Two of Kenya’s biggest singing stars, Eric Wainaina and Suzanna Owiyo, today pledged to use their music and high profiles to ignite positive environmental action as they were designated National Goodwill Ambassadors for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The inspirational figures have a long history of activism in Kenya, between them tackling issues such as drugs, peace, youth education and women’s rights.
Mr. Wainaina, whose 2001 debut album Sawa Sawa thrust him onto the Kenyan and international stage, will use his influence with children and youth to generate support and publicity for UNEP’s messages and goals.
Ms. Owiyo, whose career has blossomed since winning the ‘Most Promising Female Artist’ category in Kenya’s 2003 Kisima Music Awards, will build on her track record in engaging women in social issues to bring home the environmental message.
“There is no more powerful medium than music for reaching out to all levels of society, and I am honoured to be in a position to use my songs to spark wider environmental activism in East Africa,” said Mr. Wainaina.
The acclaimed singers will support a host of UNEP initiatives, including World Environment Day, UNEP’s campaign to reduce food waste – known asThink.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint – and efforts to lower the demand for illegal wildlife products that is driving a spike in elephant and rhino poaching in East Africa.
They will focus largely on issues that are of particular or critical relevance to Kenya and the wider region, and will take part in awareness-raising campaigns and communication and education initiatives.
Both singers have also agreed to write a song to mark the milestone of a strengthened and upgraded UNEP. The UN General Assembly in December passed a resolution, raised at the request of world leaders at Rio+20, to give UNEP universal membership and work towards increased resources.
UNEP’s Governing Council is meeting for the first time in Nairobi this week under the expanded membership to define the way forward.
“This is an exciting time to get involved with UNEP as it looks forward to a stronger future at the heart of the environment,” said Ms. Owiyo. “Musicians have a responsibility to inform and inspire, as well as entertain, and I intend to use my role as Goodwill Ambassador to bring home the need for environmental action to my fans.”
Mr. Wainaina and Ms. Owiyo have also penned songs to celebrate UNEP’s new upgraded status, which now allows all UN member states also to be members of UNEP’s governing council. Mr. Wainaina’s track is entitled Hello Moon, while Ms. Owiyo has written a song called Be Counted.
“Now that UNEP has been strengthened, Nairobi is in many ways the environmental capital of world, so we must do everything within our power to boost the already strong culture of environmental awareness in Kenya and outside its borders,” said Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and Director of Communications.
“These respected and socially conscious artists will be pivotal in achieving this goal, and we are privileged to add them to our roster of Goodwill Ambassadors.”