The voice of Kenya's slums


(Image by Flickr user IRIN Photos (cc:by-nc-nd))

This story was originally covered by PRI's The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

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When stories about Kenya appear in the international media, it's often bad news. The country has been plagued by drought and ethnic tension since a disputed election in 2007. The organization Slum TV is looking to change that by focusing on some of the more positive stories that are coming out of Mathare, one of Kenya's worst slums.

Slum TV began shortly after the violence of 2007. Instead of highlighting the ethnic tension, the reporters told the stories of residents who helped each other survive the chaos. Ethnic diversity was presented as a good thing. "In some of our clips, we focus on a group of Luo people who helped Kikuyus to resettle after they were chased away from their home," Slum TV manager Kenneth Wendo told PRI's The World. "So we realized there is love in that slum as much as there is also hatred."

The stories are reported and produced by young residents who learn video production at Slum TV. And reporters say that locals are very enthusiastic about telling their stories. By focusing on positive stories, organizers believe Slum TV will provide good examples for locals. Reporter Esther Wanjiru told The World:

People in the slums they have no hope. If you just show them, instead of waiting for someone to come and give you something, just do it yourself, like the DIY culture. But if you’re just saying, "oh oh" nothing is going to ever happen. Just show them what other people are doing, and instead of these people just staying back and being prostitutes, being thieves, they’ll have something to do.

Since there is no formal electricity in the slum, organizers bring Slum TV to the residents. They set up inflatable projection screens to for showings. They've also begun broadcasting videos on the internet.

Watching a showing from her doorstep, local resident Basi Embura told The World: "Slum TV is teaching us on how to be happy with what we have, we should accept ourselves and try to be better. Yeah, we love it."

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More "The World."