Soma Book Café Reading Initiative

United Republic of Tanzania
Readership for Learning and Development (Soma)
This measure was reported by civil society.
Describe the main features of the measure/initiative: 
Soma use multimedia storytelling as an approach with a focus on literature. Soma’s programme contributes to SDG Goals # 4, 5 and 9; and UNESCO 2005 Convention Goals # 3, 4 & to some extent # 2. Its approach is intergenerational but investing in young people; and because of skewed gender equality quotient, our politics are feminist. Multimedia storytelling (literature, orature, mix media—digital, visual, audio, TV, Video) is chosen as a‘language’ for innovation, inclusive education and lifelong learning; dialogue, contestation and consensus on rights, equality and empowerment of women, girls and other marginalised people, promoting Kiswahili language and culture, excavating, producing, disseminating and preserving knowledge new narratives as well as espousing cultural diversity and inclusivity in thought, talk and action. Soma programme falls underthree interlinked outcome areas: Skills, Space and Enterprise integral to our Soma Book Café a literary hub and space for leisure, culture and learning. It has a bookshop, café and event spaces, hosting events and forums for young women and men age 18 to 45 Soma’s key program activities are: 1. Public forums, platforms and events on books and literature (Space & Enterprise); 2. Watoto na Vitabu, after/out of school multimedia storytelling program with children age 6 to 13 (Space & Skills); 3. Andika na Soma short story competition for secondary schools with teenagers age 13 to 18 (Space & Skills); 4. Multimedia feminist storytelling, documentation and archiving platformwith a coalition of women rights organisations; and5. UlizaWahenga Dada(Ask the ancestors sistah)! An art as preservation project seeking to excavate women’s stories along the Swahili coast(Space and Skills). In a nutshell: Public Forums, Platforms and Events: a)WAKAPoetry Consortium and Taswira book club meeting monthly; b) Book Bazaar—quarterly; c)Andika na Soma prize giving ceremony; Book Valentine, book launches, book exhibitions, book launches, book talks and public discourse and storytelling events—annual and on demand; d) online platforms; d)collaborative creative writing training workshops in poetry(USAID poetry for peace, Badilisha poetry, co-creation with SAWT, Irish Embassy and Badilisha), fiction, creative nonfiction, creative translation and digital storytelling (Commonwealth Writers,... Watoto na Vitabu: a) a regular reading and storytelling forums hosted at Soma Book Café on Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm featuring:i) reading alone, read alouds, retelling, enacting and talking about stories;ii) creative writing using prompts, experience, scenes and gadgets; iii) games and storytelling experimentation with rhymes, drums, clapping, stamping, role modelling, performances and dance;iv) Introduction to book care, book selection and book story ‘where stories and books come from’; v) Organizing—negotiating common space and—negotiating rules and rights, organizing and preparing inputs for wall display, showcasing and performances on open day events; b)Vijiwe vya Usomaji (aspiring to turn jobless corners into reading and literary spaces for children and through them communities)asa)above plus: i) Managing a common use book box/tin trunk library; ii) Self-organizing and negotiation for community support and patronage; c)Multimedia storytelling hub—a multimedia library and recording studio producing digital, print, and audio books for and with children—initial productsin ‘kalamu ndogo’ (little scribes) series arebooks researched and authored by children in pre-press stage— to be publishedas print, digital and audio books under creative commons framework. Andika na Soma: a)theme selection, announcing, entry indexing and judging; b) Creative writing training for top ten authors; c) Cash and book prizes for winners andrunners up (female and male pairs); d) book prize for overall winner’sschool; e)Graduation and awarding ceremony—end annual cycle; f) online alumni mentoring; g) anthology of revised top ten authors’ works in print and digital. Multimedia Herstories: a) mapping creative storytelling capacity and use of avant-garde media within the feminist movement coalition in Tanzania; b) test case research on legislating for women to propose protocol for documenting and recognising women’s contribution to gender equality and women’s empowerment; c) feminist online TV to debunk patriarchal myths in everyday parlance; d)multimedia research based storytelling on feminist movement building experiences at grassroots; e) online feminist archive; f) steering dialogue on the role of literature and art in feminist communication and movement building. UlizaWahenga Dada (Ask the Ancestors Sistah)!:a) artists call, assessment, selection; b) identification of sites and local female interlocutors; c) orient and facilitate artists excursions to costal historical sites to excavate women’s histories; d)art resident training and mentorship; e) curation of an exhibition; f) public dialogue during the exhibition; g) online archiving.
What are the results achieved so far through the implementation of the measure/initiative?: 
Been running Soma Book Café as a literary space curating and co-creating an average of 35 regular convenings per year for young people age 18 to 45 within its space and satellite spaces attracting at least 20 people per session; one to two convenings per year for young people age 1 to 18 attracting 50 young people; and 6 convenings per year attracting at least 15 children per session. In the last three years it has successful organised: 5 poetry workshops for a combined population of 75 people. Been distributing books through the bookshop, exhibitions, events& book talks with between 50 and 200 visitors. Organised a children’s book festival attracting 300 people of which 100 were children;adults and children’s writing workshops; a children’s book parade; a book exhibition featuring children books published in Tanzania and best produced books across Africa; a children book of the year award; and a children author’s contest whereby a female class two child (8 years) emerged the winner. Been organising weeklyWatoto na Vitabu storytelling sessions with children at Soma Book Café attracting an average of 50 children from 2009 to 2013 and an average of 20 children from 2018 to date where each child has been reading an average of 2 books per day--in 2019 55 children were enrolled, read 138 books and wrote and produced own41 stories—also in this project 15 storytellers were trained and interacted with the children as program facilitators. Facilitated establishment of one Kijiwe cha Usomaji in one slum area with 50 child members; and used that experience to support three community resource centres design their reading and storytelling facilities. Organised Andika na Soma short story context that has thus reached out to 500 schools throughout the country, offered creative writing training 39 students authors,published 25of their stories in 2 anthologies students published in anthologies, and 3 students who ended up competing in international competitions and 1 has had their bookpublished. Participated in an AU/ADEA High Leve Policy Meetings (*2) to deliberate on and develop a policy framework for national readership and book development. Leading a capacity developmentinitiative with 25 women rights organisationson effective approaches for excavating, preserving and disseminating women’s herstories using creative media accessibleto mainstream audiences after four pilot feminist research and creative writing training workshops.
Goal(s) of UNESCO's 2005 Convention
Cultural Domain(s)
Transversal Priority(ies)