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Disabled people given a voice for election in Kenya on 4 March

Leonard Cheshire
Date de publication

1 March 2013

A groundbreaking programme giving young disabled people the media skills to become citizen journalists has launched in Kenya.

For the first time young people with disabilities are being trained on how to use their mobile phones to write and publish news reports to a global audience live from the upcoming elections.

The programme is being run by Radar in partnership Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Young Voices, a global project which supports young disabled people to campaign on equal rights and better access.

Despite limited access to the internet, three quarters of people living in Kenya have a mobile phone. Harnessing the power of this simple technology, participants are being given the life-changing skills to use SMS to report on the critical events they witness.

For just one Kenyan shilling – the price of a local text message and the equivalent of just 0.75 pence – they will text their reports to Radar who then publish them to a global audience through Twitter and other social media. They are also being taught to capture crowd scenes through pictures and videos.

In this way the budding journalists, who may never have used a computer or internet, will be able to share live their bite-size news reports with audiences from around the world.

Young Voices member and entrepreneur Hannah Wanja Maina is part of this new network of 120 citizen reporters from four Kenyan cities: Nairobi, Kisumu, Kajiado and Mombasa. The 22-year-old will be responsible for gathering news stories and reporting on the election live.

She said; “I am passionate about this exciting new project that will empower disabled people, who are often hidden away or isolated from the society, to speak out and be listened to.

“I am proud to reporting on such crucial issue. It will give me the opportunity to share my experiences and those of other disabled people.”

Julian Gore Booth, Interim Director of International for Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: "All too often the voices of young disabled people like Hannah are not heard when it comes to crucial issues of democracy and governance that will affect their lives. Yet in many developing countries, people under the age of 25 make up over half the population.

"Government and society must recognise the ambition of young activists like Hannah to use their skills in a positive way to succeed and bring about change."

The project was launched in Kenya on 14th February following a successful pilot in Sierra Leone, where more than 60 people were trained to be citizen journalists. An impressive 80 SMS reports were filed and posted on Twitter, one of which highlighted major access issues for disabled people voting in the elections.

The tweet was picked up by the EU Chief Observer in Sierra Leone and flagged as a key issue to the electoral observation team. This received wide coverage and caught the attention of the international media and political actors in Sierra Leone. -Ends-