A Kenyan man, and father to a young girl by the name of Maggie, risked his social status in the community by making a difficult decision; his daughter would not undergo the traditional custom of “cutting” in preparation for marriage. Rather, Maggie would be sent to a high school where she can pursue an education.
As part of the Maasai community, one of Kenya’s largest pastoralist communities where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is common practice, Maggie’s father was heavily criticized for his decision. The thing that motivated Maggie’s father was his daughter’s dream to open a small clinic, where she would serve the community with modern-day healthcare services. Today, Maggie is a trained nurse and health worker. She runs a clinic within the community and has provided lifesaving treatment to hundreds of people.
Maggie and her family’s story has been told far and wide throughout Kenya to communities that continue to practice FGM. Rather than the policy-oriented and often hard-hitting FGM outreach efforts, Maggie’s story offers an authentic voice that resonates with the audience – capturing not only the struggles associated with challenging traditional practices and norms, but the tremendous and far-reaching positive ramifications that it can produce.
An independent top line study revealed that out of 492 hours a year dedicated to news in 2014, only 16 hours were allocated to positive news about women. This translated to an average of 1.5 hours per month, or less than 4% of total airtime. Our pilot project in Kenya uses the power of storytelling on media platforms to share insightful and inspiring stories of fearless women and men who are bringing positive change to the lives of Kenya’s women and girls. The #TellOurStories campaign urges Kenyan media to air more gender-sensitive content. Each story is created to support campaign’s core mission – “Wezesha Dada Inua Jamii” – which means “empowering women transforms lives” – which is to inspire action around gender-sensitive issues, specifically: economic empowerment, early education, FGM, gender-based violence, and maternal and reproductive health. Women’s education and empowerment is key to Kenya’s future success and development – and a positive representation of women in media will help get us there.
To generate national awareness for our campaign, we challenged broadcasters through a petition dubbed, “I want 5 more minutes of positive news about women,” to dedicate more time towards covering women’s stories. The petition has currently garnered at least 8,500 signatures on our Facebook page and over 2,000 signatures on Change.org. The initiative’s transmedia approach has leveraged the power of documentary, short educational videos, mobile games, Facebook, and social media. Juliani, one of Kenya’s most recognized artists, garnered a total of 12,000 impressions from the campaign theme song. Other celebrities and personalities in Kenya who champion the campaign join Juliani.
“The USAID funded campaign has had tremendous response within its first year. It has also generated key lessons on how development work can incorporate technology and social marketing to generate greater interest and drive impact,” says Rosa Kihara, a program director in Kenya.
“It has come at a critical time when the world is shifting gears from the Millennium Development Goals to the post-2015 development agenda; we look forward to launching our methodology and unique approach to development work across other African countries,” she concludes.
Supporters of the Wezesha Dada Campaign
Wezesha Dada is made possible through support from USAID and Show of Force: Social Good. The initiative was launched as a program of the Half the Sky Movement Global Engagement Initiative in India and Kenya, a transmedia development alliance seeking to promote gender equality which grew out of the work of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The cutting-edge initiative seeks to disseminate positive messaging and understanding of gender issues through transmedia tools on a national scale, conduct targeted outreach and educational sessions at the community level, and build the capacity of in-country partners to use innovative media effectively in their efforts.
Add your name to the petition challenging Kenyan broadcasters to add five more minutes of positive news about women a week.