It’s been a while since I published anything here, or like you guys say, “it’s been a minute.” I started writing on my basic wordpress account yegonemmanuel.wordpress.com when I was in college. At that time, it was the coolest thing to do. I must have been in my first year. At that point in time I was so keen on building a solid base for a career I had desired since I was a boy. My years in primary and secondary school were colourful. I was a mini Mohammed Ali and John Allan Namu. The duo inspired me. That “duru za kuaminika zinatuarifu kwamba…” (In the exact Jicho Pevu tone) would punctuate the bulletin every Friday on assembly when we in the journalism club were updating the entire school. I love poetry. At least every exercise book I used in high school has a poem or two at the back. These, both in Swahili and English. It was therefore easy to translate that onto the blog. From 2014 to the beginning of 2016 thereabout, I would write poems on a myriad of topics. Back then, it used to be easy. Everything in my environment would be a trigger. I would be watching news then Moha and Namu would be doing a piece on police brutality. At that very point, I would feel like commenting, and that would flow easily in form of stanzas into a poem. This explains this, and this, and this, a total of 73 poems on my website. A lot has changed.
As I advanced, I decided to focus on specific topics. I settled on Female Genital Mutilation. At this point, I went ahead to get a domain. I had a website! It felt good to have one. I had an “about me’ page that described what I had achieved that far. Trust me it was wordy! Don’t go checking, it’s probably just a line by now. I needed content. At around the same time, I had started being active on Twitter. We had this radio show on 103.9 FM, Moi University Radio. Evans Bett was my co-host. I had another show which I used to co-host with Marvin Gakunyi and Eddy Ashioya. Oh, I used to do news as well. Gilbert Lang’at the director at the studio believed in us. He gave us a platform to nurture our talents and to grow. We used to take the discussions on our shows online, on Twitter. Twitter was a big deal then; trending was unheard of, so when your hashtag made it to the trend list you were a celeb of sorts. Ours did, on several occasions. Apart from using Twitter for the shows, I started following conversations on FGM and other topical issues of interest. I used the platform to connect with anti-FGM campaigners from across the continent. Conversations that started on Twitter ended up on my website as stories. From renown journalists and activists, I told stories of young people, change makers in their own right; from The Gambia, Nigeria, Eritrea & Sweden and the different counties here in Kenya.
The prevalence of FGM differs in different counties here in Kenya and in different countries in the continent. When the percentages are published, they are just that, percentages, numbers. Storytellers will tell you to put faces to those numbers. During our time at the Top Story Competition, I remember Namu saying, “The closer you get to the people, the closer you get to the story.” I had a unit on development communication in my final year in college. Dr. Mulwo reminded us of the importance of context in communication and the change process. The statement; “Anything for us without us is against us” stands out. “It’s not about you, it’s about the people” added Joseph Warungu, the veteran journalist. Jackson Biko holds that storytelling is about people, it’s about humanity. Good stories have the power to be remembered. You should hear Biko talking about the ‘Dog bite man and man bite dog’ analogy when he’s teaching story angles. He is as good with his writing as he is with teaching how to write. After meeting him, I was challenged to be a better storyteller. It’s been over six months since we met, and until now, I have been stuck but here we are.
From the conversations online, I profiled anti-FGM activists. I got to tell their stories. Some were lucky to escape the cut, but that came with stigma in their communities. Others were not as lucky. Those who had undergone it and those who didn’t were fighters alike. I got to visit some of their counties to see and document first hand, the work that they’re doing to ensure that no other girl is cut. Interestingly enough, in this fight to end FGM, are men. Men who want to see an end in FGM. All these stories are in here, somewhere. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone #FGM. Furthermore, there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. In Kenya, despite the presence of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, the practice continues in some communities.
Technology may change, but storytelling won’t change. This is the position held by many who precede me in this industry. I am part of a team, Mobile Journalism Africa, which uses the smartphone to tell video stories. We started out in 2018, in Moi University. This form of storytelling, just like data storytelling, animation, Virtual and Augmented Reality, is a means to an end. The technologies help us tell our stories better.
This is a story of fear. The fear that many girls in the FGM practicing communities have growing up. It also highlights the dreams of every young girl, those dreams they hold so dearly. The dreams that give them the strength to traverse the plains and valleys to quench their thirst for education. Their hopes amidst the challenges that face them each day they’re at home. Hope from the risk of being forced to undergo FGM or being married off to an old man as the 6th wife. Their realities.
“What would tradition lose if girls were not cut?” A question that’s appearing on this platform for the second time. It was posed by Brownkey Abdullahi, an activist in Dadaab. Think about it for a moment. Do you see the weight it carries? Why are we subjecting girls and women to so much pain? Still not getting the picture? Read Sadia’s story and see how it affects women during childbirth. Or follow in detail how the practice is done from Fatma Naib’s story. There is no proven medical benefit of FGM. The challenges that come with it are however immense. Let’s give our girls the opportunity to grow up normal, and to pursue their dreams without any challenges.
At Mobile Journalism Africa we believe Our Stories Are Best Told By Us. We purpose to tell the untold stories and to change how Africa’s narrative is told. In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been all this while, now you know. Now I’m back, hopefully to continue telling your stories. I’ll continue to contribute to the #EndFGM discourse and will continue to bring you, people stories. It doesn’t always have to be sensational or controversial to sell, or … trend hehee.
I am but a storyteller, learning how to do constructive; solution-based storytelling across the different platforms.
#Tishala has been a long way coming. It has taken the dedication and sacrifice of the team: Brian Wachira, Evans Mwirigi, Stanley Munyiri, Koskei Noel Lilian and yours truly. We hope you get challenged to stand up for women and girls rights. More stories coming.