Earlier this semester, first year MDIA PhD student Aggrey Otieno was featured on the cover of the IFP (International Fellowships Program) Alumni Tracking Report, presented by the IIE (Institute for International Education). Otieno spoke with MDIA Web about his relation to the IFP and his innovative international work.
Tell me about your relation to the IFP, and the IIE overall.
“Between 2001 and 2013, the International Fellowships Program (IFP) supported graduate-level education for more than 4,300 individuals from 22 countries in the developing world. This fellowship was geared toward emerging leaders and social innovators, IFP was based on an inclusive higher education model that prioritized social commitment over traditional selection criteria. The fellowship was managed by Institute for International education (IIE) through the financial support from Ford Foundation. I happened to be one of the 154 Kenyans who benefitted from the fellowship. Through the fellowship, I was able to study for an MA in Communications and Development from Ohio University class of 2009-2011.
The selection criteria was very competitive, and I think they selected me because of the kind of innovative social change projects that I had initiated at that time which ranged from a community radio – 99.9 Koch FM and Korogocho Mirror newspapers, which had a circulation of 10,000 copies per month. Through the community media initiative, I was able to raise awareness about public funds that were managed by politicians, empowered the community on how to do social audits that enhanced social accountability from the politicians, and hence we managed to recover millions of Kenya shillings that were embezzled by politicians at that time.”
The Korogocho Mirror newspaper may be viewed here and here.
Can you tell me more about the IIE cover image and what it means to you? How did it come about that this image was chosen for the cover?
“Since the IFP program has ended, IIE decided to conduct a 10-year longitudinal research study to assess the potential impacts of the IFP fellowship. I happened to be one of their most successful beneficiary based on the projects that I have been able to initiate in Kenya since I graduated from Ohio University in 2011. For example, as a student at Ohio University, I fundraised for a TB project that was implemented in the third largest slum in Kenya, Korogocho. Through the project, I was able to put into practice the knowledge and skills that I had learned from my MA program. I managed to design a project that led to the identification of about 600 TB patients whom we supported to go for TB tests, and organized them into social support groups as a mechanism of monitoring their daily drug intake. I used several strategies to conduct awareness raising campaign that involved the use of community radio, sports tournaments and door to door home visits by 10 community health workers that I had employed. I also organized medical camps where medical students and doctors were able to offer free treatment to the Korogocho dwellers. Another project focused on maternal and child health. Through this I developed that first ever telemedicine project that linked pregnant women who were at risk of facing pregnancy related complications with doctors who were able to provide medical advice, and also organized for transportation to the partnering health facilities to those women who had emergencies. As a result I was able to save lives. This project enabled me to win the Rolex award in 2012, becoming the first person from East Africa to get the award. I also ended up winning the African child hero award in 2013, and the Excellence in Global Leadership award in 2015. It’s because of the impact that I have created to the marginalized communities in Kenya that IIE decided to document some of my achievements and also used my photo in their cover page.”
What research are you currently pursuing as a MDIA PhD student?
“My research interests concentrate on user engagement focusing on social media use for child protection, political, and health communication vis a vis the risks faced by high exposure to social media by children.”
Kenya holds a public holiday each year to celebrate its national heroes. This year, Otieno was named together with other prominent Kenyans such as Lupita Nyongo (Oscar award winner), Wangari Maathai (Nobel peace prize winner), amongst others as Kenya’s Global Achievers.
More about Otieno’s work may be found here on his Youtube channel.
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