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The 2019 Annual Kenya Editors Guild Convention

The Missing Stories: What implications for Business and Public Interest?

  • What is ‘missing’?

What is missing is absent! As scribes, missing may mean – missing in action, missing files, missing people, missing children, among others when telling the public interest stories. Missing is not new in life. Indeed where things or people are missing means that, that is really the heart of the story and the substance of the message. It means that the ‘missing’ is so important and integral that without it the storyline and the story remains incomplete!

Maya Angelou once stated that,

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”.

  • If it is missing, then it is ‘hidden’?

Hidden means that it is not present! Hidden means that it is out of sight or not readily apparent or unexplained. This could mean that there are hidden people, hidden words or hidden messages, hidden things, hidden places, among other hidden’s. There are indeed many aspects in our lives that still remain unexplained and as people become more knowledgeable and bold the ‘hidden’ becomes added to our daily body of knowledge and visible to our sights and interactions.

If you recall, there was a time when women, persons living with disability, persons living with HIV and AIDS were ‘hidden’ and did not participate in many aspects of life. We never talked about them, we never ‘saw’ them until we made the choice to ‘unhide’ them.

Also recall, the black race and black and brown people were ‘hidden’ leading to the partition of Africa during the Berlin conference in 1884. Africa was known as ‘the dark continent’! Black people or the Moors in Ethiopia or now known as Africa were considered backward, primitive and needed white attention and rescue! For those who have watched the documentaries Hidden Colors Part 1, 2, 3 and 4 or the movie Hidden Figures appreciate the hidden color and hidden woman phenomenon.  Those who were historians also remember phrases like the white man ‘discovered’ the source of the Nile, ‘discovered’ Mt. Kenya, among others!

However, it’s important to note that what is missing is therefore ‘hidden’ and is not necessarily bad or backward. It is just usually different, not understood and excluded from public life, public mediums and public participation.

Remember Jim Morison (1943 to 1971, Songwriter, USA) statement that “Whoever controls the media controls the mind”.

  • Missing - Hidden the adjective or verb

The word ‘Missing’ is a verb, an active word. Therefore the political question is: who is hiding the hidden and why is this information or subject matter missing? Do the hidden hide themselves? No. They are hidden by those who are more visible, with power and control! Anyone who is hidden is therefore disempowered, excluded, and vulnerable and their human rights and fundamental freedoms are usually violated.

It’s for this reason that in 2010 through the Constitution of Kenya we agreed as a Republic not to encourage missing and hidden persons or communities.  Article 27 provides that people are not rendered ‘hidden’ and therefore excluded for the civil, political, social, cultural and economic life with other human beings. Article 27 establishes the principle of non-discrimination because of once sex, social status, race, ethnicity, birth, among others. It further provides in Article 28 that all person’s dignity must be respected and protected at all times.

  • Intersex Story - a missing storyline?

A critical story that continues to miss from media reporting and analysis is the story of intersex persons. An intersex person is a child born with ambiguous genitalia or physic or mixed hormones (testosterone and estrogen), mixed chromosomes (xx and xy) and mixed gonads (ovaries and testis) who cannot be classified as a typical fe/male binary.

Let me give you a few facts about intersex people in the Republic of Kenya: (i) intersex persons are neither fe/male, (ii) intersex people are recorded in the Bible (Mathew 19:12), Koran (42:49-50) and our communities have specific names (Kamba – Malinda, Gikuyu – Kiugu, Maasai – Entapis, Kipsigis – Chelososiot, Ameru – Nturuntu, Somali – Labeeb, etc) for them though derogatory, (iii) intersex persons constitute 0.05% to 1.7% of every population – 47,564,296m = 23,782 to 868,593 intersex persons in the Republic of Kenya, (iv) intersex persons are 84% infertile, (v) intersex persons are documented wrongly (recorded fe/male at birth) or undocumented, (vi) there are more than 46 intersex variations, (vii) most intersex persons are not tested or do understand the nature of their intersex variation, (viii) intersex persons are the least or not educated (usually standard 6) vulnerable group and (ix) most intersex children are recorded female at birth, (x) intersex persons are invisible, hidden and their stories missing.

JRR Tolkien (Author and Scholar, South Africa) said that,

“A story must be told or there’ll be no story, yet it is the untold stories that are most moving”. (Intersex Picture)

  1. The first intersex person to be documented by the media was the RM Case, High Court No. 705 of 2007 where RM an intersex person from Kitui County was charged with robbery with violence and attempted rape. He was trailed and detained in Kamiti Maximum Prison in Nairobi City County. It took a criminal appeal, Constitutional case and probation aftercare to bring out the plight of intersex persons in the Republic of Kenya. This case led to law reform with the enactment of the 2010 Constitution, Persons Deprived of Liberty Act 2014 and the National Police Service, Standing Orders, 2017 in respect to the state responsibility: to protect dignity, the principle of non-discrimination, the right of choice (between a fe/male prison or police officer) during arrest and separate (appropriate) detention of intersex persons. Twelve (12) years later RM or now Richard Muasya was given an opportunity to tell his story in September 2019 KTN News on Kisa cha Watu Kuwa na Jinsia Tata Gerezani: Kifungo Cha Jinsia by Lofty Matambo  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZyuw35cqyI (Intersex Recommendations)
  2. The second intersex case was Baby ‘A’ High Court case No. 266 of 2013 where the mother to Baby A left the hospital with a birth notification that had question marks in the sex marker section. The Registrar of Births refused to register Baby A because there was no sex marker! The court ordered that all children irrespective of their ambiguous sex characteristic must be registered and given a birth certificate, the Attorney General was ordered to ensure that the state took responsibility in knowing the plight, the numbers and distribution of intersex persons in Kenya and advise the state on how to protect intersex persons. This lead to the formation of the Intersex Taskforce on Policy, Legal, Institutional and Administrative Reforms in May 2017, the formation and gazettment of the Intersex Persons Implementation Coordination Committee (IPICC) in April 2019 and the first count of intersex persons in the August 2019 census – 1,524 intersex persons. Unfortunately, to date, Baby A has no legitimate birth certificate – baby A is 8 years old! (
  3. The third story is the census data. This is the first data that counts intersex persons that can be used for national planning and budgeting. It’s clear that in all the forty seven (47) counties there are atleast two (2) intersex persons. The lowest count was in Tana River (population 157,391) County. It’s interesting to note that Lamu (population 67,813) County which is the smallest county had four (4) intersex persons! Nairobi City and Kiambu Counties had the highest count at two hundred and forty five (245) and one hundred and thirty five (135) intersex persons respectively. Here in Mombasa County, thirty (30) intersex persons were counted.

This data is merely indicative of the intersex phenomenon in the Republic of Kenya due to the stigma, exclusion, discrimination and enumerators omissions. There are indeed more intersex persons!

County

Population

KNBS Intersex Count

IPICC Intersex Count: 0.05% to 1.7%

  1. Nairobi City

4,397,073

245

2,199 – 74,750

          2. Kiambu

2,417,735

135

1,208 – 41,102

          3. Kakamega

1,867,579

40

934 – 31,749

          4. Bungoma

1,670,570

35

835 - 28,400

          5. Nakuru

2,162,203

95

1,131 – 38,458

          6. Machakos

1,421,932

34

711 - 24,173

          7. Kilifi

1,453,787

25

726 - 24,715

          8. Kitui

1,136,187

33

568 - 19,315

          9. Kisii

1,266,860

38

633 – 21,536

         10. Mombasa

1,208,860

30

605 - 20,551

         11. Uasin Gishu

1,163,186

28

582 – 19,774

         12. Kisumu

1,155,574

23

578 - 19,645

         13. Homa Bay

1,131,950

23

566 – 19,243

         14. Migori

1,116,436

35

558 - 1,980

         15. Makueni

987,653

20

  1. – 16,790

 

  • Implications of ‘missing’ stories or ‘hidden’ people impact on business and public interest?

The Accenture Strategy 2018 Survey, To Affinity and Beyond: From Me to We: The Rise of the Purpose-led Brand’ states that,

“In an era of radical visibility, technology and media have given individuals the power to stand up for their opinions and beliefs on a grand scale. This power, reflected in everything from the #MeToo movement to the growing intolerance for “fake news,” is infiltrating every aspect of people’s lives, including their purchasing decisions”.

In its findings, 62% of the customers want companies to take a stand on the current and broadly relevant issues like sustainability, transparency or fair employment practices. This means that the closer a company’s purpose is aligned to their own beliefs or to the public interest, the better.  Charles Leadbeater (Author and former advisor to Tony Blair, UK) once said that,

“You are what you share”.

What stories do we share? Do they include these missing stories? How would this impact the media business?

I was looking at a Survey Report on Audience Measurement of February and August 2019 which recognises that there are 64 free TV and 91 FM radio stations. It has rated the top TV and FM radio stations and the best timing. It shows that the youth aged especially between 15 to 24 years engage and listen more with what is being aired in our various stations. This means that we impact a lot on the minds of the leaders of this our Republic of Kenya in respect to their values, culture, political and economic outlook and vision. It is clear that there is something in the stories or the way the stories are told by certain media houses because they inspire and have a high audience.

What if, What if we add more of the missing stories? What would be the impact on the viewers and brand?

  1. Social impact or public interest stories are not bad for business. Public interest stories are the future of business. It’s important to note that media as a business is not only about the bottom line – that is profit. It’s also about the People the once who purchase, read or watch the news! Such stories have a social impact that has the potential to increase sales, attract and retain customers, build a thriving cooperate culture and protect the business brand especially in the age of aggressive digital media where the Lost Media and New Media are in serious competition.
  2. Human stories have serious impact on viewership. If you want to sell the media business, then these missing human stories provide you the cutting edge in every business transaction. People want to read, see and hear news that touch them and change life whether positively or negatively. It motivates the readers or viewers to step into that experience. They will buy, they will follow or sign up so that they don’t miss the next issue, the next experience
  3. These hidden stories, create or enhance the brand of the media house and gives them a cutting edge. Indeed if you analysis viewership or readership, it’s based on the hidden story that has been told by the broadcasting house. People listen to what others are not saying or stating! This clearly establishes the brand of the company, clarifies what its purpose, core values and mission is all about.
  4. If you look at many of the media award categories (Media Council of Kenya or Annual Journalist Excellence (AJEA), Global Shining Light Award categories) and winners, they won because they told the story which was missing or hidden from the minds of the people. They introduced and highlighted a new narrative that also gives the individual scribe a brand and rare profile of envy.
  5. The voice or voices of the missing or hidden people are capture, memorized and historicized. If the missing stories were not written by those who were here before us then we may not have known. Media are part of writing history and are the vanguard to ensuring that history is not distorted and are not forgotten. You ensure that all missing stories are told and recorded through media.
  6. Missing stories or hidden people when captured and documented by the media impact on the peoples public interest, values and actions. Indeed since April 2019 when the Intersex Report was launched, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) accepted to include the sex marker ‘I’ in the census, the media played a significant role in providing media talk time and making investigative features on intersex persons. This generated an environment of confidence for intersex persons and parents with intersex children to speak out to tell their stories, also to begin participating in public processes like the census and for state and public officers like Justice Isaac Lenaola of the Supreme Court, Director General of KNBS among others to speak about on behalf of intersex persons. You truly played a significant role in shaping the public opinion. As the Chairperson of IPICC, I salute you all. Thank you.
  7. Finally, as the Editors, you all have a special responsibility to be visionary, set the corporate tone, plan and drive the vision forward. You will be able to offer your customers more than just a product or a service, you will provide them with an experience that transcends the mandate realities of life. It will further boost your lead.
  8. As the decision makers in the media houses, you have a great opportunity to tell and retell old stories and capture hidden voices and people. For example you can speak about education and intersex, elections and intersex, gender and intersex, health and intersex, employment and intersex, security and intersex, sports and intersex, cancer and intersex, corrective sex and intersex, statistics and intersex, professional intersex, media and intersex, tyranny of numbers and intersex, and the list can go on and on and on.

As I conclude, let’s look deliberately look for the missing stories, missing voices, the hidden people and let’s be their mouth piece. Let the media speak loudly louder! The story of Kenya and intersex, is still untold. Kenya is setting the pace on intersex in respect to enumeration, registration, public awareness in the world. Will you be that media that leads in this dialogue …

Ends://…………

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