“It is my hope that I will one day be part of a critical mass of women who use advocacy to alleviate the suffering of women and children, who in my region are vulnerable and marginalised. I believe the pen is mightier than the sword.”
So speaks Samkeliso Ndlovu, a citizen journalist from Zimbabwe who regularly blogs on HIV and other health issues affecting her community. Along with many other bloggers from the global South, Samkeliso posts to www.keycorrespondents.org, the site I edit. A large number of KCs are people living with or affected by HIV and each labours away to bring voices of the voiceless online.
Today, as bloggers of the world celebrate the Power of We, I would like to pay tribute to the work of the Key Correspondents, who have opened many eyes, including mine, to the realities people face as they struggle to claim basic health rights.
When I asked Lucy Maroncha, a KC from Kenya, why she posts to the website she said she does it “to unearth hidden or forgotten issues on health, human rights and children.” A few weeks ago, her post on Akinyi, a 16-year-old homeless girl from Nairobi, did exactly that.
When laws are repressive and resources scare it is even harder for those in the minority to stay healthy. For this reason, many KCs speak out on repressive laws such as the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda, which looks to further criminalise same sex relations, and will document the abuse people at the margins of society such as sex workers face at the hand of authorities.
In Cambodia for instance, Chheav Aphyra works hard to give voice to those who remain hidden and silent. Last month, he posted an interview with Mom Thaihong, a transwomen from Siem Reap who told Chheav about her life; how she came to be on the streets and how she has lived with HIV for seven years.
In some instances KCs write to put others in their shoes, driven by the conviction that change can only come about through understanding. John Kimani blogs on the extreme police brutality experienced by young people who use drugs in Kenya. “Being a KC has given me a voice as a poor person – someone who used to use drugs to tell the world what is happening in the villages,” he says. “I want to tell the community and the police that a person who uses drugs, especially an injecting drug user, need support and not harassment.”
Josiah Dimbo, a KC from Zimbabwe, says he is a KC “to make a difference in a small way.”
Join me today in celebrating this sentiment – and the bloggers everywhere who speak out to add their voice to the collective call for change.
by Hester Phillips, editor of www.keycorrespondents.org, an independent network supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.