Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Sauti Ya Mtaa.
Residents of Nairobi’s low-income areas are speaking out on critical issues via a new citizen journalism website, launched in September, called Sauti Ya Mtaa, meaning “voices from the ground.”
According to the site, “a lack of resources and access to forums for public dialogue means that 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.”
The 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.
It is hosted at PAWA254, a community organization founded in 2011 that brings together artists and social activists to network, share and collaborate on social impact projects designed to foster social change. Sauti Ya Mtaa is funded by Making All Voices Count, a Johannesburg-based global initiative described as supporting “innovation, scaling, and research to deepen existing innovations and help harness new technologies to enable citizen engagement and government responsiveness.”
Sauti Ya Mtaa Project Coordinator Clarissa Maracci said that it is “about bridging the gap between government – be that local or national – and citizens. Although Kenyan media is heavily skewed towards political reporting, there are many stories that too often remain untold.”
Many of the journalists who are part of the project already report for local media outlets operating from the slums – such as Voices of Kibera, Voices of Mathare, Ghetto Mirror, the Hood, Kariobangi Mirror. Sauti Ya Mtaa gives them an additional platform for publishing their stories.
The project will also offer training programmes on multi-media reporting, data-journalism and ethical standards. The project has set up two hubs for journalists and artists that will provide equipment and space for the citizen journalists who are joining the project as members.
“Kenyan slums are not just about gang wars and land disputes. There are also many amazing individuals doing interesting things. Sauti Ya Mtaa is also a platform for human interest stories that help change the dominant narrative about these communities,” added Alex Ikawah, Creative Director at Lightbox Africa, a film production company and partner of PAWA 254.