Poetry to help save lives during COVID-19

4 May 2020
ITC News

Creativity and leadership: Young Gambians are using traditional forms of communications to help everyone stay safe.

Let’s not assume
That we are not going to be infected
Let’s prepare as though
We will be affected
Call 1025
And you can save lives.

Through their poem, Jainaba and Awa are making an effort to change the way youth look at the threats from COVID-19 as they embrace the realities in The Gambia.

They are among the 83 applicants who have submitted their entries in the poetry challenge initiated by the European Union funded Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) in collaboration with the Poetry Café & Writers Association of The Gambia.

In The Gambia, as elsewhere, awareness raising and information sharing often remains a challenge. Myths and false information about prevention and treatment of COVID-19 tend to spread through social media rather quickly. With just around half of the population being literate, communication campaigns also struggle to reach the entire nation.

Deeply rooted in the country’s culture, traditional or folk forms of communication still provide powerful channels to entertain, educate and propagate ideas. Inviting public to use these art forms, YEP is raising awareness on COVID-19 prevention through the poetry challenge.

Gambian musicians, poets, writers, associations and promotional companies have partnered with YEP to debunk myths and raise awareness about available support measures in a language that is universal and that transcends all boundaries.

The shortlisted poems and videos are shared on social media channels for the public to like and share. The ones that resonate the most with followers are also promoted on radio and television across the country. A second challenge around music videos is being organized in collaboration with BrandPlus and Black Lynx.

This initiative not only aims to prevent the spread of the virus but also to provide a platform for artists to showcase their talents. The creative industries are a fledgling sector with great potential for growth and creating jobs and income for young Gambians. The sector has been hit very hard with the collapse of the tourism industry and restrictions to public life and entertainment as a result of the state of emergency.