As part of International Women's Day, SIX is highlighting a number of brilliant women who are leading in their field.
We spoke with Clarissa Maracci from Sauti Ya Mtaa in Kenya. Clarissa has been using citizen journalism to empower people to advocate their rights.
Can you tell me a bit more about what you do and what inspired you to do this work?
I am the founder of Sauti Ya Mtaa, a non-profit startup working with journalism.
I knew I had always wanted to work in Africa and in the journalism field. This has been my inspiration ever since I was young. I originally trained as a lawyer in Italy but decided to quit my job and move to Kenya where I had a few connections. I wanted to go to Africa because I felt that’s where the future is, where the culture is, where the inspiration is, and where values are so important, some of which have been lost in other societies. My family has never supported my work. There is still a mentality where you have to fit in a specific position and specific roles, particularly for women.
When I first moved to Kenya, I was volunteering and then proposed this project idea Pawa 254. Sauti ya Mtaa started as a citizen journalism project, it's Swahili for “Voices of the Streets”. It was a network of people who were living in the slum in Kariobangi in Kenya. Sauti ya Mtaa deliberately targeted a community of young people who are talented and somehow skilled, but were lacking access to any kind of platform where they can get information, discuss, take an active role in the society. The project not only trained and empowered citizen journalists, but also encouraged people to express themselves through art and debate.
A citizen journalist is someone who isn't a professional journalist but is close to information and the certain reality that they want to tell. It can be anyone.
Sauti ya Mtaa has evolved over time, it's now a platform for citizen journalists. We're in the process of a designing a new platform where citizen journalists will be able to create a profile, pitch their stories and find peer support (like a crowd funding model). We'll also support people on the platform and help them tell their stories and publish it on the platform. It’s about citizens speaking to other citizens.
Sauti ya Mtaa could be indeed the first crowdfunding platform for citizen journalism (and artistic content) coming from youths from underprivileged community, not only in Kenya, but across the globe. I’m now trying to find a sustainable model, as many of these projects are dependent on funding. I'm currently exploring the feasibility of this model at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York as a Knight-Innovators Scholar, supported by Vice Media and the Knight Foundation.
Can you tell us about a defining moment where you could see the impact of your project? What are you most proud of in your work?
When someone changes their status in existence, that could be income related or flourishing in their artistic and creative abilities. It's amazing when people feel part of a community after working with us. What I do is give voice to other people, particularly those who don’t have a voice. This is my purpose.
What is your hope in relation to social innovation in the future? How will your work contribute to this hope?
My hope is that women can help transform society. There is so much sexism, violence, and misogyny in Africa, but also in Europe and around the world. My hope is that there will be more and more people doing meaningful work. Increasingly I see more and more people, particularly women, who are changing normal business models and working in social impact, trying to combine human rights and advocacy together. This is really exciting and I hope that this trend continues.
My purpose is to help give voice to the voiceless. This is what I'm doing through citizen journalism. My work is about how we can we develop the capacity to help people tell their stories.
You can follow Sauti ya Mtaa on Twitter here.