Monday 1 January 2024

Thank You for Our Biggest Year So Far!

Shades of Us at the 2nd Annual Mental Health Symposium

Happy new year! 

We are thankful for the journey we had in 2023. We grew as an organization: literally and metaphorically. There were strides we made in the past year that were beyond our wildest expectations and it took the hard work of our dedicated team (Sadiya, Cynthia, Atinuke, Adetayo, Eneojo, Ruth, Marire, Naomi, Vivian, Our technical advisors, Members of the board, and our Founder), support systems, partners, and the reception of our audience to get to this place today. We are thankful for former team members (Ifeoluwa, Safiya, Grace, Nwachukwu, Jeremiah, Vanessa, Emono, and Tzar), whose contributions remain invaluable to us.

Here are some of the achievements and failures we are most thankful for in 2023. 


At Shades of Us, we recorded our first episode of our ‘People Like Us’ documentary...even though we never edited it. We lost some audio in the process of recording, but it was a learning process for us. We are choosing to embrace errors so that we can do better when we set out to create these documentaries again, we will do them just right. 


Our first major event of the year happened in February. Shades of Us partnered with the Women in ICT Foundation to document the Walk and Run World Cancer Day event to create awareness about early detection of cancer, signs, symptoms and strategies to improve cancer detection among other things. We took amazing pictures of the event and shared our thoughts here

Shades of Us also attended Jela’s Development Initiatives (JDI) launch of their J Blood Match App, an artificial intelligence application that connects voluntary blood donors to recipients using their blood type and location. Shades of Us believes that the launch of the J Blood Match app is a crucial step to addressing some of the problems associated with blood donations in Nigeria: especially during surgeries and emergencies. We urge the government to adopt this application and technology funders to scale up the technology to everyone across the thirty six states and 774 local governments of Nigeria. 


March is always a big month for us because of International Women’s Day. With Shades of Us, the team shared their thoughts on various issues affecting women: equity in unity, access, policy implementation, for marginalized women, to break barriers, and against economic constraints. 

Still on Women’s Day – or more appropriately, women’s month – we attended the Purple Ball hosted by Strong Enough Girls'​ Empowerment Initiative (SEGEI) and Stephanie Apel. The event brought women together to celebrate themselves and their achievements and also provide mentorship for each other.  

In recognition of the pressing challenges around maternal health and mortality, Nigeria Health Watch organized the second edition of the Celebrating Womanhood Art Gala, focused on ‘Elevating Women's Voices for Quality Maternal Health Care’. Shades of Us was especially glad to be part of this. The gala aimed to raise awareness of maternal health issues among stakeholders beyond the health sector, encouraging guests to engage with art, participate, and begin finding solutions to Nigeria's maternal health challenges. 

The final major event we were a part of was the Brunch and Rejuvenate event with the Sunshine Series. Our Founder, Ramatu Ada Ochekliye, was invited to join other founders and leaders that are women in a relaxing atmosphere with great food, massages, therapy, and general enjoyment. Ramatu was pumped to meet other women who are doing such amazing work in their fields: tech, business, agriculture, development, communication, etc. It was a much-needed reminder that women are doing so much and deserve all of our flowers.

Shades of Us at the Walk and Run Cancer Day Event


We spent April, like all other months, consolidating our applications for grants and opportunities that could help us grow, while ensuring we were sharing content across our digital and social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin (Profile and Company), TikTok, our websites and more. We also hunkered down on designing our website which would be a repository of all the work we were doing. Again, we were learning from our mistakes and iterating as much as we could with the resources we had. 


We were informed by the Idimma Health Initiative about a second season of the Strong Voices radio drama. In 2022, Shades of Us partnered with the Idimma Health Initiative to develop six episodes of Strong Voices, a radio drama which followed the lives of six people dealing with mental health issues (depression and post traumatic stress disorder) after facing various kinds of trauma. These radio drama episodes aired on Kiss FM 99.9 and Kapital FM 92.9, reaching 167,000 people in the FCT. So…we were excited to partner with them again for a second season of the radio drama. We held the script development workshop in May, developed eight episodes in English and Hausa for the second season that was also aired on Kapital FM 99.9 and Rahma FM 104.1 in the FCT in November. These radio dramas have been repurposed as a podcast on Spotify.


Shades of Us attended the Nigeria Health Watch Solution Journalism Africa Initiative Close-out event that showed how shifting the narrative from problem-focused reporting to Solutions Journalism can make a tangible difference in our communities, promote positive change, and amplify the voices of those creating innovative solutions. We genuinely love the idea of solution journalism as a way to tell stories about the issues we deal with in Nigeria and Africa. 

Shades of Us Script Development Workshop for Flow, our Short Film on Period Poverty


In July, we launched the Shades of Us website: finally! We started the process in December 2022 and finally got it launched in July. It is a repository of all our work: blogs, events, podcasts, vlogs, projects, our governing body and more. We are proud of this website. We are still reiterating versions of it but this is a great start for us. And it is absolutely beautiful! 

In other news, our Founder joined the Run Club Abuja for their annual charity half marathon: the first marathon she was a part of. Two years ago, Run Club Abuja raised some money, and built a classroom and donated some computers and other school equipment to the Not Forgotten Initiative, a not-for-profit school for indigent kids in Abuja. Last year, they ran again to raise some money to renovate the Deidei Primary Health Care Center and donated health equipment, alongside giving the entire place a facelift. In this month, we ran with them to raise N10m to build a football pitch and an athletic running track at Abuja's Oldest Primary school - the LEA, Jabi.

Shades of Us also joined the Abuja Literary and Arts Festival (ALitFest) planning committee as volunteers at the start of the year and by July, we were in full online campaign mode. The theme of this year’s festival was ‘Becoming One with the Other’, and it had a line up of book readings, engaging panel discussions, captivating film screenings, an electrifying poetry slam, immersive creative writing workshops, a vibrant book fair, and a captivating art exhibition, among other exciting events! 

We also hosted our first Forum Friday on Gender Inequality. Forum Friday is our engagement with our curated audience on topical issues around the global goals. Our guests for this edition were Esther Olamoyegun, a writer and feminist, and Grace Yakubu, a filmmaker, photographer, and producer.

Finally for this month, we collaborated with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Plan International, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Nigeria, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDs) and others for the Day of the African Child. Together, we created and launched the ‘ABCs of Child Rights’, a simplified version of the act. We designed the document and this was such a big achievement for us and I am especially proud of Shades of Us, especially my sister Halimatu Sadiya Ochekliye, for managing the entire process until the successful launch. Can you see the company we were with? 


We got our very first grant! Out of 3,000+ applicants for the Giving Joy Grant, Shades of Us emerged one of six winners of the $500 grant for our mobile cinema project. With this grant, we will produce and screen a short film on period poverty - Flow. The timeline for this is August 2023 to February 2024. We are excited about this and can't wait to produce and screen Flow to audiences in Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory! Watch the announcement video here! 

And, our Founder was a panelist on the Stand With A Girl ( SWAG) panel for the 2023 International Youth Day where she shared how young people can be deliberate about their life, work, and career paths for a better future. 


September was ALitFest month! We documented the event and screened two of our films – Report It and That Whole Area of Grey – at the festival. The film’s focus are around sexual abuse and other forms of gender-based violence and it was so well received. The ensuing conversation with the participants at the screening was fulfilling. At this event, we launched our jackets, hosted our first booth as an organization, and managed to squeeze in some team bonding events, with many of us using virtual reality and doing a ‘sip and paint’ for the first time in our lives! 

We began to lay the foundation for Flow, our short film project from the Giving Joy Grant, by facilitating our script development workshop. It was an opportunity to build the capacity of our team on the script development process and by the time we were done, the story that emerged is one we are proud of. 

Every year, we join the world to #Act4SDGs, the global rallying call to promote the sustainable development goals, and urge people to take action for our collective goals. We shared actions we were taking on Goals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 13, 16, 17: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, reduced inequalities, peace, justice and strong institutions and being open for partnership for the goals.

Shades of Us also hosted our second Forum Friday on reducing waste and increasing energy consumption and climate action. We were joined by Chizoba Nkeazor, a climate champion, innovator and researcher, and Tonny Silas Dauda, a development practitioner and youth activist. 


Moving on, Shades of Us partnered with The Sunshine Series for their 2nd Annual Mental Health Symposium to raise public awareness of mental health as a fundamental human right and encourage people to seek help. We documented the event and screened our short film on mental health and suicidal ideation, The Dumps. 

Shades of Us also participated in an event to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child, organized by UNESCO Regional Office Abuja in collaboration with Stand With A Girl Initiative, to create safe spaces for discussions between girls' dads and girls, addressing challenges and prioritizing support, promote a positive narrative on comprehensive education and girls' health and development, and raise awareness and celebrate the invaluable contributions of men and boys in uplifting and empowering women.

To crown this month, Shades of Us joined the conversation for 2023 Future of Health Conference hosted by Nigeria Health Watch. The conference featured three panel sessions with speakers sharing experiences on how stronger partnerships with the private sector can strengthen Nigeria's health system. The future of our health requires all of us to be on board and we were proud to be a part of the conversation.


We are usually excited about November because of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. However, for the first time since Shades of Us was founded in 2014, we didn’t commemorate this event. November was a tough month for us as an organization. We were evaluating whether we could continue to stay afloat as we navigated the challenges of running the administrative, logistics, personnel and communication aspects of the organization. 

Why is this necessary to share? Well, it is easy to see the positives and forget that the pathway to any kind of success can be marred with struggles – overwhelming struggles – that can break the will to push forward. We are Shades of Us, and we know that all shades of us are what makes the whole of us. We didn’t break…but we nearly did. And we are taking the lessons from this for our future.


On behalf of Shades of Us, our Founder received a certificate of appreciation from the Abuja Literary and Arts Festival team for our role in facilitating social media communication and festival documentation for the festival. ALitFest was one of the biggest highlights of our year and we are incredibly proud to have volunteered for the festival. We raise our glasses to everyone at the Abuja Literary Society, conveners of #ALitFest. Cheers to a great partnership and we look forward to #ALitFest24!

We also joined the ALitFest planning team at the 2023 Beeta Arts Festival cocktail for creatives. It was a beautiful evening of poetry, music, dance, networking, and celebrating the arts. I couldn’t stay till the end of the festival but look forward to the future with these kinds of festivals.



There are good things that happened to us in 2023. We also learned valuable lessons for the future we imagine for ourselves. We are open to partnerships and funding opportunities in the new year. If you have some or know some, please share with us. 

Thank you for coming on this journey with us and being a part of our story. Cheers to 2024 where, believe us, we are going to smash this record and aim for bigger! Happy new year! 

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