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Empowering Local Journalists Strengthens the Media

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NAIROBI, Kenya - Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama is a 35-year-old mother and journalist. The idea for her popular website, Mummytales.com, was conceived back in 2011, just before she was to give birth to her first child Kitty, now two years old.

"I intend to chronicle the ups-and-downs in this blog. Share my random thoughts and experiences during the remainder of my pregnancy, as I look forward to the responsibilities of motherhood into the world of diapers, bibs, oohhs and aahhs," Wanyama wrote in 2011. "Here, I will carry on capturing my thoughts, fears, feelings, opinions, experiences and milestones."

Wanyama created an online resource for Kenyan mothers to connect and share stories. Due to combining both passions: motherhood and journalism, she was offered a chance to attend a digital media workshop by Internews, an international media development organization, and accepted.

"Mummy Tales is an interactive forum between this mom and fellow Kenyan moms, as well as moms from around the world who share their experiences about their kids," Wanyama wrote on her Facebook page, which has 1,830 followers. The website receives 10,000 hits a month.

Local Voices, Global Change

Internews educates local journalists, around the world, how to inform the public with integrity and independence. In Kenya, Internews puts a strong emphasis on digital media reporting on health issues such as maternal and child health, malaria, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health. This training added to Wanyama's media skill set.

"I feel empowered now to do multimedia stories. I have traditionally been a print journalist, but I know I can combine elements of audio, video and graphics with text to create a good story," she said.

James Ratemo, Internews' digital media trainer, sees these trainings as a capacity building exercise, strengthening the media. More than 1,286 Kenyan journalists have been trained by Internews in its office located in central Nairobi.

"It's improving the media sector in Kenya. Now we have a corps of skilled journalists who share information amongst us and each other. These are journalists the public can depend on," Ratemo said.

Last year, Wanyama had her second child, Ello, now one-year-old. This coincided with her website being nominated for a "Best Topical Blog" award by the Bloggers Association of Kenya. She's been nominated again this year. Wanyama maintains a relationship with her trainer, Ratemo, and others, at Internews.

"I visit the media resource center often. I also borrow equipment to enable me work on my stories [camera, microphone, studio time]. I am also in touch with trainers who help me on my stories," she added.

Youth Radio, Health Network

Nohline Akinyi, 27, is a communications consultant living in Nairobi. She attended a digital media workshop back in 2012. She's one of the founders of Early Life Radio, an online radio program that was produced and hosted by East African youth. It dealt with many issues faced by kids, so the training helped Akinyi in her radio script writing ability.

"We got to do practical field assignments and at the end of it I managed to produce my first online health story," Akinyi said.

The relationship between Internews and its trainees extends beyond the boardroom and into the field. It acts as a support network for local journalists. When looking for information or experts in a certain field, trainees can contact Internews and receive the name and phone number of someone who can help with their research into a particular subject.

Even Akinyi, who no longer works as a journalist, can continue to use its services as Internews alumni. She still receives mentorship from Ratemo and contributes to an online health resource called K-HUG, the Kenya Health User Generator.

"I can say the skills I garnered at Internews are incredible and it has hugely benefited me, even now as a communications consultant," Akinyi said.