The slum dwellers of Nairobi live in one of Africa’s leading technological cities, yet with a lack of resources and access to forums for public dialogue, slum dwellers are often the least likely to have the tools to record or report their life experiences. At best, they are too often reduced to passive receivers of information; in the worst cases, they have been the last to know about critical issues that affect them directly such as land tenure, police interventions and health outbreaks.
This project seeks to improve the right to information for slum dwellers to give them an evidence base for community discussions and for lobbying government bodies.
Sauti Ya Mtaa will bring together some of the most successful slum-focused communication initiatives in Nairobi. Combining artistic communication and innovative journalism technologies, the aim is to establish a communication system supporting networks of civically engaged youth across Nairobi, allowing them to be the drivers and leaders of the change to the political system and contribute to foster the civic empowerment and public action.
On the aspect of artistic communication, we will work in partnership with MIT Center for Civic Media , engaging graffiti writers to spread data-based information in the slums area of Nairobi and organizing artistic events attracting youth. The data murals will leverage open data initiatives to empower community groups to make data-driven arguments, in addition to existing methods they have.
This info-activism is all to often confined to the digital realm, in social media campaigns and infographics. Bringing this work to real world murals allows us to make the data-driven activism more participatory, opening up a new avenue for citizen-driven, data-informed, accountability. On the aspect of innovative journalism, thanks to our partnership with On Our Radar, we will capture the feedback of the society by training citizen journalists operating in those areas supporting them by introducing technological innovation. While radio remains the leading source of news for slum dwellers, young people in particular are keen to engage new tools for reporting that bring them more align with the digital and mobile era. This project will offer a realistic gateway to those tools and platforms while firmly connecting them with their built-environment.
Am a scientist, writer, a poet, musician and a change maker.
"Being handsome, beautiful, intelligent, educated, clever, rich, classy or positive in anyway if not handled with wisdom can easily inspire jealousy and ignite the flames of envy, hate and potentially displace people from their position with respect to others".
Every project starts with an idea. Then you use your skills, strength, networks and faith to make it happen. SAUTI YA MTAA started in my mind almost one year ago, when I was a volunteer in Kariobangi.
How I started in Kenya …
Coming from a rural place in Italy ( Marche Region) and having spent almost 26 years of my life in books, I found in the ghetto a new, challenging and inspiring experience. Most of the wasungu coming to Nairobi like to live in Westland, Lavington, Karen….but personally, I love Kariobangi. I love its people, its colors and even the dust. What makes this place so special to me?
When I first entered the slum of Kariobangi, it was almost impossible for me to breathe: the garbage accumulated along the streets is producing a smell of rotten food, burned plastic, toilet waste amongst other waste materials. Children are playing with that garbage, animals are fed with the stagnant water along the streets, and women are cooking next to this waste. The environment is unhealthy and dangerous for both humans and animals.
However, there is something special about working as a volunteer in the slum: you can see day by day how the community is accepting you, appreciating your effort and genuine aim. Personally, I was “adopted” by the Kariobangi Waste Management Alliance, a local group of young men and women which have decided to improve the life in the slum by tackling the garbage issue. Following their activities and clean-up events, I was getting involved in the community life, learning and enjoying that sense of socialism which brings people together to ally for a better life using their creativity, a “togetherness” that has been forgotten by developed countries.
The intercultural exchange with local youth was also an opportunity to share our personal experiences and learn from each other what our personal background was not able to offer us. While I am talking about our former premier Silvio Berlusconi, they tell me about Kenyan politics, tribes and traditional culture; then there is mafia, a problem affecting both Italy and Kenya with different roots but a common system. Apart from mafia, another common thing is “ugali”, which is called “polenta” in our country!
While I am trying my best to improve the work of this group, I learned much more than I could ever expected. What I learned is that sense of community, which is binding the youth and empowers individuals; I learned that unemployment is a worldwide problem for this generation of youth, but at least in Italy we are still helped by our parents; I learned that the best thing is to share what you have, even if you don’t have a lot; I learned that the slum is much more fun than any other place I was.
From the eyes of an Italian, the slum is a charming place, full of young people willing to improve their life. Italy is old, not only because of the museums, the burden of our history, the age of the people: in Europe we have an old mindset, our thoughts are fixed. For us it’s too difficult to walk away from those patterns which were built during a long period of time started with the industrial revolution.
In the slum, you live for today, tomorrow you could be doing another job, your life might change completely from one moment to another. There is a feeling of continuous dynamism which cuts cross every activity, project and even relationship. Nothing is “static”. In our old Europe you know exactly what you are going to do in your life since you are a teenager, here there is hope in achieving something but it’s not so difficult to accept a change of direction.
When my friends from Italy are asking me “what are you doing there?”, I reply that I am in my School of Life. After so many years of academic studies I found myself incapable of living, dealing with people, understanding their minds and behaviors, taking a quick and reasonable decision, accepting change and failures of my plans. Here I learned to accept life for what it is and to abandon my individualistic way of living. Here, when I speak about what I am doing, I use the word “WE” and when I make a plan for tomorrow, I don’t mind if it will be doing the opposite. This is why I love Kariobangi.
How did the project came up ?
This project has a very long story worth to be mentioned. When I was working in Kariobangi under a community based NGO, I was in charge of the youth empowering program. Thanks to the combined efforts of few youth from the community, who share with me a strong passion for journalism, we decided to come up with our own magazine called KB MIRROR. Our plan was to “reflect” the reality of Kariobangi on the web, since mainstream media are usually overlooking what is happening on those sides of Nairobi. I remember people telling me “a friend died last week in Huruma…someone was shot by the police in Marura area…” but it all always sounded like a community tale… Where is the truth? Who shot who and why? That’s what we wanted to find out. And our mission could succeed only with good equipment and a space from where we could work….something like a HUB…
However, the project became far more ambitious when I met PAWA254. We decided to establish a hub for journalists in Kariobangi , provide adequate training, equipment and engage the community through graffiti displaying data information. So we did, and we presented the project to MAKING ALL VOICES COUNT. Thanks to God ( or Luck or Hard Work , whatever you believe in) Sauti Ya Mtaa , Changing the Slums Through Creativity and Citizen Journalism got funded last march. In July we officially started the implementation of the project.
During the implementing phase, I met Peter Ombedha, a young photo journalist from Kibera with great ambitions. He was also starting his own project called “the Hood”…. and we decided to include “his voice” in the sauti ya mtaa. In Kibera, we are partnering with a very well known organization called MapKibera: the hub is accommodating around 20 journalists. In Kariobangi, thanks to the inputs of Julio Otieno, we started to shape up the hub with artistic content and new members coming from nearby communities ( like Mathare, Huruma).
In achieving our mission of “Changing the Slums Through Creativity and Citizen Journalism” we will meet very many obstacles and critics, but also like-minded people who will join our “army” and help us to overcome them. Activating social change in the slums is a mission and a mission can be achieved only through joined efforts of bright, highly motivated and very brave soldiers.
It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. Nelson Mandela
Fast talking security guard Ben joins his cop brother in law James on a 24 hour patrol of Atlanta in order to prove himself worthy of marrying Angela.