“This movie might shock you,” the instructor said as she cued the documentary A Blooming Business. Each of us sat back in our chairs and braced ourselves for what we anticipated would be a heart-wrenching tale of poverty and corruption. Dr. Irena Creed explained that the documentary explored Kenya’s controversial floral industry and the impoverished workers it left behind. Wincing, we watched as Jane, a single mother, left her children at 7 am to work at the flower farm, where she worked in unsafe conditions, and endured sexual assault, until as late as midnight. We observed with apprehension as locals described the deleterious effects of runoff from the farm on nearby Lake Naivasha, one source of fresh water for the nearby community. Following the documentary, some of us were visibly shaken. Then, another instructor made a comment that led us to re-evaluate the documentary. He said, “Don’t simply accept information: absorb it and challenge it.” Together, we created an “influence diagram,” which is a technique for visualizing the relationships between different drivers of human health and wellness. After we created the diagram, we examined the multifaceted nature of Kenya’s flower industry. We discovered that the flower industry employs a large proportion of the community. Ultimately, this exercise taught us about the power and importance of narratives. As Global Health Systems students, it is important for us to recognize that there are many sides to each story, and that only listening to one narrative can obfuscate the truth.
By: Jason Were (MMASc in Global Health Systems in Africa Candidate); Rebecca Doyle (Collaborative Program in Global Health Systems Candidate) and Christine Imbenzi (BSc Masinde Muliro Univeristy, Kenya)