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.