I’m eloquent in storytelling. Since the world is rapidly becoming a global village through the power of the internet from the early 2000s, I took the opportunity as blogging was catching fire in Kenya in the 2010s from our university computer lab. I had a lot to tell the world, running 5 active blogs at the time of starting.
As my voice, technique, and skills grew, I started supporting individuals and social justice organizations to tell their stories; offering tools, expertise, and different unique strategies for their digital campaigns. Social media platforms have offered us space to express ourselves. Now we can lobby for legal changes and policies through digital space in addition to creating awareness for different causes and these efforts get to be taken seriously, therefore influencing power. Now digital access and freedom are human rights. That is life-changing for me.
I’ve been a digital storyteller since 2011. It came to me unplanned since at the time I was dropping out of Daystar University for lack of fees but still had access to the computer lab. I’d spend my days teaching myself blogging, Twitter, and social media technology.
In time I was part of social justice conversations online which were close to my heart as a young activist.
Institutions, organizations, and companies I have worked with on digital advocacy & storytelling include:
As the News Editor of Pumwani Boys High School Journalism Club, I bought the Friday newspaper every week while I was still a day scholar in 2006. I’d distribute the paper to my classmates. To me, information is a powerful resource for humanity. Information connects us to ourselves, the environment, and the outside world. My hunger for informing the people around me emanated from growing in a stifled and abusive home where I felt my father controlled me violently.
I lived second-guessing myself a lot.
Two major events happened in my teenage that sparked my activism.
One of Africa’s best-known political figures, John Garang de Mabior Garang was killed in a helicopter crash near Uganda’s border with Sudan in 2005 on his way back to his base in southern Sudan from a meeting with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
The MI-72 helicopter belonging to the Ugandan government came down, allegedly because of a lack of fuel, in bad weather. All of the 14 Ugandans and Sudanese reported to have been on board, were killed. I was 17.
He was a revolutionary leader and his demise was a great loss to the people of South Sudan. He believed, for the people of Sudan to live in cohesion, they must not separate themselves into the many existing ethnic factions present within the nation but, rather, to collectively renounce the belief that Arabness, Black African-ness, Islam or Christianity were to be the ultimate defining characteristics of Sudan. He willed that citizens should embrace all cultures of Sudan, and to unify under the one commonality they all share, being Sudanese. When he died I stuck a newspaper cut out of his picture in my bedroom. I believed in his fire for wanting better for his people.
A year later I started attending protests in Nairobi for different causes in my school uniform as a Form 3 student, most notably the march in support of press freedom when the Kenya Government raided the Standard Newspaper offices on March 2, 2006; vandalizing the press machines and torching copies of the day’s newspapers that were being printed, carting away more equipment, including a motor vehicle.
At the height of Post Election Violence in early 2008, my mum and I were sat watching TV when a documentary came on about a young photojournalist who was sharing his experiences documenting the heinous brutality plaguing our country at the time and what that did to him and what he decided to do about it. I was 18.
His name was Boniface Mwangi.
What disturbed him was witnessing the killings while taking photos of what was happening. People were killing each other because of the two politicians eyeing the presidency at the time. It bothered him that the politicians themselves were not fighting the way the rest of the Kenyans were. He watched them meet, laugh, and get into their motorcades. They were swimming in their trappings of power and pomposity; moved on and forgot the victims, forgot that the country went to war because of them. And certainly too, because of years of unresolved historical injustices.
He quit his job out of frustration — out of anger and bitterness, and became an activist. I identified with that. Perhaps because I am a Luo, and one of the presidential contenders was from my ethnic community. His competitor was from the Agikuyu. Political history depicted that Luos and Kikuyus are and must be enemies. I watched my uncle getting chased down by vigilante youth in Naivasha when they stopped him on the road and started clobbering him when they realized he was Luo. It was on TV, two days after he had gone missing. We thought he had died.
I was supposed to hate Kikuyus. But I think at that age my mind was awake. I could see politics for what it was because there were allegations that John Garang’s helicopter crash was an assassination. It’s a power play. It had nothing to do with the people. And seeing Boniface Mwangi communicating his anger at these politicians, I connected with that. I too wanted to grow in a better Kenya.
5 years later I would miraculously meet him when my business partner and friend, Chris Mukasa, and myself founded Fatuma’s Voice; a social justice organization supporting youthful voices using poetry, art, music, drama, and storytelling. We leveraged the power of social media to reach thousands of audiences with Twitter chats. Boniface would donate space to us that mid-July 2013 at a venue called PAWA 254, a location we used until late 2016. It was as if fate had it written.
In 2016 I was contracted by the International Commission of Jurists Kenya Chapter under Journalists For Justice. ICJ Kenya is a non-governmental membership organization consisting of a body of jurists drawn from members of the Bench and Bar in Kenya and the region. It is the only autonomous national section of the International Commission of Jurist based in Geneva. ICJ Kenya has been working in Kenya and around Africa since 1959 and its mission is to promote human rights, justice, and democracy in Kenya and around Africa through the application of legal expertise and international best practices.
I worked as a Digital Consultant creating blog content examining the Ocampo 6 involvement at the International Criminal Court ahead of the 2017 General Election. Through this contract, I studied an International Course on Engaging Online Media administered by Radio Netherlands Training Centre (RNTC)