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A rising voice for the slums of Kampala

Published on: 15/04/2019

Kenneth Kavulu, winner of the 2018 Ton Schouten Award for WASH Storytelling used his prize earnings to create an NGO dedicated to transforming lives in slum areas. 

Kenneth Kavulu

Tell us briefly about yourself and what inspired you to become a WASH storyteller? 

My name is Kenneth Kavulu and I am a 28 year old journalist. I grew up in the slums of Kampala. Here, I watched people suffering and dying from disease everyday, oftentimes due to poor access to sanitation and hygiene services. My background in the slums led me to start reporting on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to throw light on the challenges of slum dwellers and draw government attention to their plight. I truly believe in the power of communication, so I wanted to become a voice for the slums. 

I now present a weekly TV programme on Buganda Broadcasting Services (BBS). The programme EMBEERA Y'OMUGOTTEKO (loosely translated as Life in the Slums), is a platform where we deal with questions about a broad range of challenges in slums, including WASH. In most cases these areas are affected by poverty, diseases, domestic violence, high criminal rates, lack of proper livelihood strategies, poor drainage and sanitation systems and more. 

Kenneth Kavulu reporting from the slums of Kampala

What was your first reaction when you found out that you had won the award?

I was very surprised. I didn't know that viewers found my work interesting. Unbeknownst to me, IRC was following my features. I was humbled!

I would like to thank IRC for the great opportunity they gave me, a local journalist covering WASH challenges in slums. I'm glad my efforts have been recognised through this international award, the first one ever in my life. 

Have you worked with IRC Uganda in the past year? 

Yes, I worked with the IRC Communication and Knowledge Management Adviser, Lydia Mirembe to produce a documentary on the pollution of the River Mpanga in Western Uganda, and another documentary on the implementation of the WASH systems approach in Kabarole district.

In what ways did the Ton Schouten Award change your career as a WASH journalist?

The Ton Schouten Award gave me more courage to continue covering WASH issues in slum areas. It also helped me establish Slum Life Survival (SLS) a community-based organisation through which I would like to keep the Ton Schouten legacy alive. Through SLS I intend to go beyond creating awareness and focus on finding solutions for WASH issues. SLS works together with other organisations and institutions to make slums habitable and free of WASH problems. So far we are focusing on women, widows, and children in slums, educating them about WASH. Through SLS, I have been able to partner with other organisations like WaterAid and Kampala Capital Authority. I am still looking for more partners to support SLS to create more awareness about WASH in Uganda. 

Kenneth Kavulu with Slum Life Survival shirt

Could you share some of the WASH stories you have since covered or produced?

I have worked on stories about the River Mpanga in Western Uganda, and recorded many new videos in the slums in Kampala about a cholera outbreak, about the lack of sanitation facilities, about menstrual hygiene management and the situation of pregnant mothers in slums, about WASH on the islands of Uganda and about access to WASH for people with disabilities. 

What are your future plans for WASH storytelling?

I would like to do more advocacy, work in partnership with my fellow journalists, and other media platforms to sensitise slum communities about WASH. I also plan to engage more partners to come on board and support SLS projects. I will continue to highlight WASH issues in these areas and also document changes and successes in the communities.

Kenneth Kavulu reporting from the slums of Kampala 2

How do you think we could improve WASH storytelling in Uganda and beyond?

We need to showcase more of the success stories in the areas that have WASH problems. We should encourage people to tell the positive stories of their communities. WASH problems and slums correlate with poverty, as well as attitude. Solving WASH issues requires solving poverty and the attitude of people. It is important to tell stories that show how these three are interconnected.

I am very much looking forward to working with IRC in the future. I appreciate the support rendered to me as a Ton Schouten Award Winner 2018-2019 and I promise to keep his legacy alive through carrying on more awareness and advocacy about WASH. For God and my Country.

Would you be interested in partnering with or supporting Kenneth Kavulu's organisation, Slum Life Survival?  Have a look at their website and click here to get in touch with Kenneth. 

About the Ton Schouten Award 

Ton was not only a leading figure in the WASH sector, a champion of sustainability and supportive of government approaches to development, he was also a creative and passionate film maker and mentor to those he worked with and managed. Above all he believed in the power of communication to create change in the world. Since 2017, IRC has been organising the award, in memory of Ton and with the aim to find and support exceptional young communicators in WASH. Now in its third year, the award will be handed out once again on the 2nd of June, Ton's birthday.