Lights, Camera, Impact: Youth Voices Reshaping Slums in Sierra Leone 

by James Tayler

How can we harness the potential of young people in our Federation to ignite a wave of social transformation and shape a new era of grassroots advocacy and social impact for the network? 

In answer to a demand from the young members of the Sierra Leone Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor (FEDRUP), a 7-day immersive media-production course was held between 18 and 25 October 2023 at the FEDRUP resource centre in Freetown, Sierra Leonne. The course and graduation ceremony marked the official launch of the Sierra Leone KYC.TV chapter.  

The training program was led by James Tayler, SDI’s Programme Coordinator for Youth and Media, and Xola Mteto, KYCTV Media Officer. Additionally, co-facilitators from Kenya and Zambia were invited to share their expertise and diverse perspectives. From Kenya, John Kimani Thuo, a youth mentor in the Muungano’s Youth Mentors Category, brought extensive knowledge of federation rituals and organising. Jacob Omondi, an advocate in the Emerging Youth Category, showcased his storytelling skills through blogging and provided valuable perspectives on youth advocacy. Lizann Onyango Auma, a program officer responsible for Kisumu City, focused on addressing climate change and providing technical support to the youth and federation in Kisumu. From Zambia, Abednego “MacTavish” Chande, a dynamic media professional, and Royd Ndonga, a member of the KYC.TV Zambia team, joined as co-facilitators. Maryam Ibrahim, the communications lead at People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia, contributed expertise in co-creation and community engagement. 

The program unfolded in a progression and was structured across theory, technical, and practical sessions. The objectives included understanding the role of media in social movements, developing media skills, instilling ethical considerations, formulating media strategies, measuring impact, and fostering collaboration. The curriculum aimed to equip participants with various media production skills such as filmmaking, audio production, photography and digital campaign design. The program balanced theoretical understanding, technical training, and hands-on exercises, enabling participants to create meaningful content. 

”Collaborating with colleagues from different countries allowed us to appreciate the diversity of storytelling techniques and cultural perspectives,” shared Mohamed Mansaray, FEDRUP trainee.  

“We learned how cultural backgrounds shape narratives, and this knowledge helped us enhance our own storytelling approaches.  

Discussions surrounding media ethics and responsibility were enlightening. We delved into topics such as fact-checking, unbiased reporting, and avoiding sensationalism.  

 These discussions emphasised the importance of maintaining integrity and accountability in our media and filmmaking.  

The training provided a platform for networking and collaboration.  

We established valuable connections with activists from different countries, paving the way for potential future collaborations, co-productions, and knowledge-sharing opportunities.” 

Saudatu Kanu, also from Sierra Leone added: “The inspiring discussion about interview technique and the experience of directing made me understand how to go about collecting interview from my community members. My plan is to create more awareness among the community youths using KYC.TV and to share the knowledge that I learned.” 

Some of the difficult issues grappled with in the workshop included tough questions. How does the digital divide hinder the access and participation of marginalised communities in utilising social media for advocacy? Who owns an image and when can an image become exploitative? Can the power of social media truly drive sustainable social change and reshape the landscape of advocacy for social justice and equality for slum dwellers? 

“I took away several key points that I believe are crucial for our own media endeavours,” Mohammed reflected. 

“First and foremost, I was impressed by the remarkable growth that KYCTV has experienced in both Zambia and Kenya.  

I appreciate the openness with which you shared the challenges encountered throughout KYC.TV’s journey.  

The discussion on overcoming regulatory hurdles, addressing competition, and navigating technological advancements provided valuable insights into the complexities of the media landscape in Zambia and Kenya.  

It emphasised the importance of adaptability, resilience, and continuous innovation to stay relevant and thrive in a rapidly evolving industry.”  

With newfound skills, participants are poised to create lasting social change, but sustaining momentum and building a community remain imperative. Strategies for continued engagement, collaboration, and potential follow-up workshops were discussed.  The Siera Leone youth committed to building youth inclusion at FEDRUP and the ongoing work with SDI ally, Plan International, was flagged as a precedent setting project which should catalyse youth inclusion through locally led adaptation. Watch this space for details, as 2024 will undoubtedly be an eventful year for the KYC.TV team. 

Through compelling storytelling, engaging visuals, and interactive campaigns KYC.TV is becoming increasingly effective at communicating their message, connecting with local and global audiences, and driving meaningful action.  

By equipping the younger generation with the skills to effectively utilise film, photography, and other media channels, slum dwellers can ensure their voices resonate widely. Training young activists in media production not only enables the continuation of advocacy efforts but also cultivates a new wave of storytellers who can authentically convey the struggles and triumphs of their communities, ultimately contributing to the broader tapestry of social change.  

Just as the rain nourishes the earth, may these endeavours nurture positive change in every corner of our communities.