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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 08:55 GMT
Kenyan women speak out on video
Women were trained to use Betamax video cameras, ITDG
Women were trained to use Betamax video cameras
Alfred Hermida

Poor women living in the slums of Nairobi have been able to tell the world about their appalling living conditions by filming their lives on borrowed video cameras.

The videos produced by the women have been shown on Kenyan television, as well as in Britain and the US.

The project by the Intermediate Technology Development Group, (ITDG), has just won a communications prize worth US$7,500.

"We wanted to give tools to the poor to help them communicate their concerns to policy makers," said Catherine Njuguna of ITDG, a non-governmental organisation that helps poor communities use appropriate technology.

Outdated technology

For the project, ITDG looked into the best way of giving a voice to the poor women of Nairobi.

Catherine Njuguna
Catherine Njuguna: Provide tools to the poor
It came up with an unexpected use of technology. Rather than looking to the latest gadgets or the internet, the group found the solution in outdated technology - Betamax video cameras.

For the project, two sets of women were selected from two settlements on the edges of the Kenyan capital.

One group from Redeemed Village was mostly over 60 years old.

The majority were illiterate traders selling vegetables or paper, most of them single and responsible for families, sometimes several families of grandchildren.

The group from Redeemed Village was amused. They couldn't see what they would do with a video camera at their age with their limited education

Catherine Njuguna, ITDG
The other group from Mathare were mostly in their 20s and 30s and a little better educated. They were trained in the skills of video production, from shooting and scripting to editing and presenting.

"The group from Redeemed Village was amused," Ms Njuguna told the BBC programme Go Digital. "They couldn't see what they would do with a video camera at their age with their limited education.

"After the first practice session when we showed them simple camera movements, everyone had a go and they were so amazed it was so easy."

Confident women

Armed with the Betamax cameras, the women went out into the slums to report on the issues that were of concern to them. They showed how people lived in overcrowded shelters made of mud, cartons and rusting iron sheets, with open drains.

"For instance, in Redeemed Village, you have a population of around 2,000 people sharing a block of toilets," said Ms Njuguna.

One of the women trained to use a video camera
The younger women have found a new career
The videos have been seen by Kenyan ministers and Nairobi city councillors, as well as across the world through CDs and the internet. The organisers say the overwhelming impact has been on the individual women themselves.

"The women are very different from the women we started off with," said Ms Njuguna. "They are very confident in themselves. For the younger girls, they now have new careers open to them - something they didn't think they could do.

"At a personal level, it is something they can sit back and say they are proud of what they have done."

Further funding

The women are now looking to build on what they have achieved, presenting a proposal for funding to the UK Government to develop an information resource centre with a computer with e-mail and internet access.

"We are fund-raising to have a much bigger project and bring in other information and communication technology that the women can use," said Ms Njuguna.

The US$7,500 Betinho Prize, organised by the Association for Progressive Communications, recognises outstanding examples of how technology can make a real difference for the world's communities.

See also:

03 Nov 00 | Africa
Kenya tackles wife beaters
28 Nov 01 | Africa
Moi shuns Kenyan women
04 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Kenya
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