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Mental Health Awareness Campaign-Invitation To Poetry Writing Competition

Mental Health Awareness Campaign-Invitation To Poetry Writing Competition





Invitation To Poetry Writing Competition


Mental Health in an Unequal World: Together we can make a difference

The 2021 Mental Health awareness week commenced from 10th October and will end on 16th October. This year, in a deliberate effort to create awareness and sensitize Kenyans on mental health and affirming the theme for World Mental Health Day 2021, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) would like to give an opportunity to young Kenyan residents to engage and creatively bring out the existing inequalities in the mental health space as well as identify the opportunities to reduce these disparities, in line with this year’s global campaign theme: Mental Health in an Unequal World: Together we can make a difference.

Last year, KNCHR jointly with Partners in the mental health sector pinpointed to the inequalities in mental health budgeting resulting in shortage of human and physical resources to cater for treatment of mental illness and community based care. The actors called on the national and county governments to increase funding for health and mental health services.

A year later, access to mental health services still remains a mirage for a majority of Kenyans. This is notwithstanding the stark reality brought forth by the Taskforce on Mental Health report 2020 that at least 25% of outpatients and 40% of inpatients in different health facilities had a mental illness. The Ministry of Health Taskforce described the state of mental ill health in the country as “the ticking time bomb that Kenyans are sitting on” and recommended that mental illness be declared a “national emergency of epidemic proportions” and that mental health be prioritized as a public health and socioeconomic agenda.  

Majority of the people with mental health conditions are unable to access mental health services. The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) estimates that, between 75% to 95% of people with mental health conditions in low- and middle-income countries are unable to access mental health services at all and that access in high income countries is not much better. According to WFMH, the “lack of investment in mental health disproportionate to the overall health budget has contributed to the mental health treatment gap”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only put a spotlight on the existing inequalities in health, economic and social spheres but also exacerbated these gaps and further exerted demand for mental health care needs. The unequal treatment and stigma against persons with mental ill health in our social circles has contributed to unequal outcomes in enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms; including the very basic right to dignity. Thus, the need and urgent call to action for all persons, governments, the private sector, religious groups and communities to work in concert to put in deliberate tangible efforts to close these gaps.

Who can Participate?

Any Kenyan resident of up to the age of 25 years. There are three age categories:

  1. Children of up to 12 years
  2. 13-18 years
  3. 19-25 years


In line with this year’s theme, the winning poems will be original and creative pieces that clearly bring out either of the following:

  1. Face to face encounter with discrimination/unequal treatment: Your own personal story as a person with a mental health condition or as a caregiver or relative to a person with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities - challenges and/or triumphs;
  2. Look within and around you. What do you see as your role and the role of the various persons in your environment: In the family, school or local community in eliminating stigma and promoting inclusion?
  3. Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health: How the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and opportunities to build back better after the COVID-19 crisis;
  4. Promoting mental wellness: What can be done to promote mental well-being;
  5. Call to action for support, inclusion and integration of persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities in all spheres such as; in education, employment, access to justice etc.


Note: While this is NOT per se a literature competition, entries that best bring out the issues highlighted in poetic manner (and not essays) will carry the day.

Language and Length of Poetry

Please use the English language. You can select your own formatting including font style, size, line space – as long as the format chosen is consistent.

The length of your poem should be not more than 500 words.  

Submission Guidelines:

  1. DO NOT write your name on your entry.
  2. Your poem must be original and unpublished. The entry that you submit should be your own work. If you receive assistance from anyone else, please acknowledge this and explain the extent of assistance.
  3. Only one entry per person is accepted.
  4. The poem entries should be submitted to shairi@knchr.org in MS Word (DOC/DOCX).
  5. In the email by which you will submit the essay, please tell us your full name (and ID card number if applicable), county of residence, mobile phone contacts and level of education.
  6. In a sentence or two, also share what motivated your participation in this poem competition. Please note that your personal details shall be kept confidential.
  7. Queries for clarifications about the competition can be submitted to shairi@knchr.org
  8. Note that the copyright of the poem entered will be assigned to the organizer of this essay competition, that is the KNCHR.


Submission Deadline

Entries should be received not later than 16th November 2021 (11.59pm EAT).


Assessment and Competition Prizes

A rigorous marking process and ranking will be conducted by a select panel of assessors within one month after close of the competition.

Attractive gifts packages will be awarded to the top three entries in each of the age clusters. These may include gift vouchers, cash prizes and branded items. The best entries will also be published in the Commission’s website and/or other publication(s).

We shall contact the winners directly through the contacts they provide whilst submitting their poem entries.



The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is a constitutional commission established under Article 59 (1) and Chapter 15 of the Constitution of Kenya and subsequently operationalized through an Act of Parliament, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Act No. 14 of 2011. The Commission is the designated agency for monitoring the rights of persons with disabilities in Kenya in line with article 33(2) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This initiative is supported by Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA)


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