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Have a read of what our Executive Director, Georgia Arnold, had to say about the impact of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation & MTV Shuga in her recent interview with Business Day Newspaper. 


Georgia Arnold is the Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility for MTV Networks International, where she develops and implements social initiatives across MTV’s broad range of channels. She is also the Executive Director and Founder of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. She is responsible for leading the entire team globally and driving all elements of the Foundation’s operations, including content production, grant giving, fundraising and partnerships. The foundation provides funding and training to youth-led, HIV prevention projects. It has donated over $6million to over 200 HIV based organisations in over 70 countries worldwide.

She also wears the hat of executive producer of MTV Shuga. MTV Shuga is a hit TV series that focuses on the lives of young African millennial, as they navigate their way through their adolescent years. It has been broadcast in over 61 countries across the world, showing on 179 channels and reaching over 720 million people.

Georgia says she was distinctly average at school. In her words,“I was a bookworm and most definitely introverted and shy. You’d never have picked out my adolescent self to go on and do the job that I do today” She says.

Relationship with MTV

I’ve been at MTV for 23 years now, which makes me really quite, quite old!  I joined the company as an assistant to the boss of MTV and after all these years, here I am!  I was very lucky in that when I joined MTV, it was tiny.  There were only 100 or so people running one channel that broadcast across all over Europe. And you could pretty much do what you wanted to do. I discovered that I had a skill for working on social issues and impact (despite a lack of training in the field), and a real passion for working in HIV and sexual health.  I was incredibly lucky to have joined at the right time.

MTV Staying Alive Foundation

MTV Staying Alive Foundation is a charity whose aim is to educate and empower young people with respect to their sexual and reproductive health. I co-founded Staying Alive almost 20 years ago, when we first started producing documentaries about how young people around the world are affected by HIV.  Today, we are both a grant-giving and content-producing organization, reaching millions of young people around the world. Since 2005, we’ve distributed over $6 million to young people working in their communities to prevent HIV, funded 208 youth-led organizations in over 70 countries. And the award-winning MTV Shuga is the cornerstone of our content production, reaching over 720 million homes around the world.

How are you providing funding and training to youth-led, HIV prevention projects?

We give out grants to young people working on HIV prevention within their own communities. We have a request for proposals once a year and ask young people to come to us with their ideas of what will have an impact in their own communities. To date, we’ve funded 19 projects in Nigeria, and each grant includes specially curated training programmes in order to enhance their ability to affect positive change within their communities.

What stands MTV out from others?

We’re incredibly lucky – and unique – as a charity to be able to have the use of the MTV brand. It allows us to reach young people in a way that no other organization can, through MTV’s platform globally. But while we’re supported by MTV, they do not fund us. So much of my time is spent fund-raising so that we can fund these incredible youth-led organizations.

Why the choice of HIV-based organisations?

We look for youth-led organisations where we can be the first-funder. Our grants are small (up to $12,000/year for up to 4 years, plus training each year) and so we want them to have the biggest impact possible.  Other than that, we look to fund brave and ambitious projects, but because each one is designed by young people to work within their own communities, they are all very different.

Share on MTV Shuga, the reason for starting it and its impact so far

MTV Shuga’s rise came as a response to the HIV epidemic. Importantly, it was the need for forward-thinking solutions to HIV prevention that stimulated a novel response, which looked to use the power of media to affect positive change in the lives of young people. MTV Shuga is a 360 mass media campaign that uses the power of entertainment to generate positive sexual and reproductive health outcomes amongst young people. At the core of MTV Shuga is a TV drama, which follows the lives of a group of young friends as they encounter sexual, social and educational challenges throughout their adolescent years. Following on from two seasons in Nairobi and another two set in Lagos, the fifth season had been produced in South Africa for the very first time. I’m incredibly excited that the next two seasons will bring MTV Shuga back to Nigeria, where it will play host to issues concerning family planning, contraception, HIV prevention & sexual health education and will highlight the incidence of gender based violence.

What is your take on women empowerment?

If the question about “breaking the glass” is still being asked, then we definitely haven’t broken it yet. I’m a firm believer in “equality” and I look forward to a world in which there is no talk of “women empowerment” but of “human empowerment”. I’ve been privileged to work in an environment where my sex is not seen as something that can hold me back. But I also work with young women around the world who don’t have that privilege and so I continue to raise my voice to support them through the work that I do. To any person out there who thinks that a woman is a “lesser” person because she was born a woman and not a man, may I gently remind you that we each have one heart and one brain – we are all the same.

What are your roles as Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility for MTV Networks International?

I’m privileged to have two jobs at work: I’m the Executive Director of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation responsible for all our grant-giving and MTV Shuga (and most of my time is spent fund-raising); but I’m also the Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility for Viacom International, where I’m responsible for conceiving and creating social issue campaigns for all of our brands: MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET. It’s a dream job!  I travel around the world, and meet the most incredible people – from Nelson Mandela to our amazing grantees; each and every one has inspired me to do more every day.

What projects are you looking forward to?

I’m really excited about the expansion of MTV Shuga. Not only are we currently in production for two new series in Nigeria, we’ve just announced that we’re going to produce similar campaigns in Egypt and India for the first time and next year, we will be celebrating MTV Staying Alive’s 20th anniversary, so we have a lot of plans in place that are really exciting!

What are your personal and professional challenges?

Professionally, the expansion of MTV Shuga into new countries is both exciting but also pretty challenging. It’s a big responsibility to scale up Shuga in this way, but I know that we can have a similar impact in these countries that we have had in Nigeria. I have incredible belief in the campaign and the amazing team that’s behind it. Personally, my 18 year-old son, Covi, is going to university in September. So I see this as an amazing ‘life-moment’. It’s a really exciting time for both of us, full of opportunity and possibility. I’ve already started with plans to move house, and who knows what my next life-moment will be – and that’s part of the fun, the unknown!

Written by: Kemi Ajumobi
Culled from: BusinessDay

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