The Kenya Red Cross Society is renowned for their social media presence, regularly highlighting social issues of concern to Kenyans. In a country where road crashes kill nearly 3,000 people per year, it comes as no surprise that one of their most popular social media subjects is road safety.
Unsafe conditions affect nearly all Kenyans, Safia Verjee, Road Safety Programme Manager, explains: “Almost everyone you meet these days is a registered social media user, be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. We realized that the way to reach out to young Kenyans, who are often the victims of road crashes, was through social media. It also allows us to provide real-time information on our efforts and initiatives in road safety among many other things”.
The Kenya Red Cross Society has also chosen to use their social media presence to advocate for road safety. In partnership with GRSP and as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded Road Safety in 10 Countries project (RS10), the Kenya Red Cross Society is using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to create a conversation among the public around the need for improved road safety, and to gain the attention of the authorities and pressure them into strengthening legislation and enforcing traffic laws.
Safia Verjee elaborates: “When we started the road safety advocacy component of the RS10 in June 2012, we had about 24,000 followers on Twitter and 5000 ‘likes’ on Facebook. Just two months later we have over 32,000 followers on Twitter and more than 8000 ‘likes’ on Facebook. We noticed that once we started pushing messages on road safety, we started to get more followers and fans as well as more interaction on the messages we were spreading. For example, Facebook users would share our pictures or our posts and Twitter users would reply and/or re-tweet our messages. Our fans and followers began to pledge to road safety and also pleaded with fellow Kenyans to exercise caution on our roads. By using social media we are able to advocate for road safety and showcase the extent of the disaster on our roads. This in turn gave us the opportunity to reach out to Kenyans and help them understand that road safety is every individual’s responsibility”. This conversation has naturally led to calls by the public for the authorities to pay attention to road safety and protect road users.The Kenya Red Cross Society is also using the media in other ways to urge authorities to focus on the poor road safety situation in Kenya. They have gained a commitment from local celebrity and author, Sunny Bindra, who has contributed opinion pieces in one of the local papers (link here). They are also looking to partner with well known media personalities to increase attention on road safety and push for stronger road safety laws and enforcement. Such innovative use of social media towards improving road safety has been highlighted in an article published in The Guardian (link here).