Two years after having been involved in a car crash herself, Mijide Kemoli, living in Nairobi, Kenya, started designing a complete board game aimed at educating audiences about road safety in an entertaining way. Youth Time highlights her inspiring story and brings to you an influential young activist who did not surrender in the face of unfortunate circumstances.
Mijide Kemoli took action against the leading killer of young people aged 15-29 years’ old – road carnage – and against the cause of the deaths of about 1000 young people each day worldwide – crashes.
Kemoli studied illustration design for both her undergraduate and master’s degrees and is currently combining her university studies with road safety to make training more interactive and engaging. Her story adds a brick to the immense and encouraging wall of young people working on developing projects and ideas that benefit everybody.
In this interview with Youth Time, she elaborates on her work as a young Kenyan illustrator, her inspiration, how the board game was initiated back in 2018, and to what extent it is impacting the awareness of audiences, especially amongst youth from rural parts of Kenya. A part of this interview that is worth emphasizing is her opinion regarding the concept of board games being perceived mostly as a white male-dominated field, and how she managed to break multiple barriers – race, gender, age, and ethnicity.
A Game of Adventure, Revenge and Survival
“What will you do?” is the descriptive question on the cover of the board game that is designed to take players on a journey through Nairobi city and the challenges and obstacles that one would likely face on a day out on the road.
“It seeks to put players in the position of a specific road user and allows them to have an experience of what those road users have to deal with. My hope is that it will successfully teach audiences about the positive character traits that we can either adopt or improve on including patience, respect, and empathy, just to name a few.”
In addition, this activity takes us down the road towards challenging stereotypes.
“I also felt the need to explore this concept, because the board game arena is a mostly white male-dominated field, so it felt refreshing to break the barrier of race, gender, age, and ethnicity and develop something amazing in the process.”
Gameplay runs from anywhere from half an hour to an hour.
A Young Activist Making the Best out of an Unfortunate Event
Kemoli elaborates on how, after a personal experience, she started her current work on creative approaches to road safety in Kenya.
“The road crash that my parents, my two friends, and I were involved in back in 2016 was, naturally, a very traumatic experience. Even though we all emerged with minimal injuries, what one hears, sees, and feels in that moment stays with you long after the incident has passed.”
For quite a while, she tried to avoid speaking up about a cause that she knew she cared deeply about.
“Because I didn’t feel others would care enough anyway, especially youth like me. People have become so comfortable with living life in a risky way through speeding, drunk driving, and distracted driving, just to name a few. I would think to myself, “Who would want to listen to what I have to say?”
However, after the crash, she felt pushed to step away from that fear and approach the issue differently.
“So, I devised a method of educating people on road culture and safety in a fun and interactive way…thus the board game that I created. Over the years, I have learned ways to tap into my creative skillset and merge that with social consciousness and education.”
She further admits that it is not always easy standing up for a cause.
“Especially if it does not appeal to popular public interest.” she adds.
Nonetheless, to her it is incredibly fulfilling to serve her community.
“I love being able to interact with people from all walks of life and identify the commonalities between ourselves and the encounters that we have had in our lives. You never know how similar we all actually are until you actually sit down and have a conversation with someone and hear their story!”
Game Images with Unique Patterns of African Culture
On the subject of how she has been able to combine the two activities, Kemoli states the following:
“I began volunteering for the Pamoja Road Safety Initiative (PRSI), a Kenyan road safety NGO, back when I was in my second year of university. During that time, I was learning about both road safety and design simultaneously, and after 5 years of taking in as much knowledge as I could, I was able to find links between the two.”
Working for the Pamoja Road Safety Initiative (PRSI) as Creative Methods Leader, she proposes creative strategies that road safety education can incorporate in spite of the pandemic.
Since the year 2014, in addition to her work, she has been working with a non-profit that delivers socially conscious creative arts programs to children and youth in rural and marginalized communities in Kenya.
“I have been a firsthand witness to the impact that these programs have had on the participants, their confidence and their drive to stand out and confidently go after the goals that they have set for themselves and their community.”
“Combining creative approaches such as artwork creation and crafts-making with road safety education makes training and learning memorable and allows you to have something tangible that you can keep to remind you of what you learned that day.”
Aside from this, she continues to work on and improve her board game so that it can touch on various road user challenges yet still remain entertaining whilst celebrating Kenya’s unique culture both on and off the road.
“Employing my skills as an illustrator, I have been able to create images for the game that are captivating and vibrant with patterns and prints that pay homage to African culture and its unique beauty.”
Kemoli goes on by expressing how appealing it is to work on such an important mission for the life of people, and youth.
“It’s exciting because I get to use my creative tools that I love to make a difference, hopefully, in the lives of people in Kenya and beyond. I am a young person myself, and when I think of the issue of road carnage, the scariest fact about it is that it does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, how rich or poor you are, your religion or any other term used to identify you.”
“About 1.35 million people die each year worldwide and another 20-50 million end up with long-term injuries with many of them remaining paralyzed for life. This is not acceptable! Especially since 95% of crashes occur due to human-related errors.”
To her, these victims are more than just a random statistic.
“Behind the number was a person who was loved and valued, so we should play our part on the road to preserve as many lives as we can through the way that we choose to conduct ourselves.”
Every Effort, no Matter How Big or Small, Counts
Since the time when she was only 15, there was a spark there, she says, and she is thankful to have recognized it early on.
“It does not matter how old you are to have a cause that you are passionate about. There are incredible people both very young and very old who have made a lasting difference in our world, so there is no set age to develop a passion for a cause that you wish to contribute towards eradicating.”
“When you feel that fire burning inside you, just start. Speak out! It doesn’t matter how small you start.”
She calls on young people not to be afraid to approach those who you believe are “untouchable” to let them know what your thoughts are about how we can make our situation and our world better.
“I have approached politicians at restaurants and talked to them about the road carnage crisis. At first, they think I am pretty weird, but you never know what difference you may have made in their view of the issue just by stepping out of your comfort zone and making your voice heard.”
Every effort, every action, no matter how big or small, counts. Remember that.
Having received overwhelmingly positive reviews on her initiative, Kemoli is in the process of improving it further and will be launching a website for it soon. Youth Time will keep you updated on this success story.
Photos: From the photo archive of Mijide Kemoli
Check out another inspiring story of youth activism in Kenya. Click the link below to see how Kiko Muuo has turned his passion for education into an EdTech social enterprise!
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