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Qazini Celebrates Writers Whose Ideas Are Seeking to Drive Positive Change in Kenya

An Evening of Fun, Unveiling of Winners, Cocktails and Mocktails, and Powerful Speeches at the Qazini Writers Competition 2021 Awards Ceremony

If there’s an evening we’d love to run back to, it’s that of Thursday, the 25th of November 2021. An evening of regal dress-up, countless smiles and laughter, casual chit chat, poetry, networking, and cocktails and mocktails with camera clicks and shutter releases in the background. The evening saw the Qazini 2021 Writers Competition Awards Ceremony go down at The Chat Room in Kilimani.

Qazini is an award-winning online media platform that is on a mission to drive systemic change in our societies through content that transforms the way we perceive our capabilities. In September 2021, the company rolled out what will be an annual writers competition dubbed So You Think You Can Write? On their website, the company explains, “The competition challenges writers to ferry us into their imagination, where we hope to be exposed to the endless possibilities within our collective reach, as human beings.”

This year’s competition challenged writers of Kenyan identity to explain, in no more than 1000 words, what they would do if they had the power and the mandate to effect change in their motherland. The window of submission remained open for a month, attracting about one hundred essays each packing an idea/solution for the myriad of challenges that Kenya faces.

Spoken word artist, Mufasa and Qazini Writer, Mourine Odongo

Qazini’s editorial team, complemented by a panel of external reviewers, read through all submissions and came up with a shortlist of the top 10. The top 10 essays, with the permission of the writers, have since been published on Qazini.com under the “Writing Competition” category. They were then passed on to a panel of eminent judges comprising the former Chief Justice of Kenya, Dr. Willy Mutunga, editor, Christine Koech, communications expert, Janet Onyango, political activist, Nerima Wako- Ojiwa, and award-winning entrepreneur Peter Pages Bwire.

By 7 p.m. on Thursday, invitees started walking into The Chat Room, a ritzy open space by the poolside, usually a co-working space and restaurant. On this night, the setup was deliberate for a soirée that was the awarding ceremony for the top ten writers; the finalists who came anticipating a win later in the night when the top three would be unveiled. Torso-length tables with white tablecloths settling over them, an open bar to welcome the guests, delicious bitings, and a DJ piping in some music, because, what’s an evening party without music?

Invitees included media personalities, authors, bloggers, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, corporates, activists among others.

Chichi Seii, a renowned Kenyan performing artist, was the Master of Ceremony. She led the invitees through a session of fun-filled games. The event officially started with world-class spoken word poet Mufasa setting the stage on fire with a goose-bump-evoking performance that left guests calling out for more.

Performing Artist, Chichi Seii (centre) flanked by invited guests

Speaking on behalf of Gift Pesa, one of the sponsors of the event, Mike thanked Qazini for the efforts and strategic steps made to be a media platform that drives change in society. He congratulated the top ten writers, before proceeding to demonstrate how easy and efficient the Gift Pesa automated system is. With a few taps on his laptop, all the top ten writers received digital gift vouchers on their mobile phones.

Gabriel Dinda, the founder and CEO of Writers Guild Kenya, started his speech with a song. Yes, the guy can sing! He spoke of the importance of changing the reading and writing space in Africa, citing that this is the mandate of Writers Guild Kenya. He promised a future where books will be read in homes, both leisurely and in search of knowledge, and African writers will make newspaper headlines.

Founder, Writers Guild Kenya, Gabriel Dinda

On behalf of the panel of judges that winnowed out to the top three winners, Janet Onyango took to the stage, breaking down the criteria they used and key things they observed. The judges focused on the problems writers raised in their essays and whether they were clearly outlined, the creativity, innovativeness, and effectiveness of the solutions provided, and the mastery of language and delivery of the essay. Onyango praised the top ten writers for solutions that were both local and global, and the vast richness of the ideas the writers captured for our motherland.

Communications specialist, Janet Onyango

Damaris Agweyu, the founder and CEO of Qazini and a recent winner of the prestigious Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme gave a speech, recalling her motivation for founding Qazini. “I used to watch the apathy and negativity broadcasted all over the news, every day, and it disappointed me. I thought of ways to bring change, instead of just complaining, starting from where I was and with what I had.” Qazini, an online media platform that was founded in 2018, drives systemic change in society by creating content that changes the way we perceive our own capabilities. Damaris Agweyu spoke passionately of the company’s mission, vowing to keep championing journalism and content creation that drives systemic change. She also thanked her team that relentlessly works by her side every day, and the competition partners who generously gave their time and resources to make the entire process successful.

Qazini Founder, Damaris Agweyu

The guest of honour, estimable CJ Emeritus Dr. Willy Mutunga stirred a conversation around the state of our country, appealing to youths to run with the ideas chronicled in the essays, to effect change in Kenya. He berated poor leadership, saying, “Kenyans now subsidize the government” instead of the other way around. If youths can stand up for their country, he said, starting with their local areas, then change will be realized and we will have a country run by leaders who have the interests of the nation and the people at heart.

Qazini content strategist Lesalon Kasaine (left) and Honourable Dr Willy Mutunga

Dr. Willy Mutunga praised the writers but also pointed out that most of them did not focus on international challenges like the deluge of international debts drowning our country.

Chichi Seii then led the unveiling of the winners, after pre-recorded videos of each writer played on various screens strategically positioned throughout the venue. In the brief clips, the top ten writers introduced themselves and explained why they picked the ideas to tackle in their essays. The night climaxed with a suspense-filled announcement of the top three, beginning with the second runners up.

The top three essays were titled “A Framework to Defeat Government Incompetence” by Kirop Kiptoo, “A Plague and Its Cure” by Gracia Chila, and “Encouraging Social Entrepreneurship Among the Youth in Kenya” by Melody Mukami. Read the essays here.

Captain Nyambura Gathuru and Competitor Steven Ochieng

It’s said that no one can whistle a symphony; it takes an entire orchestra to play it. Qazini’s 2021 Writers Competition Orchestra came together with the support of the Writers Guild Kenya, Gift Pesa, The Personal Development Challenge (PDCtalks), The Chat Room, and Biko Zulu. These sponsors worked together with Qazini to ensure that the award prizes were not only rewarding in cash, but also in opportunities that helped writers further hone their skills.

We look forward to the opening of the So You Think You Can Write? Qazini Writing Competition for 2022, which will feature a different topic.

View the full image gallery here

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The winners:
  1. Kirop Kiptoo
  2. Gracia Chila
  3. Melody Mukami
  4. Grace Nyambura
  5. Nicholas Kigen
  6. Corazon Achieng
  7. Doris Katheke
  8. Stephen Otieno
  9. Stephen Mureithi
  10. Eni Chantal

Prizes:

Position 1: Free masterclass by Biko Zulu valued at KES 15000, Gift Pesa Voucher worth KES 5000, KES 10000 Cash prize, Two books: Different Paths One Journey by Damaris Agweyu and Three Bolts From The Blue by Lesalon Kasaine, Free meal for two at The Chat Room valued at KES 5000

First runners up: Free participation in the Writers Ignite Programme by Writers Guild Kenya valued at KES 5000, Gift Pesa Voucher worth KES 5000, Two books: Different Paths One Journey by Damaris Agweyu and Three Bolts From The Blue by Lesalon Kasaine, KES 5000 Cash prize

Second runners up: Free one-year affiliate membership with Writers Guild valued at KES 3000, Gift Pesa Voucher worth KES 5000, Two books: Different Paths One Journey by Damaris Agweyu and Three Bolts From The Blue by Lesalon Kasaine, KES 3000 Cash prize

Position 4 to 10: Gift Pesa Voucher worth KES 5000, Two books: Different Paths One Journey by Damaris Agweyu and Three Bolts From The Blue by Lesalon Kasaine

Writers Guild Kenya also extended, to the top ten writers, a 15% discount on publishing should they ever publish a book with them.

Lesalon Kasaine
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One response to “Qazini Celebrates Writers Whose Ideas Are Seeking to Drive Positive Change in Kenya”

  1. Chantal says:

    Brilliant. <3

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