Archive for April, 2009


Today we actually made it out to the community. Yay! The kids went around and did several interviews and filmed background shots. They covered the topics of disabilities and traditional beliefs linked to them, dance traditions and their links to marriage and development issues, and started stories on the town cleaners (the group that helps keep the town clean), and economic activities in the community.

We visited the office of the Community Based Organization (CBO) where the Chairman (who’s participating in the workshop) is heading up the work of some 64 organized groups, including women’s groups, youth groups, and others. I hadn’t realized the extent of the work that he’s managing. Pretty major thing.

I spent a little time hanging out in front of a house where a lady has a little sewing shop. The kids were playing out front and it was cool to see that they played similar games to other places — dodge ball, marbles, etc. Pretty universal I guess.

The power was out in the afternoon so the youth worked on storyboards to use during editing, and started some storyboards for tomorrow. I’m excited to see how the edited films come out!

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Darn Bus!

Mimi, the project liaison, came from Plan Finland yesterday afternoon, and we ventured out for a beer last night. It was really warm, so not quite the beer I was imagining…. I’m giving up!

We tried to go to the community this morning but the bus broke down and we never made it! We spent most of the morning getting half way there and back…. After lunch we started doing some technical and practical training with the cameras. The youth always love getting their hands on the cameras. And they did a really good job for not having held cameras before! We’ll try to go back to the community again tomorrow….

Had some great tips and conversation with Mimi that will help improve the project. She is also going to film some testimonials and take some photos of the kids, which should be really helpful for the reporting.

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The main thing that we did today was to go back to the map to see what the different issues in the community are, and what kind of stories could be told about the issues. How can we tell stories that touch the heart? That move people to action? That are real and relevant and educational? The personal examples that went behind the stories were super interesting. I hope the youth will capture a lot of these stories in their videos… I also hope that we’re able to produce videos that work to stimulate dialogue in the community, and that also are interesting to an external audience. That is one of the big challenges in this project.

Some stories that came out:

“There is a story about old men that go to the farms w/their tools but they don’t actually have to work, the spirits come to do the work for them; so a woman wanted to see the ghosts and she came up with a scheme to watch. When the spirits discovered the woman had seen them they stopped working and the men were angry and made women work tilling the fields ever since.”

“There is the story of witchcraft in the community. If people see someone progressing they perform some witchcraft rituals that make them go crazy or take them down.”

“Girls are being targeted for harassment; it’s a real story. It happens often. Even beyond this harassment there are threats of physical harm and sometimes charms/witchcraft. But the community is responding and these people are being arrested now.”

“A story about the way girls are married. They are married very early and marriage is an obligation. They stop attending school. Because girls are not allowed to inherit anything, they don’t see a purpose in education or in community development because they never have any decision making power. Bride price contributes to harassment. If you get married and get 12 cows as a dowry, then the family just equates you to that – 12 cows.”

“Sometimes girls come to school on opening day for boarding school, parents say that school is supposed to be free, so they haven’t even provided the girls with anything. The matatu (public transportation minibuses) drivers take advantage of them and then deny that they’ve had anything to do with them.”

“There is a belief that only basic education is important and that anything beyond is not necessary. So even if a girl/boy qualify for university, parents won’t support them. Some parents don’t believe in white collar jobs, if you aren’t a soldier or watchman which is something they can understand, if you don’t have a practical skill like carpentry, the parents don’t feel it’s a job. They are only willing to pay for an education for a skill that they can understand.”

“There is a belief the disabled children should not be allowed to live. Sometimes they are killed or they are kept out of sight and in bad conditions. Sometimes if someone has a disabled child, it’s seen to be related to the fact that they have some wealth and they’ve traded their family for wealth.”

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The Adobe-Flip solution doesn’t work, so looks like we will have to open all the files with movie maker, put them on the editing timeline, and then export them, then re-import from moviemaker to adobe for editing. What a pain!

The kids came around 10 and we started with small groups moving around, meeting people we didn’t know. Asking each other questions to get to know each other. One of the groups was really interested in why I’m no longer married, why did the marriage break up, where are my children, and I could tell they felt really sorry for me. It was hard to explain that it wasn’t a big deal…. And that it’s really common in the US and other places. I showed them some pictures of Clare and some of the guys got really interested. One of them said he was going to send her a present.
The youth worked on making a map of the community to lay out the community boundaries and the different places in the community, including assets like water, infrastructure, crops, people, organizations, etc. The map is basically a tool to stimulate discussion around what resources the community has, which are not being tapped into, which are good things yet could be improved, etc. The kids added things to the map as they discussed. They tried also to capture any social structures within the community on the map.
And speaking of maps – here’s where I actually am!

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So I’m sitting in my new 4th floor room. There are no flying termites in the bathroom! Yay. And the view off the balcony is gorgeous. It looks out over green fields and hills to the sea. The group that was here last week has gone and they’ve moved us up to the top floor. I’m reading on Twitter about swine flu and wondering if it’s something I should be worried about at some point…. Maybe later.

We went this morning around 9 on a rickety microbus, like the ones you see pretty much everywhere in the world, to Kwale Town to the Kaya Ceremony. There were 9 tents set up around a center stage, one for the elders and clan from each of the 9 ethnic groups making up the coastal area. The place was a big tree covered park with a central clearing. It was pretty empty but filled up as the morning went on. The team went around in pairs to do the interviews that they’d planned out yesterday. I just roamed around filming what seemed like good background shots with the Nokia N-82, and the others used the Flip cameras supported by small Sony recorders since sound can be a bit iffy with the Flip cams.

The coolest thing was each different ethnic group had a dance group. We filmed a few of them and Anthony did some interviews. Around 1.30 or so the new Kaya came in surrounded by the other elders, chanting “kaya! kaya! “ He had been in another ceremony last night that was private and today was the public one.

The dances started and soon after speeches – and I rather lost interest as did most of our team, saying that the whole tradition had become political and it was not much about culture anymore, but politics. The main story that the team is agreed to focus on yesterday is that most youth don’t really know what the kaya is all about, yet the kaya holds lots of power, and the youth hope to access that power someday, yet how will the access it if they don’t know anything about it. Another story that they want to do is related to women and power. The whole group is really gender sensitive which I’m finding really interesting because lots of gender issues are coming up and their insights are really profound as related to culture, tradition, and today’s world.

Ali K was talking at dinner about inheritance, and that in his community/culture, women cannot inherit. If their husband passes away, they must return to their parents’ home and be cared for by a father or brother. Ali’s father passed away several years ago and this was his situation. “I became aware of this as a problem because of my own situation, and since then I’ve become very supportive of girls and women.” Anthony translated for me the discussion that ensued about how girls often don’t feel there is any point in being involved in the development process or in school because they can never own or make any decisions, so what is the point.

The kids come tomorrow late morning. We’re trying to get ready for that, and also figure out an issue with the Flip Cams because they won’t import into Adobe Elements. I’m trying to download a possible solution…. Internet is great for problem solving. Let’s hope the solution works!

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Today we worked out the whole rest of the media training plan and who would facilitate what parts. Everyone is taking on different roles according to their strengths and knowledge, and we’ll facilitate in pairs or teams. We spent the afternoon trying out the cameras, testing mics, etc., and then Anthony took us through the editing process in the evening.

Mercy told us that there will be an induction ceremony in Kwale Town for a man who will become an elder. There are both cultural and political connotations to his induction and the whole area will turn out for the celebration and ceremony. Wajuhi suggested that we film it as practice, so we took the afternoon to plan out how we would do that, what stories we would catch from which perspectives, and who would interview and film whom/what. We worked together on the interview questions for men, women, youth, children. It should be pretty interesting.

The manager from the center where we’re staying stopped in and hooked up the internet so that is great!

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The first day of training went by pretty smoothly. We had present Mwendar, the Community Based Organization (CBO) Chairman of Mwangaza, the community we’ll be working in, Ali a local artist and CBO secretary from Msambweni, Mercy the district information officer who’s also studied participatory video, Rama a university student from the area who’s studying media and communications, Madzo, who is involved with a youth environmental organization, and Anthony, Wajuhi and me from Plan. In the evening, Ali K, another youth also joined us.

It’s been really interesting seeing how Anthony and the Plan Kenya team have worked hard to ensure that the project is really fully integrated and tied into the existing work and programs so that it’s not seen as a parallel project. It is being integrated into the community planning process, and grounded by the recent child rights based situation analysis that was done in all the Plan Kenya work areas. It’s also linked in with the community radio project and informed by the existing community ICT programs.

We spent the morning getting set up and trying to get a generator since Thursday’s is “no power” day in Kwale. The generator came but it didn’t work, so we had to manage without electricity. It wasn’t too big of a deal since both laptops we are using have good battery life. The main things we covered were introductions, expectations, a project overview, and child protection and ethics. Merci also gave an explanation of participatory video.

We discussed with the community chairman how to manage/handle any issues of potential conflict if they came up. Having the CBO chairman is really valuable because working together, youth and CBO, will limit potential conflicts around topics that might be addressed. Wajuhi and Anthony are really stressing the importance of community ownership, the ways that video and photos and art can be used to catalyze discussions in the community, and the importance of the follow up and documentation process. We discussed ethics, and the use of the community’s name in case possible difficult subjects, and child protection in terms of possible implications of discussion particular topics. The chairman said that it would be fine to use the community name, but that in the case of sensitive or taboo topics, it would not be right to identify certain persons. He suggested that those types of issues be dealt with using drama instead so that the topics would still be raised by in a less conflictive way. In the end, he also said, this is a joint project with the youth and the community, so the topics would be agreed upon by all, even if they were addressed from the youth’s own perspective.

Wajuhi told today about a video project she had worked on in the past where one of the participating children was orphaned and had been mistreated in the community, stigmatized, called names, etc. The youth did a drama film based on her story. It was shown to several CBOs at once. The CBOs from other communities began asking, “is that how you treat orphans in your community?” And the discussion led to “What about us? Do we treat orphans any differently?” On that came the question “Why are there orphans in our communities” and the answer: because of HIV/AIDS. So the community began planning efforts to deal with HIV as well as the situation of orphans.

The first step in the project process is mapping the community. Since Ali had experience doing community mapping, he led us through a practice mapping exercise at the end of the day to get a concrete idea of how community mapping can be a tool for identifying resources and assets, talking about community history and the community’s uniqueness, bringing up child rights issues (both where rights are being realized and where not), and making plans for what to film and photograph. Ali, the artist, is also a CBO member in his own community. It was great to hear him really focus in on ownership of the community’s challenges and not expecting others to come in to resolve things.

Someone mentioned that there was a dye factory that used to provide jobs, but that had closed. Ali asked if it was in the community, and said that if not, then we shouldn’t be putting it on the map. That we should deal with things in the community. Wajuhi added that because this project is about empowerment and advocacy, that when the youth had built up all the skills that we hope to strengthen within the project, that they could then look at issues that had causes outside the community, and get the support of the community as a whole to address them with anyone outside the community with power to make change on a particular issue.

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So I’m off to Kenya tonight – just about ready to head to the airport…. We’ll be training in the Kwale Program Unit district with about 20 high school aged youth from one of the nearby communities. They have to go back to school on May 3, and we weren’t able to negotiate any additional time with them, so we will have to fit the 2 week training into just about 9 days — we’ll see how that goes. I’m pretty stressed right now about it actually… but normally it all works out.

I’ll fly from Boston to Nairobi and then take a short flight to Mombasa, stay over night there, and then will be picked up in the morning to go to the training center. I’ll meet with the Plan Kenya staff to prepare, and then Thurs-Sat we’ll have the facilitator’s training and work out all the details for the following week with the youth. We have a basic outline that just needs fleshing out. We’ll also check over all the equipment, etc. and be sure we’re ready. We’ll start the training with the youth on Sunday Apr 26 and run through May 3, and then I’ll stay a few extra days to finish up.

I’m going to try tweeting from there to see how that goes…. could be interesting to use the YETAM twitter account for the youth to post what is going on during the training and the project, but we’ll see if they are interested and if we have a good enough connection….

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