During a routine hang-out session of five friends in 2015 at Moi University, a discussion started about issues that the ordinary university student goes through. Abusive relationships, sexual violence and unplanned pregnancies featured in the banter.
Soon, the casual talk turned into a serious discussion. The group sought to understand why these ills occur in a university setting where people are presumably more informed. The students also felt that few of their peers were inclined to open up about their personal problems.
“In our view, students and other young people needed the freedom and a platform where they could discuss pressing issues with ‘zero chills’, openly and freely. We decided to start an online TV station where the youth could freely talk about intimate matters such as relationships, desires and fears,” says Eddy Ashioya, one of the founders and team leader of Zero Chills TV.
He notes that incidents of violence among couples in college are kept under wraps in an attempt to protect reputations, leaving the recipients of the violence to suffer in silence as perpetrators go unpunished.
“A college relationship could go from rosy to tragic, culminating in murder or suicide. We hold forums where victims of assault converge to share their experiences. We also get experts such as psychologists to help them manage trauma,” he explains.
This is not all, police officers are sometimes brought on board to record statements from the victims. The team also engages lawyers on behalf of those who might need to seek legal action against their assaulters.
TRIGGERS OF DEPRESSION
Ken Ovita, a member of Zero Chills TV, says that many young people suffer from depression, but regrets that negligible efforts are being made to counteract the situation. There are many triggers of depression.
“The youth are unable to keep up with the pressure of joblessness, academic work and the need to succeed in life. When you fail after working so hard, despair sets in. Giving them an opportunity to speak out about these disappointments helps to relieve them and to ease the pressure they’re going through,” says Ken, who believes that if not tackled speedily, depression could potentially tip over this generation’s future.
Zero Chills encourages openness among its target audience while preaching non-violence, peace and tolerance through various social media channels. The team is also involved in charity work.
To realise its vision of a more proactive and self-aware youth demographic, the platform has been working mostly with volunteers. Support from Moi University, various youth groups and partners has also kept the initiative going. So far, sale of merchandise remains the cornerstone of the organisation’s funding.
“The bulk of our projects are self-funded. Our financial reach is, however, limited because most of us just started working while the rest have no jobs yet. We hope to secure more partnerships this year to help us initiate more projects for a bigger impact in the society,” says Eddy.
Thanks to coordination and the dedication of its members, all their operations continue to run smoothly as their founders now focus on their careers having graduated from university last year.
Political representation is not the ultimate solution to youth challenges in Kenya, the duo says. To this effect, they feel, young people must create avenues for addressing their own concerns.
“We have gained very little from the increased number of young leaders in parliament and in other political arenas. We must stop pegging our hope on politics if we are to make any progress as youth,” Eddy argues.
“Even as we push for stronger representation in decision-making organs, we must also start to pursue other ways of making our voices heard. Starting social enterprises that address matters that young people can relate to is the surest bet for us.”
Through its activities, Zero Chills TV has been recognised by a number institutions, including the government. The organisation was voted one of the most impactful volunteer-involving organisations in 2017. In 2018, they won the Ultimate Varsity Award for the best online TV.
During the United Nations International Youth Day in 2017, the cause received a facilitation of Sh100,000 from the UN body for promoting peace in the build-up to the general elections. Nicey Owino, a founding member, is a recent graduate of Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
This enterprise is hoping to diversify its scope of operations and to attain nationwide coverage.
“As the youth in this country, we owe it to ourselves to support each other in all ways. We must share our ideas, utilise our networks and start confronting issues affecting us. To realise the transformation that we seek, we must start working now,” Ken says.