REDEEM THE AFRICAN MAN’S IMAGE

This year’s Kenyan Global Dialogues contest jury process took place on May 9-10 at Oak Place Conference Centre, organized by HIVOS. There were more than 3000 entries from young people of ages 25 and below. The members of the Jury were from diverse backgrounds- journalists, members of the civil society, film makers, academicians and even health care practitioners.

Global Dialogues Jury 2014
Global Dialogues Jury 2014

The opportunity to be part of this great team came for me for the second time by virtue of being a former contestant. I was part of the national winners during the 2008 Scenarios from Africa competition. Back then it was a simple ceremony. Now it has evolved to Global dialogues.

The top twenty entries are going to be adapted into a short film to get the conversation moving. Last year’s competition gave rise to the film ‘Walk with me’- on the issues of disability, HIV/AIDS, sexual violence and secrets that young people struggle with.

A number of the Kenyan entries this year came from primary school children, a good portion came from high schools while a few came from out of school youths. The beauty with this contest is that it is an avenue for young people to express the issues affecting them.

There’s something about writing that is magical. The things that one cannot voice loudly suddenly come to life. This is what we the judges were privileged to read for two days. Some good pieces that made it to the top twenty, some not so good scripts and other ugly ones that were totally misinformed on HIV/AIDS and sexuality.

I had the opportunity to mobilize entries for the contest prior to the judging process. One 16 year old confided in me during the process that they were in love and having sex. The contents of our conversation will not be divulged here. This is just to show that young people need to air their voices in a safe, non- judgmental environment. The early sexual debut is just one of the challenges facing young people.

Another issue that came up in the entries was young people asking their parents tough questions. It was evident that there exists a communication gap between young people and their parents when it comes to matters sexuality. Parents are scared to start the discussion, while young people feel that they are not understood by their parents when it comes to such matters.

The fact that domestic violence is rampant in the Kenyan society could not be overlooked. Several scripts had Female Genital Mutilation, rape and incest. At some point, we were of the opinion that maybe during the mobilization; the notion was created that articles that depicted such gory details would stand a chance in the contest. On second thought, having watched the goings on in the media, I guess the entries were just a mirror of our society.

A thirteen year old girl being defiled by her mother’s lover, a 15 year old girl being impregnated by her ‘pastor’ father who has been defiling her together with her sisters and in these cases, the mothers assist the men in escaping the arm of the law. Who speaks for these teenagers?

Back to the Global Dialogues contest which was dogged by plagiarism. The education system prepares students for exams making them copy to become ‘the best’. This limits creativity and originality. One of the recommendations I have made is that there should be creative writing workshops in schools during the mobilization process. Another great idea by a Kenyan creative author is to have reading time incorporated into the lessons of the school timetable. This will improve the students’ writing abilities.

Deciding the top entries was not an easy feat because all fifteen members of the jury had to come to a consensus. Of course there were lively arguments in support of the scripts which each juror thought deserved to make the cut. That is the result of putting together a team that’s united by one passion- the young people. The winning scripts are going to go through an international jury process.

A parting shot is to our Kenyan men. The wining script was ‘A letter to Dad- my hero’. There are several men who are role models to their families. The few who have developed deviant ways of handling their families should not spoil the image of the African man. We join the young people in the dream of an Africa of positive masculinity.

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