Photo via Seyi Shay.

Op-Ed: Seyi Shay On the Resilience of Nigerian People During Covid-19

The Nigerian singer writes about her experiences during this trying time—and the people she's meet through it.

As most people probably did, I had many exciting plans for 2020 but it turns out 2020 had other plans. The past six months have been extraordinarily odd especially for an artist like me whose life is built around activities. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic did not only stop us from live events which is a huge part of my artistry, it has also kept me away from connecting physically with some of my family members and essentially reduced the great 2020 to a year of survival.

Through the madness, I have learnt at a higher degree, the importance of internal strength and resilience, thanks to a unique experience I had interacting with some everyday Nigerians on the streets of Lagos. I took a ride as a form of outlet for my frustrations and to break boredom when I came across these unrelenting people, who wake up every day and grind tirelessly. The pandemic has no bearing on them, because for all of them, survival is a must and their families must be taken care of.

Commercial tricycle driver, Friday Nwankwo.

Photo via Seyi Shay.

Friday Nwankwo, is a commercial tricycle rider whose family lives on 2,000 naira everyday. He had traveled from Eastern Nigeria to Lagos (Western Nigeria) in the 90s and was able to acquire his tricycle by higher purchase. Friday ran a food stuff business to earn extra income but the business collapsed due to an accident he had while going to acquire some of the goods. Due to recent strict policies of the Lagos state government on transportation, income has been low and Friday fears that his future as a tricycle rider is uncertain.

Iya Bimbo, who sells nuts and chips one street, and Seyi Shay.

Photo via Seyi Shay.

Iya Bimbo sells nuts, chips and other crunchy snacks to support her family. She, like most petty traders, earn very little. To squeeze out more profit, Iya Bimbo processes most of her products herself and travels to a neighbouring country, Cotonou (Benin Republic) to purchase some of her goods.

Waliu, who works as a vulcanizer.

Photo via Seyi Shay.

Waliu is a vulcanizer who lives with his family—a wife and three children. He typically charges 300 naira to gauge car tires and half of his daily income goes to the feeding and welfare of his family. The pandemic has, however, stifled the flow of income and Waliu says he now relies mostly on his savings to take care of his family.

Commercial motorcyclist, Musa.

Photo via Seyi Shay.

Musa is a commercial motorcyclist. He moved to Lagos from Sokoto (Northern Nigeria) five years ago. Musa saved up enough money from his previous business of selling oranges to acquire his commercial bike. He plans to go back to the Orange-selling business in the near future as the business of driving commercial motorcycles in Lagos isn't as lucrative as it once was. Musa is however, thankful that the burden of rent isn't on his shoulders as he lives with a friend who is a security man somewhere here in Lagos.

These interactions brought me a great deal of perspective and forced me to find light. I found strength and the resolve to diversify my approach to the music and adapt to the current climate. I have, as a result, penned a eulogy which is dedicated to everyday people who scale the hurdles of life, never back down and survive through all of life and its setbacks. The message is of course, in the form of a song titled "Tuale."

"Tuale" is translated as "Salute" or "Shout out." I am saluting and shouting out everyone who is holding it down for themselves and their families and all my fans who have been holding me down all these years. "Tuale" will arrive this Friday, August 21.

Image supplied by Candice Chirwa.

In Conversation with Candice Chirwa: 'Menstruation is More than Just Bleeding for Seven Days.'

South African activist Candice Chirwa, the 'Minister of Menstruation', speaks to us about what a period-positive world looks like, the challenges menstruators face even in 2020 and her important advocacy work with QRATE.

It's 2020, and naturally, tremendous advancements have been made across various spheres of society. From the prospect of self-driving cars and drones delivering medicines to rural areas to comparatively progressive politics and historic "firsts" for many disenfranchised groups, we've certainly come a long way. However, in the midst of all that progress, there is still one issue which continues to lag behind considerably and consistently, particularly in less developed countries: menstruation.

Candice Chirwa is a young Black woman on a mission to fiercely change the disempowering narratives and taboos that still shroud the issue of menstruation. The 24-year-old South African activist, who is endearingly known as the "Minister of Menstruation" on social media, wants young girls and women to not only accept but embrace their bodies fully in a society that insists on speaking in hushed tones about a perfectly normal biological process. Both Chirwa's research and advocacy work with the UN and her award-winning NGO, QRATE, has focused on dispelling common myths about menstruating, removing the shame and stigma around it and giving menstruators the knowledge and tools they need to navigate their world through impactful workshops.

And when Chirwa isn't collaborating with Lil-Lets, one of the biggest sanitary product brands on the continent, or co-authoring a bad-ass book titled Perils of Patriarchy, she's dominating the TEDx stage and making sure that her audience, no matter how diverse or varied, leaves the room feeling comfortable and courageous enough to boldly shout the word "vagina".

We caught up with Chirwa to discuss what initially compelled her to become a "period-positive" activist, her continued advocacy work with QRATE and what kind of world she imagines for menstruators.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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