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Fatuma’s Digital Diary: Daily life for girls in the slums of Kenya

Digital Diarist Fatuma Roba with UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, USA, 24 October 2007 – Fatuma Roba, 20, lives in Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Deeply concerned about the rights of girls and women, she is a founding member of the Binti Pamoja group – a girls’ centre in her community.

During the last year she has been moderating her own discussion group at the centre, where she and other girls can talk about their concerns openly, safely and freely.

Over the past few months Fatuma has also started recording interviews for the Digital Diaries project of Voices of Youth (UNICEF’s online community for young people) and UNICEF Radio. She received radio equipment and training at UNICEF headquarters in March, while she was in New York as a Kenyan delegate to the 51st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Fatuma's objective

In the first instalment of her Digital Diary, Fatuma asks girls aged 13 through 21 in her community – mostly members of her girls’ centre – how they feel about their lives in Kibera. Along with her recordings, she has sent her own written description of her objectives for this Digital Diary:

© UNICEF/2007/Markisz
Fatuma speaking on a panel at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

“I’m interested in how young people feel about living in Kibera and what they fear most about being a young girl here,” Fatuma writes. “Most of the responses demonstrate that they feel good because [the cost of living] in Kibera is cheap and one can afford to live here even if they are jobless.

“Some argued that life is scary because of increasing insecurity and the dirty environment and the increased joblessness of youth. There are also incidents of rape, which most of the girls mentioned as a fear. This has been an issue because there are no rules and the laws must be amended by the government to punish those guilty of such acts.”

Access to unique viewpoints

Fatuma’s diary is an eye-opening cross-section of opinions and reflections by young women in Kibera, one of the largest slum districts in the world. Her intimate interviews allow listeners access to a point of view that they don’t often hear.

The girls who tell their stories have the unique experience of being in a group where they can express themselves and learn things like homework skills, self-defence methods and strategies for achieving their dreams. These are girls with hopes for the future and a sense that they can get what they need, despite their difficult beginnings in an impoverished and dangerous community.

“I am very proud living in Kibera,” says one young woman named Maureen, her voice forceful and full of energy. “I know that no one but me can make my life better. It’s up to me to create the change I want in my life and in the lives of others.”



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UNICEF Radio and Voices of Youth Digital Diarist Fatuma Roba from Kenya reports her first digital diary, asking girls in her community what they believe are the biggest issues they face.

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