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A voice for the 27 million in Kenya who are rarely heard

The young adults behind have launched a radio show, comic book, and online community that give hope to Kenya's youth, who desperately want to be heard and understood.

By Correspondent / April 6, 2011

A young Kenyan actor recording's radio program at the firm's studio in Nairobi, Kenya.

Brendan Bannon


Karen, Nairobi, Kenya

This post is part of the Daily Dispatch project chronicling life in Nairobi, Kenya throughout the month of April.

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The collection of hipsters, artists, and passionate young designers that is the team at has broken many taboos and launched itself into the consciousness of an entire generation of previously ignored Kenyan young people in its short life.

The group is behind the immensely popular comic book, a linked radio show broadcast daily on 22 FM stations nationwide, and a booming online community on Facebook, Twitter, text message, and a website.

Together, all these media are used to one end: to boost the confidence, pride, and outlook of the 27 million people – 73 percent of Kenya’s population – who are under the age of 30.

Aid agencies, governments, and international donors trying to reach them with messages on ways to avoid trouble, to turn education into income, and to know their rights have arguably met with limited success.

“There have been for years a series of missed links in the chain trying to bring these conversations powerfully to these people,” says Rob Burnet, director of Well Told Story, the company behind

“There was a big fat hole there that someone needed to fill.”

Since it launched late in 2009, Shujaaz – it roughly translates as "heroes" in Kenya’s Kiswahili language – has rapidly expanded to plug that gap. It is a third funded by corporate sponsorship and two-thirds by donors, including Research Into Use and Twaweza.

Its monthly comic is the largest print run of any publication in the country, with 600,000 copies sent free each month with The Daily Nation newspaper. Studies show each copy is read by upwards of 10 young people.

Astonishingly, this means that close to one in three young Kenyans sees the monthly updates on the struggles and successes of its main characters.

There’s Boyie, a school-leaver, geeky but cool. His secret alter ego is DJ B, who runs a pirate radio show from his shack-studio just outside Nairobi.

There’s Maria Kim, a fighter for justice in her city slum; Charlie Pele, a farmer’s son from rural Kenya who’s mad about soccer; and Malkia, a rebellious teenager living on the country’s coast.

Between one comic’s publication and the next, fans follow the gang on a Facebook page which now has almost 6,000 followers. Tweets and text messages to a dedicated short-code keep the engagement going.


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