Giving Voice to the Voiceless: An Interview with Mbithi George

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Mbithi George has worked as a volunteer radio presenter, a communications and outreach professional, as well as in the media portfolio of a not-for profit organization. His passion is to utilize the power of media to impact people’s lives in a positive way.

Today, Mbithi shares with us his experience working as a media personnel for non-profit organizations. We will look into the challenges, satisfactions and lessons learned along the way.

Ross Murray

 

Mbithi George

My name is Mbithi George. Currently, I am the Communications Officer at Kenya Markets Trust, an organization that seeks to transform the way selected markets function so as to be inclusive and competitive enough for all those who participate in them to be successful.

My passion for media and communication started when I was young, as I was involved in things like poetry, drama, writing, and the like. I always believed that society can vastly benefit from a media that gives voice to the voiceless. I have written and starred in plays that depict the societal imbalance and advocate for people to step up and correct those wrongs.

 

Helping Others Find Their Voice

I believe that human beings were created for human beings. I am here to make an impact and that impact will only be meaningful if it is dedicated for human beings.

The world has such talented people you can’t imagine. But we never manage to harness that talent because majority are voiceless. We need people to work towards giving them the voice they need.

I have had such  a rough time in my early days. Due to the poverty that struck our home, I struggled a lot to even get basic education. I therefore know how it feels to be voiceless in this winner-takes-all society.

I am inspired by the idea of a society where every person is enjoying the life they live. For this, we need to empower the weak.

 

Creating Change

In 2007 and 2008, Kenya underwent traumatic times. The general election in December 2007 led to post-elections violence, causing the death of innocent Kenyans and the displacement of many.

None of us wants this to ever happen again. So, in 2012, I started an initiative called “I am a peacemaker”, which worked to bring communities together, to avoid another violence in the 2013 general elections.

As a volunteer radio presenter, I started an agribusiness program which highlighted the many mistakes farmers in the region regularly make. We bring on board the few successful farmers to share their stories. Farmers changed their farming techniques and started to earn from their farming.

I also started a sports program that was different from the normal talk shows. This program could highlight the economic side of sports, and show innovative persons who have ventured in sports and achieved success. I could encourage the youth to start clubs in the society and venture in income-generating activities as they also train for the sport they are involved in. Many young people have since been successful, and a football club and fitness centre has since been revived.

As a communications and outreach professional, I encouraged TV and radio stations to produce audience-based programs that would impact the members of the audience, mainly in agribusiness. I continued to do the same thing as a media portfolio support.

 

It’s Always Darkest…

Challenges have been there along the way. Many organizations have a structured way of doing business, which may not be beneficial to their consumers. But if those methodologies have proven profitable to the organization, selling a different idea to them may be very difficult.

The media in Kenya is advertiser driven. The advertiser decides what goes on air, something like a pay-to-play model. Bringing to them audience-driven programing which does not give immediate results is not an easy thing. Many stations turned us down, and the few which accepted to pilot with us dropped along the way. We got successful ones, though, and that gives me a reason to keep believing in my dream.

As a radio presenter, selling to the station manager an idea of a new program that will impact the lives of the audience members was very difficult. Also, successful farmers were not always ready to share their story for free. We live in a money-oriented society, where everyone wants to get maximum cash from whatever dealings they are involved in.

 

…Before Dawn

My program at the radio station I worked in was finally accepted and was very successful, judgng by the testimonials we could get from the audience. The radio and TV stations we engaged with continued to amend their programs to be audience-based.

The Kilimo Komavu program at Radio Mambo in Western Kenya is a good example, as well as Kilimo Biashara in K24 TV. One station, Radio Nam Lolwe in Kisumu, gained international media recognition after being covered by “The Guardian” newspaper.

Across the region, many development programs are looking at the work we did to learn how to effectively use the media to get results of the work they are doing. I was contacted by a person looking at starting a media development project in Sierra Leone, asking for methodologies of how to structure such a program, how to sell their idea to stations and ensure it is bought, and how to measure the successes of the new programming. That is a big source of satisfaction.

 

Kenyan farmers' yields have increased thanks to crowdsourced advice aired on Radio Nam Lolwe. (Photo credit - ohn Vidal John Vidal/The Guardian)

Kenyan farmers’ yields have increased thanks to crowdsourced advice aired on Radio Nam Lolwe. (Photo credit – ohn Vidal John Vidal/The Guardian)

 

Final Thoughts

There is a direct correlation between development in a country and the way the media in that country functions. Media communications is not just about reporting happenings in the society, but also about criticizing how the structures in the industry are working, about giving voice to the voiceless of the society.

The reason we live is to impact. There are so many people in this world who could use a positive change in their lives. The hardships I endured in my school years only gave me more reasons to work harder and ensure that no other kid will have to go through what I did.