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Kibera Field Centre Uses Innovative Programmes to Create Public Dialogue About Health Issues

Jemimah Mwakisha, a Ph. D. candidate at State University of New York, Binghamton, describes CFSC in action in one of Africa's biggest slums.

AfriAfya, African Network for Health Knowledge Management and Communication, a consortium of health NGOs, is using innovative programmes to inform people about HIV/AIDS and other health issues in Kibera, a huge slum near Nairobi, Kenya.

AfriAfya's mission is to harness information and communication technologies to improve community health in rural and marginalized communities.  It is doing so in Kibera through two programs: (1) establishing journalism clubs in Kibera's public schools; and (2) using street theatre to disseminate health information.

Kibera, on the outskirts of Nairobi, is one of the largest slums in Africa.  Approximately one million Kenyans live in an area of four square kilometres.  Sanitation facilities are rare"only 600 toilets in the area.  Disease is rampant, especially HIV/AIDS-related diseases.

For these projects, AfriAfya works out of the Kibera Field Centre, which is operated by the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), one of AfriAfya's seven partner agencies.  AMREF is Africa's leading health development organisation.

Establishing Journalism Clubs

Samuel Ndeti and Saidi Yunus, reporters for the Kibera Field Centre, introduced the concept of journalism clubs in Kibera's schools in September 2004.  They chose Glory Primary and Secondary Schools as pilot schools.

Teachers in both schools selected interested students as club members.  These students elected officers to run their clubs and chose club names.  They named the Glory Primary School club The Writer's Club.  The secondary-school club members named theirs Glory News Agency.

Today, there are 56 members in the two clubs.  The primary school club comprises 44 members, and the secondary-school club has 12.

Teachers and students were trained in how to create dialogue that enhances and influences health and development. To that end, club members gather information from the community and write articles.  They disseminate information by means of notice boards, news bulletins during morning assembly and word of mouth. 

They keep pupils, students and teachers informed about club activities.  Club members are making progress in writing but require additional training in writing and basic computer skills as well as content generation.

Using Puppetry

Saidi Yunus, who has been working with the journalism clubs, is also involved with a local youth group using puppet theatre to engage people of the community and to help them process health-related information and make decisions.

"Through puppetry shows, which we hold twice a month, we disseminate information on HIV/AIDS and other health-related issues," says Yunas. "These shows have become very popular because people are able to discuss critical issues facing the Kibera community," he adds.

At the end of each show, the players ask audience members to discuss such issues as how HIV/AIDs spreads and what can be done to control it, as well as cultural issues related to spread of the disease.  They also ask the audience to suggest other health issues they want included in future puppet shows.

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