By Katy Pownall, Africa press officer at Amnesty International.
We have just launched our Kenyan report, Insecurity and Indignity, which looks at the dire situation for women and girls in the slums of the country’s capital Nairobi.
As well as reaching the mainstream international media that so often cover Amnesty International stories, we also wanted to speak directly to Kenyans and the slum residents themselves – to let them know that sanitation and housing are human rights and that their government should be doing more to improve their situation.
In many areas of Kenya – especially slums – there are high levels of illiteracy, access to formal education is often difficult and people simply don’t know what their rights are. For too many, the insecurity and indignity described in our report is simply a fact of life – not something that can be changed.
Today we teamed up with a community radio station in Kenya’s largest slum, Kibera, to make some noise about human rights in slums.
Pamoja FM is based in a crumbling residential tower block on the east side of Kibera. Chickens stroll in and out of the compound; piles of burning rubbish smoulder in the street, children play in the muddy puddles.
The station broadcasts 24 hours a day and is staffed by a group of 14 volunteers – all Kibera residents. Its programs are targeted directly at the slum community – passing on local news and educating on issues such as HIV and corruption, as well as playing the latest music by local and international artists.
We had a slot on their youth program in the afternoon. ‘Amnesty International is in the house’ announced the Rastafarian DJ. East Africa researcher Godfrey Odongo speaks Kiswahili so was able to chat with the presenter between banging reggae tunes about the importance of improving sanitation, street lighting and policing in the slums in order to reduce the high levels of violence against women.
He described how the Kenyan government should be doing more for its poorest people, knowing that he was talking directly to them.
The Pamoja FM studio wasn’t fancy but it was incredibly innovative and effective. The walls of the tiny, stuffy room were lined with foam mattresses and the ceiling covered in egg boxes to improve acoustics. The equipment had been donated by various NGOs and the presenters worked for free out of a love for both broadcast and their community.
It was an inspiring hour that will always help me remember that, while it’s great to make headlines on the BBC and Al Jazeera, there are other ways of communicating with the people our messages are most relevant to.