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Zambia: Tina Banda, The Facebook Agony Aunt

To many people Facebook is a tool to announce what they are doing or what they have done, yet to some Zambians, it is being used as ‘Agony Aunt’ from which they are seeking advice on many social problems affecting them.

Facebook seems to have filled up the vacuum that Zambians newspapers have failed to fill up. For starters, Zambian newspapers do not have the luxury of space to provide such a service as most of them only go up to 12 pages comprising both editorial and advertising content.

Editorially, the pages are divided into two to three news pages, a business page, a foreign page and a features page, which also carries the editorial and letters columns and one or two features, and a sports page. The rest of the space is dedicated to advertising which means that people seeking advice on personal matters such as marriage cannot be accommodated.

A social work graduate from the University of Zambia, Tina Banda, started a Facebook page called Real Life and Hot Issues Discussion Forum with Tina Banda on which a number of topics are posted everyday and responses given by other Facebook users.

The objective of the Real Life and Hot Issues Discussions is:

Our Ultimatum objective is to shape people’s lives positively and to become the world’s most effective BLOG in educating the public on Real Life issues.

The group focuses on:

OUR focus will be on INFIDELITY,MOTIVATION,JESUS & THE BIBLE TEACHINGS, POLITICS,FINANCE,SOCIAL -ECONOMICAL ISSUES,MARRIAGE /RELATIONSHIPS AND SEX, YOUTH PROBLEMS,EDUCATION,ENTERTAINMENT,CURRENT & HISTORICAL EVENTS,GLOBALISATION,BUSSINESS,TECHNOLOGY,LEGAL ISSUES,ECOLOGICAL ISSUES,FASHION,GOSSIP,CLIMATE CHANGE AND LOVE.We have chosen to come up with the afore mentioned categories as there has been various news on the same issues all over the world…..

A typical contribution goes like this:

Some men are fond of having a permanent girlfriend besides (the) wife. Some just decide to marry as many wives as they want (Due to GREEDY/SELFISH). Must polygamy be encouraged? Can a man genuinely love 2 women the same way? How fair is it to us WOMEN? READ STORY BELOW AND ADVISE Maturely.

Tina i need help very much. Am 33yrs old woman with three kids that i love so very much, i have been married for seven yrs now, and its been a sad stiuation that when my husband was transfered to mufulira he completly changed, he no loger sl…eeps at home, he has inpregnanted his workmet and now he has even shifted to her house and they are staying together, he realy visits his children and now the children are asking me wether i chessed there dad, the whole family have tried and have failed to convince him, he keeps on saying that i love them both and yet i cant see that love for me in him, non of his family members are happy abt this and they had a kitchen party and all his family members did not even attend it, i love this man i miss everything abt him, he pays rent for us and gives us his ration money but not as he used to give out, but i miss having that sweet thing in bed you know, i stay with his brother and i should comfess that i have stated going out with a diferent guy in the hood, and his young brother is suspecting that and he is in support but i feel guilt cause i have never done it before, please help what should i do? go on cheating on him or just relax until he comes back into his senses?
Please help me am dieing with this!!![sick].

A typical response from users goes like this:

Mwenda Sitali says:

You have bn brilliant so far but you ar now messing up yourself.i know its difficult and your ar missing your chocolates in bed.The best thing to do ask your husband to free u up(divorce) so that you can go and look for chocolates elsewhere with a free mind.Your husband is not being fair with u.He is getting his chocolates and you aint getting anything(selfish zambian men)Thats mental torture since you also have a nice taste for chocolates.merry xmas bt no chocs for you.lo[sic]

Meza Mphande says:

Dear Lady: Yours is a familiar case that has happened to many women out there in marriages.It unfortunately has been a trend and other people have come to allude to the conclusion that this happens at some stage in marriage life.But my advi…se is that DO NOT go on with this relationship with this man you are seeing now as you are now doing the very THING you are fighting against your husband.Correctly,so he is very wrong in his actions, regardless of what his side of the story could be becoz marriage is a high institution and there exists channels to solve marital problems that could be of a personal nature between the two of you. Remember,despite all this,you are still legal husband & Wife as you have not divorced.So for now,with all this turmoil, you will continue to devote to your husband.Remain faithful to yourself and him.

If you feel the betrayal is unbearable and cant continue living with him,then you can seek divorce in the courts and set yourself free to start another relationship, and be respected.From your letter, you still love him despite all this, so remain faithful for now, until when you decide to take the step i have put above.

Another topic on the discussion board is about lobola (bride price):

Should lobola correspond to the amount of investment that parents spent on the woman?

Pkapanya Kapanya says:

Nice one Tina! I dont think so. The man marrying is also worth quite something in terms of investment from his family. Id say it should just be enuf to try and compensate for the wman not being home close at hand to help her family freely unlike when she is with the husband and her key responsibilities shift to the man's family. However, i would want mine to be just enuf for me to be able to return incase thngs dnt work out or am not kept well. lol!

Victor Chanda says lobola is not a price for a commodity:

Tina, lobola is not compensation neither is it a price for a commodity. It is a TOKEN of appreciation to the woman's family on how well groomed she is. undersevedly this commercialisation is a misinterpretation of the basis on which this was founded. We are talking of a human being not cattle, to be paid by the highest bidder… Over the years a lot of distortion on this have evolved including the women putting their own price tags. A woman can be formally educated but that does not make her a good wife there a lot of attributes which make a woman a good wife.

The latest topic at the time of writing this post is about a man who had to forge a marriage certificate to register his son as dependant at work and now he wants to marry. The man says:

The certificate bears no signature only our names and name of marrying officer and the witness plus church date stump. A layer said he can challenge her in court but still i will be charged with forgery which in this case i may end up in jail and my employers cant tolerate it, this i know. This will cost me more than i can bear. I offered a lumpsome to make her keep quite but she refused saying all she want is me taking her as my wife thus threatening my fiancee. I forged it coz i loved her but not for a wife coz she isnt a marriage type. We agreed that child maitainance is the allowance she gets which is more than k2.7m per month. Plz what more can a man do to an ex

Asked what motivated 27 year-old Tina, a sales and marketing executive of a Zambian-based Kenyan company, to start Real life & Hot Issues?

She said she was motivated to start the Facebook version of Agony Aunt because of her passion to assist humanity in stressful social situations and occurrences:

I have always wanted to play a role in shaping peoples’ lives, laying [sic] information and enhancing decision making skills in people, motivate the low spirited/hopeless people in society and learn more on cultural diversity and how people from different countries share their perceptions/cultural values and traditions.

I also do not like seeing people go through emotional stress/suffering due to social problems because I have seen how we women are vulnerable in most situations and we fail to open up even to friends or relatives. I always thought bringing out hot issues of the voiceless women/men will always help one or two people on social networks like Facebook and now I get a lot of mails in my Facebook inbox just to have them posted on the Real Life wall so they can get various responses and experiences from other people.
“It is for the above reasons that I developed a passion to talk about real life issues that people got through and other hot issues of humanity affecting society.

Tina Banda

Tina Banda, The Zambian Facebook Agony Aunt

Tina, who lists herself as a sex therapist, motivation and general counsellor, has a group of people who specialise in, among other things, marriage counselling, HIV/AIDS counselling and political analysts assisting her to manage the Real Life Facebook account. The response to Real Life has been overwhelming:

Sometimes it may take time but we do even follow up on our clients and ask how they are faring. We don’t give up until they regain their full self-esteem/self-worthy. Most of the social problems people present to us, we have qualified counsellors who counsel them further and ensure they are satisfied with our advice. Some other readers appreciate the information they get from certain topics that affect humanity and write to us to appreciate the good discussions that we come about with and how it benefits them in their personal development.

She admitted that there were detractors who posted insulting responses but brushed them aside saying: “We are aware that on social networks, detractors are always there but we do not move away from our vision.”

One of Real Life policies says that “We do not aim at engaging in any battle over religious or classified developments. We do not speak malice, we are laying opinion. Thus on our board, we have the right to scrutinise all comments, profiles and groups if it is in line with our policy, and if not we reserve the right to keep/delete any post on the wall status let alone any membership.’’

Tina’s group also understands different reactions of people and how provocative some issues become on their forum. They delete insulting comments but still follow up the individuals who post the offensive comments, ensuring that they know them better, why they reacted the way they did as well as impart good morals/behaviour in them and encourage them to touch one soul out there in whatever they do.

“We also want to help such people on how to deal with anger management,” Tina said.

Tina said Real Life and Hot Issues is an open group meaning it is open to all Facebook users. She hopes the group will attract 50,000 members in 2011 with the belief that the more members they have, the more lives they shape and sensitize on many issues affecting us all. At the time of writing, the forum had 4,342 members.
Real Life and Hot Issues, according to Tina, is a team of eight members of different professionals.

There are eight admin members who are always there to work as a team in attending to people’s problems because we feel we have the solution and that is the knowledge on how to handle hard issues that befall us in life. We also have officers on the group wall that ensure we give professional advice on various topics.

One would suppose that if Tina's forum did not provide the answers people seek to their problems, they would not be writing to her.

2 comments

  • The forum is totally beneficial to the people that seek its advice in various issues because it is open, non-discriminatory and objective in engaging with the community. Being part of the admin team, I feel honoured that I have a chance to assist in people’s daily lives. We are equally encouraged by the numerous diverse responses that we recieve in the forum…..

  • Good job, Gershom. Very interesting use of Facebook!

    Best regards,

    Cati.

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