I have been wanting to write this for a while now. Especially after I read about Peepoo: a biodegradable plastic bag that acts as a single-use toilet for urban slums in the developing world. Inspired by the ever ubiquitous Kibera flying toilets.
Now my post is not about the benefits (or idiocy) of Peepoo, I’ll leave that to the World Toilet Organization . It is about the framing of Kibera and the telling of its stories, which seem by and large to be synonymous with flying toilets and violence.
A few months ago I had the privilege of engaging with young Kibera residents involved in the Map Kibera project and other community media projects. We ended up discussing a wide range of issues…I was particularly interested in why they had joined the project and why they want to continue the work they were doing. Over and over again they expressed the need to share their view of what Kibera was and tell their stories, and most importantly correct the negative perceptions out there about Kibera.
Do all this through a map I asked?
Yes, they replied – people didn’t know for instance about the different “villages” within Kibera, or the number of business, or health resources, and one young man told me – the fact that we have toilets..lots of them. Mapping to them was about giving voice… in this case what they are calling the Voice of Kibera.
I instantly connected with those young people and the sense of pride about being able to tell their own stories…I hope from them we will eventually get to learn more about the real, diverse, full of life, and complex Kibera and less about poop flying all over Kibera.