“Educating people through entertainment – key in Kibera”

Julian, 24, is a member of Wasanii Sanaa in Kibera. Since she joined the youth organisation she’s grown in confidence and is now a role model in her community…

I’ve spent my whole life in Kibera. In my community there’s a lot of drugs, which leads to young people dropping out school. As kids grow up, they become thieves or fall pregnant. My parents have always been strict, but if you don’t have people to take care of you, it’s as though there’s no way out.

Some of my friends in high school took drugs and they wanted me to join in I said no, and ran the risk of looking uncool, but it wasn’t the path for me. 

After attending Amnesty International’s workshop on human rights defenders, I knew I wanted to make a change and tackle human rights violations in my community. It was enjoyable and I was given the opportunity to attend camps with human rights activists from all over the world. I felt like I was part of a big family fighting for human rights.

Now I am part of the youth group Wasanii Sanaa. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s like a family. You can share your problems and they help solve them. I’ve learnt about different human rights violations, gender-based violence and how to tackle them.

I enjoy educating people about human rights issues, but in Kibera, you can’t give information without entertainment. If you don’t entertain, they will think it’s a lecture and they will get bored, so we put the two together.

Through these educational performances, I’ve learnt how to have an impact on people. I didn’t know how to do traditional dances, poetry or acting, but now I enjoy performing. I am so confident compared to before. We perform in school and in the community, so I encounter different people every day. I have become a role model. I am trusted as people can see what I am doing and parents often ask if their children can join our group.

Across Africa, young people are not recognised in decision-making. However, we know what matters to our generation and, if we’re heard, young people will feel empowered to speak out rather than take drugs, steal or kill.

I recently graduated with a degree in psychology and although I don’t have a job in the field, I am developing skills all time. My parents are supportive of the work I am doing, I am earning a wage and they can see the impact I am having.

Many girls in my community are forced to get a ‘sponsor’ when they finish school – an old man who says he will take care of a girl’s needs, but just uses them for sex. I don’t need a sponsor. Not only is Wasanii Sanaa building my skills, but it’s helping me earn a wage so I can take care of myself.