We love to do the hard things in Thellesi: part of our mission in this world is to use our communications skills to influence change by engaging the public. Engagement in time of content overload (or more accurately content drowning) is a much needed skill. We have found a way to do it.
Every month, we come up with campaign briefs for our creative team to develop and run. For this month, we picked up the topic of Inequality. We asked our creatives to design a campaign that highlights 3 inequalities namely; inequality in education, access to quality healthcare and menstrual hygiene management.
How did we arrive at these three? We scanned around and found that COVID-19 has affected these three issues most adversely and the conversations around them were not encouraging.
Whereas some children have been able to continue with school normally despite the school closures, many others have not. There are those who have had unlimited access to the internet and those who have not. There are girls who have been able to stack up boxes of sanitary pads for their use, yet there are others who have to improvise. Some people have to travel many kilometers to access basic healthcare, yet for others it’s a ten-minutes drive. We saw how huge the divide is when a few people could afford quality private healthcare in private hospitals (equipped ICU beds and ventilators) while many Kenyans were ‘imprisoned’ in high school dorms that had been hastily converted into quarantine facilities.
We gave this brief to our creatives to try and unmask the concept of inequality in new ways that would connect with the hearts of wananchi and galvanize the minds of policy makers. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.
Normally, the creative team takes two or three days to get us the concept note. In this case, they took an unusually long time. Two weeks down the line, no concept note. Three weeks, nothing. Eventually when they sent it, we could not connect with it. They went back to the drawing board. It is normal to not like the first concept note, but the second one usually blows our minds.
This time, it didn’t. Three more concept notes were presented to us, and none of them sufficed. This had never been. It was abnormal. They have never seen nor experienced a concept note being rejected FOUR times! Frustration and anxiety checked in.
At this point, they begin to wonder where they are going wrong. They push further and finally we get one that we can run with. We develop the copy and designs and we begin the campaign.
When it goes live, we realize that we are not getting the engagement we had imagined. Immediately we begin to analyze what’s going on. We then established that the team was not feeling the campaign. They openly confessed that they were doing it only to tick a box. Their level of honesty was really inspiring. So we agreed to put a halt to the campaign until such a time when we would organise ourselves and come up with a campaign that we can feel.
One of our directors organized sessions for our creative team to meet with teams from Oxfam and Fight Inequality Alliance, leading nonprofits in the inequality space. These two organisations understand the topic deeply and were happy to share their knowledge with us.
The meeting was to take two hours, but it took five! Five hours of intense conversations on the many aspects of inequality. Some of the most important points that I got from the meeting include:-
- Inequality is as old as life. We are born into it. This is one of the major reasons why we don’t see it. We found it here, and it became normal; part of life. It’s the way it is. We don’t know better.
- I never understood why we need to criminalize the rich. They have worked hard. They have spent sleepless nights, they have earned it. But I learnt one thing: we must learn to question power and capital. Where did this capital come from? At what/whose expense? Rich people buy influence. With influence, things go their way. But how did they get there?
- Inequality or equality is very very deep. It’s layered and it manifests itself in different ways. From income, to water, to gender, to housing, to education to healthcare. It’s everywhere.
We learnt that there are basics that we have to achieve at a minimum to give everyone a chance to thrive. We learnt that inequality activists are not asking for the rich to give up their wealth, or for everyone to be rich. They are asking for everyone to have a common base that affords them dignity and gives them a chance to be as legitimately wealthy as they can be.
Give people access to quality healthcare. Give people food. Give people quality education. Empower people to live in homes that are basically comfortable and allow them dignity.
Even if their salary is not good and these things have been fully catered for, then the people will be able to be more productive with the little money they get. They can be able to see different opportunities that surround them. The situation now is that with the little paymost people get, they are burdened with the issue of healthcare, food and education – it kills their ability to compete, to create, to innovate, to even see opportunities around them. A person who makes KES 500 a day has to focus almost entirely on food and the most basic survival. They have no time to think, no time to consider new opportunities.
As we kept brainstorming, I saw the need for the public to reawaken their imagination so that they can begin to imagine what it could be like: a world where we all have basic access to food, education and healthcare. It’s a hard task to try and paint this picture because we all have never experienced it.
One thing remained with me till now: Question Capital. “A child who is from a poor background can work 20 hours each and every day but s/he will never get to the level of a child of a rich person who works for two hours a day, why?” Asked one of our non-profit ‘teachers’.
“Because of Capital. The rich family has Capital. But we have to question this capital and the power it brings because the way it was found matters a lot, and it’s the genesis of this inequality.”
One of the facilitators also drew a graph of the rich versus the poor and I was shocked to see the trajectory of the graph. The graphical image is still alive in my head. I always thought it was a diagonal, slow rise. Only to discover it’s very close to a 90 degrees angled graph.
The biggest question that I am yet to crack is how to communicate this issue to the public. How to make them begin to care. To make them aware that inequality is not supposed to be normal. There is a lot to be done. The assignment continues….. how do we communicate the invisible or rather what people don’t see?
I was challenged to begin scouting for inequality as I move around. Trust me, I am seeing it daily, everywhere. But your eyes must be open so that you begin to see.