Youth attitudes to contraception in Kenya (Well Told Story)

Since 2014 Africa’s Voices has been working with Emmy-award winning Well Told Story.

We’ve been analysing the thousands of messages they receive – mostly in Swahili and Sheng – sent by fans of their multi-media platform, Shujaaz.

Shujaaz engages young Kenyans on a range of issues that matter to them, through relatable characters, such as DJ Boyie (image above), in free monthly comics, radio shows, and social media platforms. Fans participate in dynamic online conversations, sparked and curated by Well Told Story and often led by the audience themselves. Messages are sent via digital channels (SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook) in their thousands  – creating a rich but messy and difficult to analyse dataset.

To inform the delivery of Shujaaz and measure its impact on the mindsets of young Kenyans, Well Told Story required lucid insights into youth conversations and how they change over time. Evidence of Shujaaz’s impact was crucial for Well Told Story’s donors, which include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department of International Development.

What we did

Our collaborative partnership with Well Told Story aimed to make sense of the vast audience data through tools that include sentiment analysis, lexicon creation, and audience segmentation. Key topics of audience conversations included reproductive health, religious intolerance, and entrepreneurship (hustling).

By having dedicated Africa’s Voices researchers working alongside the Well Told Story team in Nairobi, we’ve helped to build their capacity around designing research, discovering data insights, and data visualisation.

Insights & impact

  • Use of Sheng (a popular slang, peer-group vocabulary) and formal (adult-world vocabulary) when discussing contraception and related issues changed over time, with changes linked to when comics were released.
  • Males and females use Sheng differently when talking about contraception.
  • Conversations in Sheng sustain themselves and grow, while conversations in adult-world language do not.

By tracking the discussion, we found that conversations in Sheng (slang) were more vibrant and deeper than the formal-language conversations about, for example, pills and family planning.

From our collaboration, Well Told Story gained insights that supported a shift in their communications strategy. More slang terms were incorporated into their comics and social media, which resonated with their audience. This, in turn, boosted engagement in the slang conversation from October 2014  – as the bubble graph illustrates.

Working with Africa’s Voices has opened a new world of insight and potential, hiding in data we already had but couldn’t interpret. To be able to decipher the collective meaning within our audience correspondence is like listening at the keyhole of a giant conversation. The new clarity this has given us, deepened and enhanced by the skilled professional support of the Africa’s Voices team, has helped us refine our purpose and our methods, and given us a powerful new account of the impact of our work.

Rob Burnet
CEO, Well Told Story