• Bunge Mtaani sessions held in the community centres provided an opportunity for residents to discuss issues ranging from politics, law enforcement, rights and inclusivity.
• Films are a source of information. When people have access to information, it creates awareness and changes perception.
Bunge Mtaani, an initiative by Under Our Skin (UOS) Kenya, is this year's way of engaging with communities and raising awareness about pressing societal concerns on human rights issues through the screening of films.
Bunge Mtaani, which loosely translates to Parliament of the People, has been ongoing throughout the month of October in various community centres, including Mathare, Kawangware and Mlango Kubwa educational institutions, and recently in Kibera.
This will culminate in a week-long film festival from November 10 to 17 at the Unseen Theatre in Nairobi.
The festival, which is anchored on the pillar of cultural exchange and engagement, will showcase inspiring and dynamic films revolving around three thought-provoking themes.
One is 'Injustice by Design', which focuses on understanding how injustice persists in the infrastructural framework of a country.
The second is expression as a right, which delves into human rights issues related to self-expression, focusing on areas such as LGBTQ rights, gender equality, social class dynamics and the rights of adolescents and teenagers.
The last is the social contract redefined. This seeks to shed light on issues such as corruption at the state level and police brutality in Kenya and other countries.
On October 10, the Mathare sessions were launched. This was during the Huduma Day celebrations, and youth convened to watch the screening of 'Softie'.
This is a documentary about Boniface Mwangi, an activist who decided to run for a political seat with the aim of running a clean campaign.
Barack Obuma and Brian Otieno, who are young leaders from the area, mobilised youth to participate in the screening, with the agenda being to capture the unfiltered voices of the young population on governance, how it affects them and what solutions they have.
UOS operations coordinator Beatrice Waruinge said film screenings provide a platform to have meaningful conversations that inspire positive change in society.
“We realised there is disillusionment that is bred by the mistrust and disconnect between decision-makers and the public. Having these discussions helps people talk about issues of governance as they affect them at the local level,” she said.
Otieno said the film provided an opportunity to have an open discussion and analyse if things have changed since the year Boniface Mwangi ran to be elected or if the narrative is still the same.
“Boniface was running a clean campaign with a vision and wanted to be given a chance to be in a leadership position,” he said.
“This was different when you compare to those he was against, politicians who dish out money to electorates.”
Films have a lasting impact as information is power. If people have a vast array of information within reach, it creates awareness, changes perceptions and encourages individuals to take action.
Otieno says his vision as a youth leader, coming from a community that has undergone suppression and oppression for a very long time, is to have a society that is free from human rights violations and see young people with revolutionary ideas get more involved in politics.
For a long time, there has been stereotyping of the youth by law enforcement when they express their constitutional right to hold peaceful demonstrations, which ends in violence. Some are shot, others lose their lives through extrajudicial killings and some end up in police cells.
Waruinge believes dialogue can be a way of improving relations between the police and communities. This will provide a safe space for people to speak out and understand each other, and a peaceful coexistence between both parties.
“To ensure we have equality and justice in law enforcement, it requires strict adherence to the rule of law, unbiased and accountable law enforcement agencies, and an effective oversight mechanism. Ensuring law enforcement officers are held accountable for their actions is very crucial,” Waruinge said.
Launched in 2019, this year will be UOS's third edition of film screening. In line with the 2030 SDG goals, Beatrice looks at having an inclusive society where there is greater acceptance and equal rights for everyone without discrimination based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
“There is a need for education, awareness campaigns and legislative changes. The process might take time, but positive progress has been made so we can have these communities included in the larger community,” Waruinge said.