Nendo recently won a grant from USAID, administered by DAI for their Digital Frontiers Project. The project aims at incorporating social media analytics in development. Nendo's project is titled Dada Disinfo (more to come on this in the coming weeks) and focuses on addressing technology-facilitated gender-based violence. Nendo will use its research experience to investigate networks and narratives and its marketing experience to co-create solutions and distribute a playbook aimed at emerging content creators. The goal of Dada Disinfo is to make a difference in raising awareness and providing advice and potential solutions to women and girls on the internet in Kenya.
The timing of this project's inception was particularly significant, coinciding with an alarming frequency of news reports on the discovery of women's bodies under horrific and shocking circumstances across the country. Until that point, my involvement in the project had been minimal. However, the opportunity to deepen my understanding emerged unexpectedly when a friend needed a companion for the #TotalShutdownKE march. Seeing this as a chance to gather firsthand insights for our work project, I agreed, unaware of the implications that my casual decision might hold.
The #TotalShutdownKE march in Kenya on the 27th of January was a historical event for Kenyan women and our society. It kicked off with excitement and anticipation at Jeevanji Gardens amidst an atmosphere of chaos and order - the crowd swelling with numbers gathered to voice their anger at the recent surge in femicide cases. Participants, around 10,000 strong, donned shirts bearing the names of victims, symbolizing the cause that united them. The presence of public figures, like Bien-Aime Baraza from Sauti Sol and many others, underscored their widespread support and lent even more credibility to the movement. Nairobi Women's Representative in Parliament - Esther Pasaris tried to join in to show her solidarity, but was promptly expelled because many felt her appearance was a strategic Public Relations stunt.
As the march commenced, the air was filled with the sounds of whistles, vuvuzelas, and chants of "Stop killing women! Stop killing us!" which later evolved into calls for societal change: "Teach your son! and Shame on you!" This vocal and vibrant procession captivated onlookers and disrupted the usual bustle of the city, making its way from Jeevanji Gardens, past Nation House, down Uhuru Highway and eventually to Parliament Road. Since it was a Saturday the intended audience of parliamentarians was not there. But a chance encounter with a departing parliamentarian who was heard victim-blaming women, saying that they should take better care of themselves was booed away by the crowd - the anger reigniting the energy of the protestors.
Despite the logistical challenges, such as the lack of amplification for speeches, which hindered communication, the marchers' resolve remained undeterred. The procession showcased the power of grassroots mobilisation and the pivotal role of social media in amplifying their message. #EndFemicide, #EndFemicideKE and #TotalShutdownKE started trending online and had now reached a crescendo on the streets of Nairobi, making both local and international headlines.
This unprecedented demonstration was not just a momentary expression of outrage but a landmark event that underscored the urgency of addressing femicide in Kenya. The significant online engagement, with thousands of posts and retweets, demonstrated the widespread concern and demand for change. The three hashtags saw about 7,337 original posts and 141,618 retweets, with the total number of tweets reaching 75,000. Unsurprisingly, 56% of the people who used the hashtags were women, highlighting the gendered nature of this social issue. However men's involvement indicated a broader societal recognition of the problem.
In the aftermath, lessons have been learnt for similar events in the future, and the march has set the stage for continued dialogue with policymakers, politicians, and the wider community, underscoring the need for concrete actions to combat femicide. The #TotalShutdownKE march, through its sheer size, diversity of participants, and impactful use of social media, has not only made headlines but also sent a clear message: the time for change is now, and the world is watching. This event exemplifies how digital activism and on-the-ground movements can create a formidable force for social change, in pushing for policy reform and greater accountability as the fight against gender-based violence continues.
Eysha Ismaily - Copywriter at Nendo