The story of Nyeri women has been told and retold in the Kenyan media that it’s become almost impossible to believe that not every women from Nyeri beats, cuts or pours hot water on their husband.
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie whose work I greatly admire, gave a TED lecture some time back on the danger of a single story. She said and I quote,
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
That one story of Nyeri women being violent has being perpetrated by Kenyan media over and over making us believe that there are no challenges that face women in other parts of Kenya such as continued gender based violence, forced marriages of young girls, economic empowerment, education, reproductive health, maternal and child health that plague women all over Kenya everyday. Instead, all we see on our TV screens during prime time news or on the daily newspapers is another case of a man from Nyeri who fell victim to his wife’s wrath.
In 2014, the top five television stations in Kenya aired a total of only 16 hours of news stories related to women and girls. That’s just 4% of news airtime dedicated to talking about the challenges that impact women and girls and the amazing feats Kenyans have made.
A huge percentage of that 4% airtime given was because most of those stories first appeared on social media and were discussed so much such that media could not ignore them. Women led Campaigns such as #MyDressMyChoice which led to change in legislation regarding gender based violence were first started online before getting the attention and coverage of the media. The same goes for such stories as the #JusticeForLiz campaign which though first appeared as a news item, no follow through was ever done as to why the perpetrators were made to cut grass as the only punishment for raping a minor.
There is a need for the mainstream media to focus on women issues by highlighting not only the challenges faced by women all over Kenya but also airing the amazing things that Kenyan women are doing not just in the country but all over the world.
During the just ended Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the US president mentioned various Kenyan women who have made a huge impact in their fields as well as in their communities. Women like Judith Owigar who sat between two presidents during the GES summit co-founded and runs Akirachix, an organisation that is encouraging young girls to pursue careers in ICT by teaching them coding skills because that’s where the future is. Her story might never inspire girls who are still in primary school to take the sciences more seriously as it might never appear in media.
Women like Florence Kamaitha who runs Pad Heaven an organisation that encourages girls to remain in school during their menstruation by providing them with a steady supply of sanitary pads and panties is one whose story needs to be told through the media because her efforts are having a real impact in reducing the rate of school dropout by girls.
A Petition for increased media coverage on Women
Wezesha Dada organisation is seeking to petition all Kenyan Media houses to increase their coverage of women’s stories and dedicate at least 5 more minutes of their coverage to show more positive news about women.
The greater representation of women’s issues in the media will allow policymakers and government leaders to take action in allocating resources and pushing for the necessary laws, policies, and programs that help to create opportunities for Kenya’s women and girls in this and the next generation. 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.
The Wezesha Dada Inua Jamii Campaign
In Kenya, the Wezesha Dada Inua Jamii (Empower a Sister) campaign uses the power of storytelling through various media platforms to share insightful and inspiring stories of women and men who are bringing positive change to the lives of Kenya’s women and girls. This includes working with the country’s largest media houses to air inspiring pieces every week on gender issues. The campaign aims to increase public conversation and inform policymakers and government leaders to take action and allocate more resources for necessary laws, policies, and programs. This initiative comes at a critical time, as the country looks beyond the Millennium Development Goals into the post- 2015 development goals.
The campaign launched in March 2015 in Kibera, Kenya and recently partnered with one of Kenya’s top Hip Hop artists Juliani for a campaign song which looks at the different challenges women face as well as how most overcome these challenges.
How you can Participate
1. Sign the Wezesha Dada petition which, once it has gained enough signatories, shall be presented to the Media Council of Kenya as well as 5 Kenyan Media House.
2. Join in this conversation on social media by giving your thoughts or sharing stories of Kenyan women you would wish our media gave more coverage using the hashtags #TellOurStories
3. Check out the game they have developed on turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide called ‘Half the Sky game’