What you need to know:
- Worldreader, a US-based organisation funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, funded the project.
- Books written by the five winners are available in the Anasoma library, accessible on a free mobile app.
- The aim of the two-year venture was to sponsor the authorship of books that reflect the needs and interests of Kenyan women.
It was pomp and colour at the Anasoma Awards ceremony as writers were feted for their top notch skills.
They cast aside their writing gear for a piquant meal at the Southern Sun Mayfair Hotel in Nairobi after which they were presented with an award of $1,000 each and a publishing contract.
The five winners include Monica Olive Owoko, author of God’s Women; Kenneth Kaigua, author of Ghetto Flower; June Mwikali, author of Squatter Village; Erick Livumbazi, author of Making the Team and Christine Odeph, author of Where Mountains Meet.
Their books are now included in the Anasoma library that intends to include more girls and women in the digital revolution through access to books on mobile phones. Anasoma is a Kiswahili word that means she reads.
The jury selected the five winners based on their creativity, artistic impression and in-depth knowledge of women's issues following months of rigorous assessment.
Nation.co.ke's Faith Oneya, academicians Mshai Mwangoa and Tom Odhiambo as well as award winning authors Elizabeth Maiyani and Tony Mochama were among the judges led by Clara Momanyi, a gender expert.
FUNDED BY BILL GATES
Two non-profits: Worldreader and Amka, organised the contest whose theme was “Women Empowerment”. The aim of the two-year venture was to sponsor the authorship of books that reflect the needs and interests of Kenyan women.
The pilot project also intends to increase women’s access to online libraries, cultivate a reading culture and ultimately make them more assertive in the writing arena. Winners will have their books published by Worldalive Limited.
Worldreader, a US-based organisation funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, targets over 500,000 children in 50 countries with its mobile app where they can download free books.
In Kenya, the firm works with 127 schools and 81 libraries, bringing together an estimated 90,000 readers nationally. According to their website, they have provided 9,027 devices to readers for access to 1.8 million books and they also partner with Amazon to provide kindles to selected schools in Africa.
DERIVED FROM KISWAHILI
“We are focused on driving the reading agenda by giving access to thematically curated content to our readers. We also hope to see budding writers evolve in their writing experience to become published authors,” says Joan Mwachi, Worldreaders Director for East Africa.
Amka was founded in Kenya 20 years ago and provides a platform for women and girls to express themselves creatively. The name is derived from the Kiswahili word ‘arise’.
“The only proof that a woman is empowered is how it translates into action,” says Lydia Gaitirira, Amka Executive Director.
Chiming in on the gender dilemma conversation, Laimani Bidali of Alabastron Network Trust said it is possible to give strengthen a woman without making a man feel left out: “An empowered woman is not a threat.”