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Sauti ya Mtaa – Fostering a Culture of Change in Kenya

News | November 25, 2014

Sauti ya Mtaa is aimed at creating social change and political leadership among youth in the slums of Nairobi in anticipation of the 2017 election,” - Project Coordinator Clarissa Maracci.

The current problem is that citizens don’t have a third option; they choose between two dominating parties (Jubilee and ODM) and this is based on tribal grounds. Many, however, don’t identify with these parties and feel the need to create a new society, based on constitutional rights rather than tribes.

Sauti ya Mtaa, literally “Voices from the Streets,” is a project of Mtaani Initiative and is supported by Making All Voices Count. It is aimed at empowering Kenyans by fostering a culture of change through citizen journalism, arts, and political activism.

The project is focussed in Kariobangi and Kibera, two informal settlements of Nairobi, and in September launched two social hubs for citizen journalists and graffiti artists.

Kenyan media is heavily biased towards elites and vulnerable citizens are often the last to know about critical issues that affect them such as land tenure, police interventions and outbreaks of disease.

Young Kenyans want to push a new agenda; they want to overcome their political history of tribalism, and push for more issue based politics.

Sauti ya Mtaa has launched hubs for citizen journalists and graffiti artists, creating networks of support for youth in Kenya

Social hubs create communication systems, giving  support to youth networks in Nairobi

The two hubs are designed to establish a communication system to support networks of youth to be the drivers and leaders of change. They train citizen journalists to speak about issues that affect the community and tell stories from the bottom-up. A recent overview of these include:

  • On November 10, the danger of illegal electricity connections was reported on here, noting that this is endangering the lives of many.
  • On November 16, youth were reported on here to be overcoming unemployment by rearing chicken and supplying water to provide food for their families, keeping them away from crime and drugs.
  • On November 19, gender discrimination was highlighted here as an obstacle to gaining employment.
  • And on November 23, the pressures parents face as they work hard and long hours was reflected upon here.
Graffiti is used for social and political activism in Nairobi

Graffiti is used for social and political activism in Nairobi

As project assistant Julio Otieno explains, the Kariobangi hub will also focus on participatory information design and visualisation, in coordination with various community partners.

Graffiti is gaining wide acceptance in social and political activism as a tool for representing issues in society such as corruption, injustice and accountability among public servants.

In order to engage leaders, the project has recently launched a series of debates dubbed #TufanyeChange. Each is centered on a specific topic or policy issue, with the aim of providing a platform for citizens to engage with local leaders.

They encourage conversations that are necessary in changing negative perceptions on policy matters and in the Kenyan political scene.

Citizens engage with political leaders through organised debates

Citizens engage with political leaders through organised debates

So far, these debates have focussed on a wide range of issues such as health, political participation, devolution, marriage and other pertinent issue. They’re open to the public and will continue to occur every Saturday 2 – 5.30pm at Sauti ya Mtaa, KB Hub.

Despite having only recently launched, the project has already been successful in empowering youth to move away from an “aided” or “dependent’ point of view, to taking responsibility for their community, being active in voicing their concerns and feeling that change is in their hands.

Graffiti artist at work

Graffiti artist at work

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