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There is power in the community stories we tell – Kenya

By Corazon (Corrie) Mwende

The responsibility that rests with us, as humanitarian and human rights communicators, is integral to the work of reforming socio-economic development policies and influencing public opinion on humanitarian emergencies, particularly when a story is told in collaboration with the media.

In 2007/08, a group of bloggers and software developers who had witnessed the acts of violence against the Kenyan people, came together to create a platform where the voices of citizens would be highlighted in the form of stories , to capture the injustices that were the post. -electoral violence. The platform which has been dubbed Ushahidi (testimony) has grown into a global nonprofit technology company that, through its crowdsourcing tools, has amplified the voices of communities to inform decisions, end suffering, and influence change. A progression that the stories we tell in any capacity – visual, written or audio are a tool for change, and they matter.

I remember that in 2021, with the Red Cross teams, I visited a small community in the village of Pandaguo (Boni forest), an area where access to “foreigners” is limited due to the problems historical insecurities that the community has faced. At this location, most emergency responders and KDF have free entry. It was a huge opportunity to secure permission for the journalists and bring them along, so they could expose some of the social issues facing the community, especially in an environment facing a triple humanitarian disaster – conflict, drought and COVID19. The result of these stories on both social and mainstream media has been to see more donor partners join us in supporting quick wins such as the provision of food and other basics as well as support psychosocial.

Over the past 3 years, and more recently throughout this hunger crisis facing the country, I have had the opportunity to visit hitherto scattered affected areas in some of the arid and semi- arid areas where socio-economic disparities of communities manifest themselves. a poor people living in misery.

When I talk to community members and listen to them recount the challenges they face in calling for humanitarian action that would reduce their suffering, a question comes to mind. Who tells the stories of the communities who live in such hard-to-reach areas? Geographically, economically and socially detached from a world bubbling with development and ideas about it? If not us, then who?

The task before us tackles socio-economic barriers not only to show the lackluster and gloom that our fellow global and local citizens are experiencing, but also to advocate for change. The stories we tell help build connections by sharing knowledge. As communicators, we have the power to provide platforms through which unknown and ignored voices can effectively tell their stories.

* “Humanitarian action is not a one-time effort. It requires perseverance, diligence and compassion. Advocacy through good communications that systematically taps into all political and public channels and decision makers, is fueled by dynamic and visionary leaders who communicate to mobilize partnerships while conveying inspiring human stories of affected people overcoming the challenges they face.In short, good storytelling to effect change in response to humanitarian crises requires communication that engages the head, heart and hands of a diverse target audience to promote meaningful action.* The Power of Storytelling for Advocacy – IOMUN, Immigration and the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs.

Our daily mission to solve complex global issues through advocacy stories is a simple statement that communicators in the human rights and humanitarian sector evoke change by raising awareness of the issues faced by marginalized and discriminated people. . Let’s keep telling the stories. If not us, then who?

Corazon (Corrie) Mwende is a communications officer with the Kenya Red Cross Society.