took their damn good time to resolve. Or the time I had that one pimple and put an antiseptic soap on my face overnight and woke up with chemical burns! Had to wear my hair like a rockstar, obscuring most of my face and I got laughed at by the unkind kids in church. Needless to say, I was obsessed with my skin. That obsession steered me towards the path of Dermatology and fuelled my passion for dark skin activism.

Last year I decided my dermatology thesis would be on skin lightening because it was the elephant in the room. Every body knew somebody who was bleaching. The media celebrated it, dark skin actors and actresses were sidelined, the cosmetic industry was still making billions of dollars annually and NAFDAC had released a watery statement banning the use of mercury, hydroquinone and steroids in skin lightening agents but of course didn’t enforce it and the market still thrived. I even had medical colleagues that were bleaching- this was certainly going to be an unpopular topic.

Do you know that 77% of Nigerians are currently using skin lightening agents and research shows that the figures may be much higher.

Women who claim to be against bleaching are toning their skin to ‘maintain’ their colour. People are mixing steroid containing creams like Funbact-A into their body creams and acting surprised when their skin gets lighter. Like one woman said “I was lighter skinned as a child, it’s my true colour coming out”. But then she couldn’t understand why she suddenly had unsightly stretch marks.

People are free to do whatever they want with their skin so why am I so concerned with this?

The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young…

The Federal Ministry of Health warns that tobacco smoking is dangerous to health…

Front-and-Back-views-of-Cigarette-pack-in-Nigeria-showing-text-only-warning-labels

Boldly inscribed on every cigarette pack! Smokers are free to smoke but fully aware of the adverse effects. People who lighten their skin have no idea what they are signing up for. Research showed that less than a tenth of skin bleachers were aware of the side effects. I want the Federal Government to put inscriptions about the adverse effects of skin lightening on every bottle or jar of skin lightening cream sold in the market. Ignorance is killing Nigerians!

I watched a 25 year old girl die from kidney failure. She had been on maintenance dialysis but her kidneys couldn’t keep up. Her only risk factor was the use of skin lightening agents for a couple of years. She had started in secondary school because a guy she liked picked a lighter skinned classmate over her…

You can’t change the behaviour if you don’t change the perception.

Here are 20 adverse effects of use of skin lightening agents (the list is not exhaustive)

  1. Obesity
  2. Diabetes
  3. Hypertension
  4. Poor wound healing
  5. Skin discolouration (especially on the cheeks, feet and knuckles)
  6. Kidney disease
  7. Liver disease
  8. Ring worm and other fungal infections
  9. Stretch marks
  10. Recurrent boils and bacterial infections
  11. Thinning of the skin and increased skin fragility
  12. Heart valve infections (from intravenous injections of skin lightening agents)
  13. Sudden death from air embolism (from intravenous injections of skin lightening agents)
  14. Skin cancer
  15. Sun burns
  16. Increased redness of the skin
  17. Prematurely ageing skin
  18. Growth of unwanted hair on parts of the body like the chin and chest in women
  19. Body odour
  20. Worsening of pre-existing skin conditions like acne.

People have different thresholds and skin lightening agents have different strengths so people may experience these side effects with varying lengths of time. Some skin-lightening agents especially the newer ones like the organic brands and Glutathione may promise little or no side effects but one thing is for certain, if you strip away your melanin by using skin lightening agents, your skin will be more exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun and your risk of skin cancer and sun burns will definitely increase. Nature has established that those with more melanin live in places with greater sun exposure and that’s why the Caucasians with less melanin have a higher risk of skin cancer with prolonged exposure to the sun. Dear skin bleacher, you are now a Caucasian living under the blazing hot Nigerian sun. That mole may not be ordinary, have it checked out before it gets you!

There’s so much to say about skin lightening but for now I ask that you join my crusade by signing my petition to ban the sale of harmful skin lightening agents over the counter.

Young women and men need to know that their skin colour doesn’t define them. We are Africans and having black skin comes with the territory. Please follow my Instagram page  1000beautiful_black_women to join the campaign.

#blackisbeautiful

#backtoblack

#saynotobleaching

#theNigerianDermatologist

xxx

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2018 in Health

 

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