Soma runs interrelated projects that stimulate independent and lifelong learning and authoring of ideas with creativity and boldness; attributes which are not sufficiently developed within our mainstream education and nurture; Andika na Soma, falls within Soma’s capacity development in literacy and creative expression ‘cluster’ of strategic interventions. Within this ‘cluster’ Soma works with communities and other change agents to advocate for the creation of favourable policies and social environment (at home, neighbourhoods and schools) that provide access to empowering knowledge and information; while stimulating girls/women and boys/men of all ages and abilities to seek, produce and share relevant, interesting and useful knowledge and information and develop their capacities to interrogate conventional wisdom, beliefs and practices that inhibit their realisation of their full potential.
Our strategies employ storytelling and related creative forms of expressions. Storytelling as a universal human activity is a necessary and powerful means for people to share their experiences, transmit their cultures and shape society. Sharing personal and community narratives through familiar and accessible media formats in combination with interpersonal activities…has been shown to be effective in stimulating individual and social change (Morris, 2005 p130). The social roles of stories and the power dynamics within the process, including the creators, the producers, the form, the content, and the medium used to transmit the story are all important factors in determining personal and social change (Plummer 1997). Creative writing which is the core methodology for this cluster of activities, aim to enable participants probe the deeper subconscious levels of individual and collective psyche; which is where ideological stereotypes are fixated and from where shifts take place.
Since its inception, Soma has implemented a number of knowledge generation and dissemination related initiatives. These include but not limited to: organising a children’s reading tents with Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) and Baraza La Maendeleo ya Vitabu Tanzania (BAMVITA) during Gender Festival and Book Week Festival respectively; running three days creative writing skills workshops during the 2005, 2009 and 2011 Gender Festivals; a Poetry Concert in Celebration of 500 Hundred Years of ‘Ushairi wa Kiswahili’ and Spoken Word workshop with Kwani Trust—Kenya and Goethe Institute (2009); Regular Spoken Word Poetry slams and Stand up Comedy shows at Soma Book Cafe (2009—2013); Children Reading and Literary Expression activities at Soma Book Cafe (2009—20011) and in one slum dwelling of Dar es salaam (2012/13); Design and Running the Short Story Competition for Secondary Schools with a built in creative writing workshop for 10 best contestants (designed since 2010 and first round actualised in 2012).
Collaborative activities on the drawing board include: Maneno Express an interactive poetry project using poetry and creative writing as a platform for dialogue which aims to train emerging poets to lead creative expression workshops with youth in Dar es Salaam in the year leading up to the 2015 Tanzanian elections (with Twaweza and a consortium of other change agents); a Children Book Festival which will include creative writing and illustrating with children facilitated by world renowned children book writers and illustrators (in collaboration with Afrikultur Sweden and other children literacy and book development initiatives and individuals in Tanzania and East Africa); and a Women’s Writing Process (to be facilitated in collaboration with TGNP).