Thursday, December 13, 2007

Transcript for PBS documentary on KochFM

Transcript PBS America documentary on Koch.

After of all this misery and the malfeasance it's often useful to get a booster shot of hope from folks who take action when faced with a community in crisis.

One place that's happening is Nairobi, Kenya, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Africa. It's the story of a little radio station being run out of a shipping container by and for the people of Nairobi's, Korogocho slum. While the three hundred thousand residents there do pay taxes, they don't get much back from the government in the way of infrastructure or services, and that's just one of the things Koch-fm is looking to change.
Dan Logan produced our report.

BRANCACCIO: Nairobi, Kenya is the bustling commercial hub of East Africa.

But of the city's three million residents, an estimated one-third... that's one million people... live like this.

Right in the middle of Nairobi, you'll find some of the most neglected places on earth... massive slums, where people live in makeshift earth-and-metal huts.

One of those settlements is called Korogocho - which, in Swahili, means scrap metal. It's located right next to a massive garbage dump. People mingle with scavenger birds, picking through the wasteland.

With poverty and disease like this, you can't blame someone for losing hope in this place.

But a group of upstart twenty-somethings are stirring up change.

KOCH FM DJ: We are broadcasting live, straight from the heart of Korogocho and remember this is the first ever community radio station to ever hit Nairobi, so keep it locked to 99.9 FM.

BRANCACCIO: Korogocho or "Koch" for short has its own radio station: Koch fm... a new voice, broadcasting in Swahili and English, for a community that has little sway with its politicians.

WANJIKU: It's high time that young people take action. Young people start acting and just changing the mentality of people.

BRANCACCIO: Helen Wanjiku founded Koch fm nearly two years ago when she was twenty-three. She grew up in Korogocho... but when she was fourteen, one of the slum's local gangs threatened her life and her family.

WANJIKU: They would've come. They would have raped us. And then after raping us, they would have killed us.

BRANCACCIO: She escaped Korogocho and got a college education, thanks to an aunt outside the slum who took her in.

But two years ago, she got word that a close friend had been viciously murdered in a case of domestic abuse. Wanjiku decided to return.

WANJIKU: If maybe I had told her, "If your husband beats you up, please get out." Then, this will not have happened. So that's why I came back.

BRANCACCIO: You found it unacceptable to be too far away because you thought you could do some good here.

WANJIKU: If you get out and go, you tend to forget the problems that you have left behind. But being part of those problems, then you can get solutions for them.

BRANCACCIO: Community radio - cheap to produce and easy to access, compared to television - is a powerful solution for the problems of the developing world, according to aid organizations like the World Bank and the U.N. they've increased their support for radio in recent years... Because its efficiency allows places like Korogocho to tune in to civic life.

KOCH FM DJ: You have to stand for your rights, because when you don't do that, you're killing yourself, you're killing your loved ones...

BRANCACCIO: Getting Koch FM on the air was a big deal. Its founding members raised thirty thousand dollars and bought two shipping containers, fitted with a metal roof, to house the studio. Local authorities were resistant... so Helen and her crew used the element of surprise.

WANJIKU: We went and we built the two containers. We had not asked authority. Like, we had not asked permission.

BRANCACCIO: You didn't ask the authority for permission?

WANJIKU: No, this is a chief—I mean, this is a youth camp. They're supposed to put—build things here. So we didn't ask.

BRANCACCIO: So one day the authorities woke up and there were two shipping containers here?

WANJIKU: Yes. And they came and they locked them and they told us that we are not supposed to put them here.

BRANCACCIO: What could you do then?

WANJIKU: We went around. We brought some things and just came and opened them forcefully.

BRANCACCIO: In the confrontation that followed, another Koch fm founder, Francis Ngira, says he was physically assaulted by the police.

NGIRA: They started beating me up. Then I was like okay, you can beat me. You can hit me. You can jail me. But you won't change me into what you want me to be.

BRANCACCIO: Eventually, Koch FM prevailed, as local authorities backed down and Kenya's communications commission gave them a broadcast frequency... After months of protest.

WANJIKU: We didn't give up. We hassled. Some of us were arrested. But by the end of the day, justice was done.

BRANCACCIO: And you have a license.

WANJIKU: Yeah. Now we have a license. We are broadcasting freely. We can say anything we want to say to educate people.

BRANCACCIO: It's estimated Koch FM's signal reaches 300,000 listeners. With a national election approaching next month, there is heated discussion of topics like government corruption.

KOCH FM DJ: Every day of the budget we know there is money which is allocated for that. What happens to this money? Who is supposed to take care of this?

BRANCACCIO: People in Korogocho do pay taxes and are represented in Kenya's parliament. But city services like sanitation remain virtually non-existent.

WANJIKU: The government has neglected us. They think we are not—not people. They have not given us good water. They have not given us proper sewage system. We have to act as people from the community.

BRANCACCIO: Especially crucial for Helen Wanjiku is the issue of women's empowerment... the subject of her own radio show.

WANJIKU: It will take a lot of time. But one day, we will start realizing that if a man can build a house, so can a woman.

BRANCACCIO: And these are some of the issues you discuss on your—on your program?

WANJIKU: On my program. Yes.

BRANCACCIO: The gender program. What's it actually called?

WANJIKU: Strength of a woman.

BRANCACCIO: Strength of a woman.

WANJIKU: Uh-huh.

BRANCACCIO: Koch FM takes on serious issues. But they've found a way to package them in an engaging way, so people actually listen.

WANJIKU: We call ourselves "Edutainment".


WANJIKU: Yes. Edutainment. We believe in educating people through an entertaining way.

BRANCACCIO: An interational non-profit called "Developing Radio Partners" has identified benchmarks for community radio. Koch FM meets some, including a clear mission... a defined audience... and local content.

What they need to work on is financial independence. Grants from George Soros and a coalition of Norwegian churches help pay for equipment. But donor funds might not be around forever.

WANJIKU: What if maybe one day they decide to pull out? The radio station is going to fail. And so what we are doing, we are trying to sell T-shirts. And also—we also come up with adverts, which will be selling airtime to people and also programs.

BRANCACCIO: Oh, so maybe you'd bring on advertisements to the station?

WANJIKU: Yes we are—we will bring on advertisement.

BRANCACCIO: There is hope that those money-making plans will eventually pay people's salaries... in what is now an all-volunteer effort to be the voice for a forgotten community.

KOCH FM DJ: For us here at Koch FM, 99.9, the only radio that gives you the whole reality and nothing but the reality. We are signing out.

BRANCACCIO: And that's it for NOW. From Minneapolis, I'm David Brancaccio. We'll see you next week.

Thanks PBS. Oti

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Slum Survivor

AFRICA: Slum Survivors - new IRIN film released

Most slum dwellers never finish school and end up trapped in poverty

Worldwide, more than a billion people live in slums, with as many as one million in Kibera, Africa’s largest such settlement, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Slum Survivors, IRIN’s first full-length documentary, tells some of their stories.

Meet Carol

Meet Carol, a single mother of three, who walks miles each day in search of work washing other people’s clothes. It is a hand-to-mouth existence - sometimes she gets work and buys food, but most of the time she and her children go to bed hungry.

Carol’s situation is so desperate that on more than one occasion she has come close to suicide. With no-one to rely on for support, she’s left hoping for miracles.

“We hope that one day God will come down – we keep on saying that. One day God will come down and change our situations.”

Dennis Onyango fell into poverty when his father left his mother for another woman. Forced out of school because of unpaid fees, he ended up in Mombasa where he found work as a DJ.

Life was good until inter-ethnic fighting forced Dennis back to the safety of Nairobi. But poverty and desperation pushed him into a life of crime.

“Many of my friends had guns. I had grown up in the hands of the police because my father was a policeman. He used to leave his gun on the table so I knew how to dismantle and reassemble guns, so my friends used to bring their guns to me for cleaning - that’s how I got started.”

But these days, Dennis is trying to change. He wants to turn his back on crime and start afresh.

Patrick Mburu says he has lost many friends to crime and believes hard work is the only way out of poverty for him and his young family. His parents were both alcoholics and so he has had to fend for himself from a young age.

Patrick empties latrines for a living. Most toilets in Kibera are privately owned and residents must pay to use them. There are so few toilets that on average each one is shared by more than a thousand people.

Most slum dwellers never finish school and end up trapped in poverty, which is why Patrick is adamant his kids will get an education.

“In Kenya, no education means you can’t get a good job; that’s why I send my son to a good school, because I want him to know that the job that I do is only for people like me who didn’t go to school.

“So, I will struggle - I will carry a lot of shit, I will do anything but steal to keep him in school.”

Abdul Kassim also believes in the importance of education. He works as a telecoms engineer, but puts most of his income into a free secondary school for girls, which he started in January 2006.

“I saw that there was no gender equity between the boy child and the girl child here in Kibera, and so we started a girl’s soccer team. Then all the challenges, all the bad things that happen within Kibera saw some of them getting into early marriages, some of them got pregnant - there was a time when I lost the entire striking force of my team and it brought into question the starting of another alternative, which was nothing but education.”

Christina, 17, is just one of 48 pupils at Abdul’s school but her story is typical. She lives with her mother, father and five siblings in a one-room shack. Her parents’ relationship is fraught and Christina is often left alone in charge of the house.

When she finished primary school, her father refused to send her to secondary school, claiming that educating girls was a waste of money.

“My dad wants everyone to drop out of school. He complains that he has no money, or that he’s sick … I don’t know … I don’t know why he doesn’t want us to learn.”

Christina has a hole in her heart - a serious condition for which she should take daily medication but the cost - US$10 a day - is far beyond her family’s means. School, a job and then a salary might just save her life.

For Abdul, education is the key to solving the problems of the urban poor and that is why he started the school. He has lived here all his life and has seen Kibera change beyond recognition as more and more people flood into the city in search of a better life.

“I don’t see why people are living the way they are living in Kibera, or in any other slums, there is no reason - there is no justification.

“And in Kibera if this issue is not handled at some time this problem is going to come knocking at people’s doors - and those who think it’s not their problem might be surprised one day when this problem comes knocking at their door.”

New film must see! Oti

It's them or them

For a moment I want to believe that the recent steadman polls are credible and that either Raila or Kibaki will win the elections. That being the case my concern is that we will not have made any significant progress.

Kenyan politics being what they are; we have allowed a culture of defection and manipulation of political parties so that they no longer exists on the basis of ideology but rather as vehichles to get into parliament. During the nomination there was alot of fury as candidates who lost blamed the top leadership of the parties for rigging the nominations. After these incidents candidates switched parties and are now convasing voters.

Consider the situation in Australia where the incumbent John Howard resigned after losing an election, he went with his running mate. He took responsibility for the parties dismal performance. It would have been ridiculous if he had defected to the Greens or crossed over to the Christian Democrats. If he was a seasoned Kenyan politician he would have jumped ship, (we have seen the leader of oppossition in Kenya supporting the government for a second term).

The instituion of oppossition in my understanding means that political parties seek to address issues in a different way and that in most cases they are motivated by different ideologies. In Kenya we have witnessed jumping of ship that can only be interpreted as oportunistic political esurvival tacttics. By allowing people to defect left and right we now have a situation where both leading parties represent the best and the worst politicians in Kenyan history so whichever way the vote swings we will not have fundamental changes.

Take an instance of the Anglo leasing scandal which of the two governments is likely to prosecute the perpertrators? Is it ODM with a former permanent secretary of internal security or PNU with a former minister in the same docket?

It makes no sense that people are fighting and in some areas(Kuresoi reportedly politically instigated clashes) killing each other for 'their' party. Parties which will wellcome defectors without questioning their past and looking if they reflect the parties aspirations. Of what use is it for a party to have amongst its ranks people who have been mentioned or investigated for curruption and abuse of office? We have weak parties whose decision making mechanisms are still one man shows, that are revived every 5 years in time for an election. Because we pride ourselves in democracy we must start by reforming our political parties so that they are accountable to the membership. The membership of the parties must also committ themselves to participate in internal political affairs and through that we shall develop a much vibrant and consiouc society.

For us to have a government that will take action on both pre colonial and post colonial errors we need a breed of leadership that has not benefiited directly from the status quo and on that basis I see the forth comming elections as part of the long journey that Kenya must take as we walk towards a better government. (With due respect to all the people who have blown the whistle while they were still in government).

Am proud that at the end of it all we will have played our noble civic duty, whether the elected president delivers the kind of leadership that responds to the plight of people in Korogocho and Kibera and other marginalized group is another thing.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Slum dwellers of Nairobi want to see real change

Extract from Nation Newspaper Publication Date: 12/3/2007

IN ALMOST EVERY COUNTRY, opposition politics tends to be concentrated in large cities. This is because levels of literacy, awareness and inequality tend to be higher in cities, and therefore it is in cities that levels of dissatisfaction with the status quo are most pronounced.

That is why politicians try so hard to appease their urban poor constituents in an election year. Slums become the sites of rallies and recruitment grounds for voters.

It is the season when idle slum youth find work — as rabble-rousers or disrupters of rallies. Many take on this work because it is the only one they can find.

Many become the main casualties of violence during elections. What they don’t realise is that once the elections are over, and their candidate has won, party manifestos and visions launched during the election period will be forgotten and they will go back to where they came from — slums.

Fortunately, Nairobi’s slum-dwellers — who comprise more than half the city’s population — are fighting back with their own manifesto.

Developed through a series of meetings in eight constituencies in Nairobi, the People’s Manifesto is a synthesis of the aspirations and views of people living in Nairobi’s informal settlements.

The process leading to the development of the manifesto was spearheaded by three community-based organisations — the Nairobi People’s Settlement Network, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, and the Miss Koch Initiative (a youth group in Korogocho).

The demands of the slum communities focus mainly on policy, legislation, and not surprisingly, land, security and infrastructure.

Among other things, the People’s Manifeso calls for the enactment of a new constitution that promotes people’s participation, the reduction of taxes on essential commodities, the provision of people’s participation in the national budgeting process, the establishment of a non-politicised youth fund, the development of a national slum upgrading policy, and the abolition of the shoot-to-kill culture among police,.

They also want the development of infrastructure within slum settlements, and the establishment of a transport system that is free of exploitation.

A visit to a Nairobi slum is not a pleasant experience. Open sewers, filth and “flying toilets” create a stench that is so overwhelming, it lingers in one’s nostrils for days afterwards.

Those of us who do not have the stomach to visit a Nairobi slum should see Slum Survivors, a new film produced by the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs that shows what abject urban poverty does to people.

Slum-dwellers want to see the change that all politicians are promising because their lives literally depend on it. They want free health and education. They want pedestrian pathways, roads and toilets. More importantly, they want the kinds of jobs and salaries that will allow them to move out of the slum.

THERE ARE NON-GOVERNMENTAL initiatives and individuals that are trying to improve living conditions in slums. But while these efforts must be commended, they are a drop in the vast of ocean of challenges facing the average slum-dweller.

The ultimate responsibility of ensuring that slum-dwellers are not condemned to live like animals lies primarily with central and local governments, who have the kind of resources needed to build schools and hospitals on a large scale, not with individuals or with charities.

Central and local governments have the kind of power and resources that few non-governmental organisations have to make significant improvements in the lives of large numbers of people.

One toilet block may improve the lives of people living in a section of a slum, but real improvement in the lives of slum- dwellers will only occur when governments adopt policies and legislation that enable the poor to improve their livelihoods.

Unfortunately, many governments lack the political will to make this happen. In fact, efforts to improve slums are often hampered by none other than politicians.

Some erroneously believe that significant improvements in the living standards of a huge voting bloc could mean loss of votes in the next election (assuming that happier, better-off people tend not to vote). Others have a vested financial interest in slums — as landlords and political patrons.

Perhaps this is why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has decided to bypass governments altogether and give direct support to NGOs working with slum communities

Last week, the foundation pledged $10 million to Slum/Shack Dwellers International, an alliance of NGOs that works with slum federations in several countries, including Kenya.

Funds from the grant will be used to support the activities of informal savings groups within slums to improve slum neighbourhoods.

A press release announcing the Gates foundation’s decision aptly states that one of the reasons for this direct support is because “the urban poor are tired of waiting for governments to meet their needs”.

Ms Warah is currently an editor with the UN. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations.