Babies coming early

Liz: Hi all this is Chris and Liz again from the FoRel project

Young girls fishing on the Swahili coast, December 2017

A project which aims to explore perceptions of climate change on the Kenyan and Mozambican coast from the perspective of communities experiencing it firsthand. We specifically look at climate change as connected to the multiple other challenges that occur along these tropical coastlines which can affect social-ecological wellbeing and natural resource management. The project uses a framework based on relationality, which puts relations rather than objects or things at the centre and sees human and environmental networks of relations as inseparable and under constant change. Community forum theatre, focus groups and interviews were used as methods over the past two years with fishers, seafood traders, shop owners, food vendors and other types of people living on the East African coast in low-income settings. 

I’m Liz, a researcher supporting and learning in this project at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. And this is Mr Chris Cheupe, our main man in Kenya leading and developing this project. This is our third story in the storytelling series Tales of Change from Kwale Coast.  And it’s also the last narrative that came out of the fieldwork in Kenya that was centred around social issues. It is very much linked to the first two stories Them youths got no discipline and Digital Times. The many stories about early pregnancy that research participants wanted to discuss were embedded in the ideas of modernity or the digital times that we are now in and with the lack of discipline with the youth. So the three stories very much come together under a broader narrative about societal change universally experienced. Our next stories in this series will jump into the ecological narratives that were built up with participants’ stories in the field. Over to Chris! 

Hi, my name is Christian from Wildlife Conservation Society, Kenya and the FoRel project. Together with Liz we are going to tell you a story. The story is based on the findings of FoRel work done Msambweni (Kwale County, Kenya). It is a true reflection of the community and its social problems. The title of this story is “Babies Coming Early”. 

Babies coming early!

“Her dreams will be dead”

The main characters are the young girls of Msambweni, the secondary characters are the boys who impregnate them.

Background: Women are giving birth earlier now, early pregnancy is a trend and it’s not a good thing. It emerged in the 80s when boys and girls started to sit together in class, we sat three people at a desk, until the curtain of shyness was removed, there was now no respect for each other. Family planning is now available, injections and condoms were not available to Grandparents generations, they were waiting for their time, but now with family planning, Girls in class 6 will be educated about it. They think now they have access to contraception, which is the fault of the government, they think they can be free. Without school because of Covid, 80-90% of girls are behaving badly. Currently the village is full of pregnant girls, when schools reopen they are parents too! Due to corona they have no place to go or job to do. Mobile phones allow girls to interact with boyfriends on whatsapp or facebook, they can also see dirty things, phones contribute. Also the homestead, if a girl has no job or her personal needs are not taken care of, she will look for a boy to support her. Parents don’t push their children to school or madrasa. 

The conflict: This family planning education is affecting the girl’s discipline. She can now play the game without getting pregnant. The Government, with family planning is promoting sex. The government is handing out condoms- are you promoting sex or what? Because the girl uses family planning then she plays the game and there comes a time, after knowing someone then you stop using it, then there is the problem. In the past they were waiting for the right time, now they don’t even complete school. Children nowadays are not serious with education. People are married younger, you will find a child has a child. Now there is freedom, there is no religion denying men to sit with women. We poor have had our children with us during corona, the children are affected two times over, they don’t go to school, they don’t stay indoors, they come to the beach and do things that they were not doing. The rich study online. Girls can lie today about where they go and can be found at the beach with a man and in three to four days pregnant. If they find a boy to support them with some money, the boy wont give freely, he will demand sex and if you accept you will get pregnant. Most men nowadays want working women who can look after them, those men with money want girls or women to destroy or misuse for their own interest. They, the girls, cannot move ahead, they get early pregnancies and become Mama Karangas. Early pregnancies help you to work and do fish trading, that’s why we are selling fish. Unfortunately it’s the girl who will bear the responsibility and her life will be destroyed. 


Resolutions: Schools need to be opened. Family planning must be removed, it makes people feel the urge. When a girl is found pregnant only the man is arrested, they should both be arrested and put in jail for ten years, that would be better. Phones are not good for pupils. If your child is missing at home you need to reason where they are at all times. If the child gets a chance they use it. The madrassa will help us. Parents, let’s be strong in taking care of our children. All things we leave to god, we can only talk and warn our girls. Let them see that getting pregnant from a young boy will not help her. Rules from the village chief must be implemented, whoever is caught in the act should have action taken against them. All night celebrations need to be stopped also. We can use the BMUs (beach management units that manage the fisheries locally in Kenya) to stop our children, if we cooperate, all beaches, we can stop them coming. They need jobs and school.

(Note: This narrative comes directly from the voices of those in Msambweni and was arranged into this structure by us to present an accessible tale of the changes coastal communities experience today, how they view and understand them plus what solutions they see.)

Listen to the episode here:

Digital times

“It’s Digital- your time is over old man”

Chris & Liz attempt to record 🙂

Hi all this is Chris and Liz again from the FoRel Action Research Project based at the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Stockholm University Sweden and collaborating with Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo Mozambqiue and World Conservation Society in Mombasa Kenya. I’m Liz sitting at the Resilience Centre. 

FoRel stands for Forum theatre and Relational, two of the approaches the project is taking. The project will carry out forum theatre, a type of participatory theatre created to get the audience involved and empower them. The project is relational, a perspective which emphasizes that relations are more important than units, that everything unfolds or comes about from relations and experiences, never static. 

And I’m Chris at WCS in Mombasa Kenya. This FoRel project is about understanding and exploring people’s daily practises and relationships in the changing tropical coastlines of the western indian ocean. One of the major changes that coastal groups face is obviously climate change, so the project takes a special interest in the impacts and challenges it presents.

So today we will be telling you a short story from the story series “Tales of Change from Kwale Coast”, which we introduced in the last podcast- you can find that on spotify or on the website forumrelational.org. Just to highlight that the short stories in this series have emerged from the fieldwork data in Coastal Kenya- so interviews and discussions with different types of actors in 2019, like traderwomen, tradermen, retailers, fishers, food sellers, petty vendors. We have tended to not change the words or phrasing too much from the transcripts but just arranged them into a story structure. So each story has a main character(s), a background of the cause/the cause of the conflictual issue, a conflict itself, resolutions and obstacles (if any). 

We pulled apart these stories to try and organize complexity a little bit, but obviously they are all intertwined, not only with each other but with the perceptions of climate and environmental change, the rich expressions of sentiments and motivations with daily practises and relationships and also the temporal aspect which runs throughout the data- the practises of the past, the experiences of change and the hopes for future practises. The story today excludes the problems associated with climate and environmental change because this is how they were presented in the data to us. We will present them in other short stories.

Here we go with the story…….

Digital Times

“It’s Digital- your time is over old man”. This little story acts as a red thread in our fieldwork results, or as people see a driver of the changes and resulting conflicts they are seeing. It is also a hope or a goal to move towards in terms of practise e.g. fishing and farming. A lot of hopes and expectations for the future are based on becoming materially modern

There is a word that has so many answers, the word is digital. When the youth don’t respect the traditions, like helping the old man with his luggage, they say it’s digital, with such a word it’s over. Digital, let me do what I want. Even if I wear underwear or a bikini and walk around half naken, just leave me alone, it’s digital! Your time is over old man, you are out of fashion. This word has a lot of power

The digital world has given out big opportunities to the children of today. Currently we are in a digital period, things are easier, we have solar energy, we have touch screen phones. But the word digital is posing big challenges. Pupils can insult their teachers with no actions taken. Some parents may not even be called father, but by nicknames. When the government brings certain rules, that a parent should not cane, the government contributes to the bad behaviour, the lack of discipline today. These are digital things they say! It brings screens to all of them, they can access porn in this way. European things. Phones help girls to go and meet their boyfriends, they interact on whats app, facebook. Watching dirty clips and photos, then they go and do the practise. These are the digital generation, so with early pregnancy there are chances of the boy denying it. 

We need modern farming methods. In the past they were using traditional pesticides, but currently they cant use them because they are educated, but we cant afford modern pesticides, that’s the problem, we are in a digital world. We are learned. In the past our grandparents were the poorest but they could get higher harvest, but we, digital, dot com, and all intelligence we have, we get low harvest. What is wrong, what is happening? Modern children do not want to be engaged in farming. We do it alone, we the parents. They see the benefits of farming, at the end of the day they see cassava due to our effort, but they do not want to farm. We are in the digital era mother, that what they claim, farming is a past activity.

This is the digital era so the traditional ways of fishing are not getting fish. Our gears have retarded our development. In Lamu they have sea gear that beat the strong winds and goes deep sea for large fish, they can fish all year round. Our guys can’t take us more than 50km, even after a whole day. Our grandparents used these gears and they got fish, but not today, these are digital. The skills that we learned are analog not digital, this is dot com and we are still using traditional methods, we are lagging behind. We are still using canoes without engines, they are not safe and have low catch. 

From Kenyatta (the first President of Kenya) to Moi (the Second) to Kibaki (the Third), Kibaki said Tuendelee (Swahili for Lets go!), and we are moving on like that. Things are digital!

Introducing “Tales of Change from Kwale Coast”

Hi there this is Liz Drury O’Neill here with Chris Cheupe, together we are part of the FoRel project that’s based in Kenya, Sweden and Mozambique. 

We can introduce ourselves first before we introduce the project- Chris you want to go first 

Thank you very much, Liz. My name is Christopher Cheupe I am affiliated to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) Kenya, working on this project called for FoRel. And we are going to tell you stories, very beautiful stories from the work that we have been doing in Msambweni, welcome!

And I’m Liz, a postdoc at the Stockholm Resilience Centre which is the administering organization for this project. I work on FoRel supporting the project in whatever way is needed and also on another project based in Zanzibar looking at marine protected areas.

Chris & Liz meet to record this intro, from Stockholm & Mombassa #NovicePodcasters

This FoRel project is about understanding and exploring people’s daily practises and relationships in the changing tropical coastlines of the western indian ocean. One of the major changes that coastal groups face is obviously climate change, so the project takes a special interest in the impacts and challenges it presents. An important part of FoRel is using forum theatre, so this is a type of participatory theatre created to get the audience involved and empower them. This project wants to use such theatre in Kenya and Mozambique in the hope it can boost people’s abilities to act together in dealing with the different changes the climate and their social systems present to them.

So that would be the main focus of forel, but there is a lot of work needed to get to the theatre performances themselves, which take place in and are even performed by and with the coastal communities of Kenya and Mozambique. So over the last 2 years Forel has been carrying out interviews and group discussions with actors of different types, like fish traders, food vendors, tourist operators, fishers, community leaders, retailers etc. in different villages in Kwale County in Kenya and Inhaca Island in Mozambique. With the information from these methods the scripts of the theatre have been designed and we have been able to get to know more about their lives- specifically what changes people have experienced, their hopes and expectations for the future, how they go about their daily practices. 

Chris has been leading this work for the two years, would you like to give a sense of how its been and any reflections? 

Yeah, thank you very much. As Liz has talked, I’ve been leading this project in Kenya, in fact, I’ve been the main guy, and i’ve been working closely with the community, during data collection, I’ve worked on the on the data, transcribing it. And I’ve been involved in coding. So I have some reflection based on the work, from data connection, till the analysis. Now, when you look at doing data collection, we had a very interactive platform with respondents or the participants, whereby they were very willing and ready to contribute to the project through sharing out their views or perception with regard to the matters, the subject. So we had a very, very interactive time. Participants were willing to share information. The guides (leaders) of the community were also cooperating, because it was a project that the community themselves liked and they were ready to work, to work with us so that we could have a common goal. The community were happy when we introduced to them about the forum theater. And since they love acting, and throughout, they have been willing to listen to information, which have been coming from the performance, it can be, for example, a short movie or a theater performance. So they really liked that. And they asked us to, to involve them when the scripts are ready, so that they themselves can do the performance and have a chance to, to share out their problems in a better way. Because, themselves they’re the ones who have been experiencing the problem. So they will be, they’ll have a chance to share it to the bigger world. So, after the community gave us their information, we went ahead and transcribed, we did some coding and everything which was coming out was really really the touch of the community. And thereafter, we managed to develop some scripts based on the stories that have been saved by the community. And from those stories now, they are the ones that are we are going to share them with you. And I hope you are going to enjoy listening to them. Because they are the stories from the ground. The story from the people themselves. They have not been diluted in one way or another. So hope you will be enjoy.  Thank you

Thanks Chris, so as Chris was saying, The stories of this storytelling series we are introducing you to today are based on the interviews and discussions done with about 70, mainly Digo participants in Kwale County Kenya.

Chris do you want to introduce shortly the Digo to us

Okay, Digo, one of the Mijikenda subgroup communities in Kenya, Mijikenda is a Swahili word, which means nine tribes, nine homesteads and it consists of nine sub-tribes that include the Giriama community, the Kauma, the Chonyi, the Jibana, the Kambe, the Ribe, the Rabai, the Duruma and Digo. There are seven tribes, sub tribes, they are found in Kilifi County, while the two other sub tribes, that is Diigo and Duruma, are found in Kwale County. Now, the Digo community, the majority of them profess to the Islamic faith, they are Muslim. And in terms of the place they reside, especially the Msambweni area, they are dominant there. Most of the Digo, they are bilingual. They speak Swahili, and they also speak the local language called the Chidigo.

Thanks Chris. Great, So just to give some more information on these stories that we will tell, they were put together based on the transcripts from the focus groups and the interviews, which were translated from Kiswahili to English by Chris, to be qualitatively coded and analysed. So I try to use his direct translations of people’s words and not break apart sentences or text blocks, but put the stories together from them. So I basically have been combining different participants words on the same or similar topic to create a story. I also have created context or named the characters as they talk or interact in the situation I put them in. Making sure everything is anonymous and not traceable to the real people, that Chris worked with. 

But just to give my motivation for these stories, as Chris already mentioned his,- well I thought it would a cool thing to do as in this way we can hear directly from people’s experiences of climate, environmental and coastal changes in East Africa in a more engaging way than scientific articles or interviews. Also by highlighting a different group of characters or character in each story we can bring more of a diverse understanding of the impacts of different social and ecological changes to light, beyond that of fishermen or farmermen. I also feel these stories based on the interviews and discussions prioritise the voices of those that are and will be the most impacted by climate change. Also I’m just super bored of zoom and powerpoint. So I thought this would be more fun, to create stories from the very rich data Chris has created for us. Chris any final words’? 

Yeah, this is a great initiative. And it’s a new style or a technique, whereby we are going to present our data in a simpler way rather than a complex and difficult way. We are aiming at reaching the last person that could get this information in right way, in an inappropriate way so that they can absorb it and utilize the information for their self development. As you can see, this perspective, we are going to tell you the stories the way they are. And we believe that the people who are not much well informed, they will have an avenue or a space whereby they could get this information so that they can utilize them. So for this approach, I believe we are going to reach a wider and bigger audience and we believe that they are going to listen and to enjoy, the stories that we are going to tell them. Thank you Liz

Thank so much for listening, we’ll see you next time with some of the stories, from all of us here at FoRel- Kwaheri!