I am excited to introduce Sauti Yetu Debates, a new project of Inuka Kenya Trust and SNA-K! The project aims to bring a policy element into political contestation, engage communities in policy-oriented dialogue, and conduct civic education on the new Constitution. It is a non-partisan project that will lead up to a series of political debates, in which political aspirants will be invited to answer questions about community needs in community-based forum with a neutral facilitator. Community members will be able to participate by giving their opinions about community needs via SMS and will also receive SMS-based civic education. The debates will also be aired over radio and will be filmed for later screenings. The program will be implemented in Baba Dogo, Korogocho, Mathare, Kariobangi, Huruma, and in two constituencies (to be announced).
How did this come about? In December 2010, SNA-K had our first strategic planning retreat, which brought together individuals who had been involved in launching SNA-K in Baba Dogo, Korogocho, and the Narok Chapter Founder, to conduct a conflict analysis of specific communities and design programming to prevent and de-escalate conflict. We were just getting started and had very limited resources, but still let ourselves get carried away brainstorming about things we thought could make a big impact. I remember that someone from Kasarani said that at the community level, “we are so easily divided by politics because we are never united by politics.” The conversation continued with team members noting that communities rarely came together around common goals that could be achieved through politics, and instead waited for people from outside the community, such as political aspirants, to come to them and tell them what they should care about.
From these thoughts came a discussion about how to create an understanding at the community level that politics could improve life for everyone, and to unite communities around policies. It was then that the team first had the idea of conducting political debates, in which political aspirants would be invited to come to the community level and have a non-partisan debate facilitated by a neutral moderator, and discuss community-level issues and policies. The larger idea behind this is that while politics in informal settlements is mainly driven by ethnic community, monetary incentives, and charisma, the introduction of a policy element of political contestation in these areas would help unite communities to prevent the conflict that often stems from the ethnic dimensions of political contestation.
As time went on, we met Inuka Kenya Trust who had similar ideas, and together wrote a concept for holding political debates in Baba Dogo, Korogocho, Mathare, Kariobangi, and Huruma. As we worked on this concept, we began activities for creating a community needs assessment in Baba Dogo and Korogocho in partnership with Koch FM. At the beginning of 2012, we finally secured funding to implement the program throughout the Northern and Eastern parts of Nairobi. It’s amazing to look at how far we have come and to finally see the vision of our Chapters coming into fruition. We look forward to keeping you updated as Sauti Yetu Debates progresses!