Eastern Africa

Bridging Divides: A Personal Account of Working with the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation.

By August 18, 2023 No Comments

By Vivian Adhiambo, MA Candidate.

My name is Vivian Adhiambo Omondi, currently working as an assistant program officer with the emphasis on in-capacity training skills at the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR), while pursuing a Master of Science Governance, Peace and Security Studies at the Africa Nazarene University. I am now moving to Suffolk University in Boston, USA,  to do a Masters in Development Studies. I was motivated to join Shalom because of the call for change in the world, specifically in Eastern Africa. Witnessing the devastating effects of communal strife, I felt compelled to take a stand and work towards healing societies torn apart by hatred and conflict – manifest and structural violence. Thus, Shalom-SCCRR’s commitment to conflict transformation and peacebuilding resonated deeply with my aspirations for a better world. I extend a big thank you to the board, management, and team members of Shalom-SCCRR for the extraordinary contribution they have brought to my life.

Participating in an inter-ethnic Conflict Transformation training workshop with influential opinion shapers in Marti, Samburu County, Northern Kenya.

Shalom-SCCRR stands as a globally distinguished organization committed to dismantling the barriers that divide societies, thus fostering understanding among adversarial factions, and nurturing the seeds of long-lasting peace. Shalom profoundly believes in the power of professionalism dialogue, empathy and innovative approaches to rebuild relationships torn asunder by conflicts. Through my intimate engagement with Shalom, I have not only witnessed the tangible impact of its work but also have been an active participant in crafting pathways towards harmony and reconciliation in a world too often beset by discord.

Through Shalom’s conflict transformation and peacebuilding initiatives in different conflict environments, the impact on my personal life has been empowering. Engaging in workshops and training sessions with highly qualified personnel has honed my conflict transformation anaytical skills. I have learned how to facilitate open dialogues, actively listen to diverse viewpoints and guide conversations and action plans towards mutual understanding. These skills have empowered me to effectively navigate through conflicts. My journey with Shalom has allowed me to shape my interactions, choices, aspirations, and by extension, allowed me to contribute meaningfully to a world striving for harmony and understanding.

Engaging in an action planning activity with community resource persons from Loiyangalani, Gas and Sarima in Marsabit County on their intervention strategies in their project areas.

Reflecting upon my journey over this course, I am compelled to share the remarkable experiences and insights gained within this wonderful organization that is dedicated to the delicate art of conflict transformation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding initiatives in different project areas throughout Eastern Africa.

 Among the varied project areas that the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation works in, is the Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC), located in Riruta, Nairobi, Kenya. At the heart of SEC’s mission lies the determination to break down barriers that have historically held women back. Through a range of comprehensive training programs that address manifest and structural violence against women and children, women are equipped with effective conflict transformation and peacebuilding skills that help them break down these barriers.

Facilitating a training session with women from Riruta urban informal settlements on the procedures and skills in Negotiation.

I recall vividly the story of Cynthia, a young woman who entered the Shalom Empowerment Center with trepidation but left with new found determination equipped with livelihood resilience and attitudes. Engaging in Shalom’s workshops that range from women and their different roles in conflicts both as victims and perpetrators as well as their role in peacebuilding, negotiation processes, conflict transformation, conflict resolution to reconciliation, Sara completely honed her skills.

The true impact of SEC’s efforts is best exemplified by the stories of transformation that unfold within its structures. Witnessing these women overcome obstacles, embrace opportunities and blossom in to confident individuals is a reminder that women empowerment is not just a buzzword, but a tangible force that can reshape lives. My journey with the Shalom Empowerment Center has been a journey of inspiration, empathy and hope. Through its tireless efforts to uplift women, Shalom is contributing to a world where gender equality is more than a lofty ideal, to where it is a lived reality. With every woman and every story I have heard, I am more convinced than ever that the Shalom Empowerment Center is not just changing lives, it is also shaping the future for generations to come.

Guiding women from Dagoretti urban informal settlement in an interactive group discussion on the existing frameworks for conflict prevention in their areas.

Northern Kenya is another project region comprising of varied project areas that I had the unique privilege of engaging with and fostering peace and development. In a vast expanse of arid landscapes and diverse cultures, my journey with Shalom-SCCRR in the Northern Kenya straddly the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan has been an ordinary testament to the power of education. I have witnessed firsthand the profound impact that knowledge and understanding can have in fostering peace, unity and sustainable development within the marginalized communities that live there.

At the heart of Shalom’s mission lies a commitment transform the lives of those marginalized communities living in conflict-affected regions. Recognizing that lasting change begins with informed minds and open hearts, the organization’s approach focuses on training the grass root key influential opinion leaders within these communities. These individuals, drawn from diverse backgrounds and possessing significant sway, hold the potential to shape perceptions, mediate conflicts and lead their communities towards a future of harmony.

Facilitating an inter-ethnic Conflict Transformation forum with key influential opinion shapers in Suguta MarMar, Samburu County, Northern Kenya.

Soon enough, I came to the realization that the beauty of working in the remote impoverished semi-arid conflict prone terrains lies in the authenticity of every encounter. My interactions with these communities from the marginalized areas have been characterized by shared stories. Together, we have navigated the complexities of cultural nuances, traditions and historical contexts that often underlie conflicts. Through open dialogue and mutual respect, I have been able to connect on a human level, breaking down the walls that separated my role as an assistant program officer from the communities that I have been serving in this region.

A walk through Kibera slums alongside Shalom-SCCRR’s Judith Akedi MA, and a Shalom-trained Community Facilitator during a community engagement activity. Some of the causes of conflict in the slum environments are linked to marginalization, structural violence, negative ethnicity, religious extremism, elections etc.

The ripple effects of Shalom’s training sessions have been both heartening and tangible. As key influential opinion leaders trained by Shalom return to their communities equipped with new found conflict transformation skills and peacebuilding techniques, I have seen the seeds of transformation take root. The resolution of conflict-disputes through dialogue and joint development initiatives rather than violence, the dismantling of prejudices and the collaborative efforts towards human infrastructure security are all testaments to the incremental change taking place.

The past year that I have worked with Shalom-SCCRR has reaffirmed that in the realm of conflict resolution and reconciliation, competence, empathy and understanding are not just tools, they are critical components to attain the essence of transformative change.  Partial analysis should never be a substitute for holistic, authentic, rigorous research; Shalom-SCCRR exemplifies quality and competence in all its engagements. Through working alongside key influential opinion leaders, I have come to appreciate the resilience, determination and the untapped potential that resides within their communities. As I reflect on the faces I have met, the stories I have had and the bridges we have built, I am humbled by the capacity for positive change that exists within all of us. Shalom-SCCRR’s vision of a harmonious future is not just an inspiration, it is a reality that Shalom is actively nurturing one empowered opinion leader at a time, and one community at a time.

Interacting with children from Nairobi’s Mathare slums. These children deserve to live and study in an environment free from any form of manifest and structural violence!!

Over the course of one year, my engagement with the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation’s conflict transformation and peacebuilding initiatives has been an enriching journey through various project areas. Witnessing the gradual transformation of mistrust into cooperation through dialogues within these communities has been truly inspiring. Shalom’s tireless dedication to fostering peaceful coexistence has yielded remarkable results, thus, reaffirming my belief in the power of collective efforts to bring about positive change.

Author:  Vivian Adhiambo Omondi, BA (MA Candidate), Shalom-SCCRR In-Training Capacity Program

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