People Speaking Back? Media, Empowerment and Democracy in East Africa (MEDIeA)


Start date: 31 December, 2008 End date: 28 February, 2015 Project type: Larger strategic projects (prior to 2013) Project code: 89-08-RUC Countries: Kenya Tanzania Thematic areas: State building, governance and civil society, Lead institution: Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark Partner institutions: University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Tanzania University of Nairobi (UoN), Kenya Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Policy Brief: Policy Brief Project coordinator: Thomas Tufte Total grant: 5,544,977 DKK Project files:

Project summary

MEDIeA’s analytical challenge is to understand the ways and means in which youth as ordinary citizens engage with civil society driven media and communication platforms and what socio-cultural and political outcomes this may have. The core inquiry of MEDIeA grows from a concern about how young people in Kenya and Tanzania, young women in particular, are secured a role in both the local, national and regional development processes they belong to and, ideally, should be centrally placed within. What opportunities are there for ordinary citizens to voice their opinions and engage both in policy development as well as in the process of critique and holding their governments accountable? The overall objective of MEDIeA is to explore the role civil society driven media and communication technologies and platforms potentially can have in enhancing participatory governance processes in East Africa, particularly in Kenya and Tanzania. MEDIeA is case-study based, with 6 participating research projects. The projects examine a number of development initiatives involving youth in Tanzania and Kenya. Of MEDIeA’s 6 sub-projects three are empirically grounded in Kenya and three in Tanzania. In addition to the overall objective being the red thread throughout all sub-projects, six intermediate objectives will guide the research: 1) What is the current situation of youth, particularly marginalized female youth, vis-à-vis the development challenge of the country, and how does government, media and civil society act in response to the youth situation?, 2) How do youth experience, make use of and engage with civil society driven media and communication platforms (be they analogue or digital)? 3) What do these media and communication platforms do/produce, and how socially inclusive are the production processes? 4) What mechanisms are developed to hold governments accountable and transparent? (what advocacy strategies do the involved civil society organisations have, if any), 5) How do the civil society organisations ensure their own legitimacy and accountability to the groups of citizens the advocate on behalf of? and, 6) How is the legitimacy and accountability of the selected NGOs/CSOs experienced at community level?


Completion Report - Summary:

The research outcomes have been gathered in the above mentioned outputs of books, articles, chapters and the two PhD dissertations, in addition to many presentations at international conferences.

Empirically, the two PhD dissertations have been the most comprehensive, having had time to carry out media ethnographic studies amongst marginalized women in low-income neighbourhoods in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. These studies have uncovered the ’communication ecology’ of young women and revealed how they navigate in everyday life, using media and communication both in negotiating their own identities and social relations, developing business ideas, engaging to some degree in public deliberation, and in pursing public services. These studies have both been amongst the very first of their kind in their countries, producing important knowledge of how the current ’media revolution’ is impacting upon everyday life.

The edited volume is a very useful joint publication with contributions of 5 of the 6
participating researchers, complemented by a series of African and Nordic colleagues all dealing with issues of youth, voice and citizen engagement in Eastern and Southern Africa. Like the PhDs, this work has uncovered dynamics mainly of everyday uses and forms of deliberation as unfoldning in media consumption amongst target audiences in these regions.

The studies by Mitullah and Rweyemamu have through household surveys complemented Githaiga and Reuben’s qualitative inquires, ensuring a broader outlook upon the general media consumptions patterns and how they related to public health services and processes of citizen engagement.

Finally, Wildermuth and Tufte’s studies have emphasized the activities of the civil society and their media and communication platforms, Tufte conducting ethnography in one specific NGO, and Wildermuth providing a broader insight into the emerging mediascape shaped by social media, and typologizing forms of engagement in that context.

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