Peacebuilding and Civic Engagement Initiatives For Meaningful Youth Participation

YOUTH BUILDING BRIDGES FOR PEACE IN KIBERA (YOBBPEK)

In the run up to 2007 General Election, Kenya Youth Foundation (KYF) in partnership with Kibera Community Youth Project was supported by Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) to launch a peace building process where young people, children and women were participatory engaged by sharing their experiences with vio

lence/conflict in Kibera and, at the same time, reflect on whether peace or violence sh

ould be embraced for a better future. The major activities were community peace building forums, peace clubs in community schools, women specific peace forums, sports & cultural events and a peace newsletter. The project acted as an eye opener to many peace builders who relied on conventional methods of training peace builders/facilitators endlessly, with no resources to engage the local people to be participants in peace building. It also brought out key learnings in understanding the root causes of conflict & violence in Kibera as poverty is causing pressure on limited resources and is asymptotic through ethnic strife, generational misunderstanding, class struggle (landlords v s. tenants), domestic violence, violence against women & girls, political rivalry and rebellion to the authority.

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Through the project, the participants were able to embrace a future of hoping, by making their own contribution in making Kibera a better place to live in. Young people, who had initially lost hope, transformed themselves by making a positive contribution for their own well being such as using God given talents to change their lives. Many young artists from Kibera who made their first debut in YOBBPEK Peace Concerts are renowned artists. Some young people ventured into Income Generating Activities to earn decent and positive livelihoods and women became agents of peace and pillars of families’ income & food security.

KIBERA SOCCER FOR PEACE PROJECT (KISOPP)

“There is no better way to move the youth than doing what they love most”!  In 2010, KYF received a very important Development Practitioner by the name of Kevin, from the United Kingdom. Kevin is the founder of Global Goals (UK) a charity organization registered and based in the United Kingdom, which uses sports to fight poverty. Kevin, through Global Goals, has worked in youth organizations in different countries in Africa. He introduced the concept of engaging youth through sports to address some of the challenges bedeviling Africa, such as violence & conflict, poverty and HIV & AIDS among others.

There is no better way to move the youth than doing what they love most

In 2011 Kibera Soccer for Peace Project was born with financial support from Global Goals (UK). The project was engaging and interacting with young people through forums where football stories and experiences are shared and participants are able to reflect on such experiences to transform their lives and communities positively. Images such as football hooliganism and inter-ethnic violence in communities, exploiting of football talents and engaging towards poverty eradication, as well as reflecting on the celebrated African footballers, who started from humble beginnings and are now playing in major international leagues, were key topical discussions in the forums.  As a way of embedding football culture in the forums, all facilitators were community coaches and all ice-breaking activities were through the use of the ball. The project also conducted football clinics for the coaches/facilitators and the final event was a football contest involving all villages that participated in the forums and players were drawn from the list of forum participants. The project also had a component of football based theatre with football imageries and themes intended to engage the audience to reflect and shun violence.

Global Goals…the concept of engaging youth through sports to address some of the challenges bedeviling Africa, such as violence & conflict, poverty and HIV & AIDS among others

Here follows a story from one of the football forums:  “John dropped out of school in class eight due to lack of school fees. With nothing much to do in the neighbourhood, he joined his neighbourhood friends who had similar fate like him. They would be spending most of the time engaging in wishful thinking on how to make ends meet. With no skills for formal employment, they decided to become petty street criminals in Nairobi city centre. They also decided to hide their criminal activities so that neighbours would not suspect them by joining the neighbourhood football club where they would be playing during the weekend when not engaging in criminal activities. Since they were making good money from criminal activities, they decided to graduate to hardcore criminality where they would hire a gun for robbery and carjacking in far off places. Their robbery activities were carefully planned and executed well until this fateful Saturday; John was a reliable player for their neighbourhood football club unlike his friends who were doing it to hide their criminal activities. Their neighbourhood football had arranged to play against football team about 10 km away from their neighbourhood that would qualify them to join the local league. John was torn between either to join his criminal friends for a carjacking that had been planned or to join his football team for away match. His instinct directed him to sneak for the football and in the event the match ended early, he would join his friends for the robbery. He decided to switch his phone off so that his friends would not persuade him to abandon the football idea. Although their team arrived early, the game started late and therefore the idea of joining the friends later wouldn’t work. After the games he went straight home hoping to hear from his friends and had planned a series of excuses for them. On reaching home he tuned to his TV station and the breaking news was that four young men were gunned down by law enforcement officers for failed carjacking incident and as their bodies were paraded in the full glare of camera, John was shocked and couldn’t believe that the away football match saved his life by a whisker. John decided to focus on football and totally abandoned criminal activities. At the time the story was shared John had joined a better team playing Division II league and relying on his football allowances for his upkeep and decided to preach to young people in their neighbourhood that they need to use their God given talents to better their lives than engaging in criminal activities”.

AMANI MTAANI PROJECT

 1. Background

kyf 2The Kenya Youth Foundation with possible support from the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) initiated the Amani Mtaani project in Kibera from 2nd October 2012. Kibera, being one of the hot spots of violence during the 2007/2008 post election violence, and having a poor representation of women and youth in formal peace building and governance structures, therefore the mundane mandate of the project is to amplify the voices & representation of youth & women in peace building processes, political & non political governance which will results in enhanced ethnic tolerance, unity in diversity, enhanced accountability, transparency & integrity as well as the fulfillment of constitutional requirement on representation by gender & marginalized groups in the leadership & decision making.  The project was set to target 100 women and 350 youths, from Mashimoni Gatwekera and Lainisaba villages. The project employs a participatory approach in civic engagement, peace building dialogue forums & outdoor outreaches in order to bring to fore the existing potentials of women and youth as agents of peace, decision makers and patriotic citizens. The enhanced role of youth & women would put the political and non-political leaders to be accountable to the people as women & youth form the biggest constituency in Kibera.

2. Objectives of the project are to:

  • To enhance peaceful inter and intra community engagement before during and after elections
  • Improve representation of youth and women in local decision making,

3. Engagement of the Youth : The organization is involving youths through participatory approaches to enable youth express themselves, reflect and take lead in sustainable peace building & conflict transformation. The Amani Mtaani Project (Peace in the Neighbourhood) is being implemented in the three villages in Kibera (Mashimoni, Lainisaba and Gatwekera) through the following activities

  • Peace Building & Civic Engagement Forums: As a platform for youth to share their experiences as victims and perpetrators of violence and also to enable them play civilian role in ensuring that the rule of law is adhered to at grassroots levels, equity in distribution of national resources at the grassroots, accountability & transparency in executing government programmes & functions at the grassroots as well as using non-violent approaches to advocate and demand for their rights and rights of other residents of Kibera. So far about 500 youth have participated in 38 forums since January 2013.kyf 3
  • Radio Talk Shows: In collaboration with Pamoja FM, a Kibera Community Radio Station, KYF has conducted two live shows with special focus on women & youth participation in local governance issues as leaders and watchdogs on behalf of the minorities & marginalized. Key on the agenda is how the devolved government (CountyGovernment) is taking into account the interest of youth, women & children in the planning and budgeting process. The platform did attract useful and meaningful participation by youth, women and other members of Kibera community.  At the tail end, listeners were able to ask questions with regard to devolved government as well getting to understand the role & functions of Nairobi County Elected Leaders.
  • Social Vetting & Post Election Civilian Oversight:  The social vetting which was conducted during the just concluded March 4th 2013 General Elections brought together political aspirants for County Representatives from five wards of Kibera. The participants who comprised youths, women, men and special interest groups, such as the Disabled, were able to engage the aspirants as far as their policies, integrity and ability to articulate the challenges facing Kibera residents are concerned. Key issue was how to ensure that political leaders remained accountable on peace building, reconciliation, integration and cohesion among various communities living in Kibera. The political aspirants who attended the vetting pledged and signed their commitment to preservation & sustenance of peace before, during and after the Elections. The residents are now more focused on those who were elected to ensure that they deliver on their promises and ensuring that they practice equity, integrity, accountability, transparency in the discharge of their functions as well as overseeing the devolved public services and programmes through Post Election Civilian Oversight

4. Impact on the Youth

  • It has created historic peaceful interaction & understanding among, youth, women, men, children and special groups of diverse background in Kibera before, during & after Election ethnic groups after and before elections. Despite glaring challenges during & after the Election, the youths opted for non-violent approaches to express their dissatisfaction and pressed for legal & formal contestation of the results through the Supreme Court of the Law.
  • Youths are becoming inclusive and more involved in decision making as well as playing their civilian role in holding leaders accountable. kyf 4
  • Youth are appreciating the alternative opportunities for expression & recognition where their voices also count on local and national policies and development programmes initiated by the government. The government has taken as a priority the challenge of  un-away youth unemployment and youth are playing key stake in developing workable options.
  • Enhanced interest in the gains made in the New Constitution such as affirmative action on youth, women and minorities and establishment of County Government as strategy of achieving equity and democracy for all citizens.

by Edwyn Odeny & Esther Juma – Kenya Youth Foundation