Eastern Africa

Shalom Empowerment Center (SEC) opens in Nairobi, Kenya

By August 1, 2022 August 5th, 2022 No Comments

See published article in the ICN (Independent Catholic News) below by Matt Moran on Jul 25th, 2022

Matt Moran is an author and writer focusing on religious, social, and international development issues. He is based in Cork in the Republic of Ireland.

In 2009, Irish missionary priest, Fr Patrick Devine SMA, who had served 20 years in Eastern Africa set himself a new challenge. Reading the signs of the times, he identified the need for an organisation of professionals that would build peace and bring about transformation and resolution of inter-ethnic and religious ideological extremist conflicts throughout marginalised terrains of the region and in the informal urban settlements around Nairobi City.

From that developed the Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) which engages and trains women and men influential opinion shapers in working towards breaking the vicious cycle of conflict in these locations. From small beginnings, Shalom has grown with a professionally qualified team and has forged relationships with academic institutions in Ireland and the USA, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa, as well as being recognised by the U.N.

Fr Devine and the team at a planning meeting

Addressing issues of women’s rights to dignity, safety and security has been a key part of Shalom’s work over the years. Now, the vision of Fr Devine and his team has extended to set up the Shalom Empowerment Center which is located at St. Josphat’s House, Kahuho Road, Riruta on the outskirts of Nairobi where five informal urban settlements or slum areas interface with or are close to each other.

This new Center will give special attention to all forms of manifest and structural violence; inter-ethnic, inter-religious, domestic violence, sexual violence, among others. In doing so the Center will provide training on conflict transformation skills, peacebuilding techniques, post-traumatic stress disorder healing approaches, and other relevant interventions to women and children suffering from violence.

Empowering women and children to be significant architects of their own security and development whereby their human rights and dignity are respected and honoured will be at the heart of the Center’s training programmes. With a professionally qualified team, the Center will instill healing, empowerment, control and authoritative voice to the women and children whom it serves. Fr Devine says that the team “believe that social protection systems and formation institutions for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are needed to ensure that the lives and dignity of women and their children are esteemed, valued, and protected.”

Domestic violence is a major social problem affecting the health of millions of people often resulting from prolonged physical and emotional injuries. Similarly, other forms of violence against women in the slums include rape, forced abortion against their will by men and families; and female genital mutilation. Domestic violence is mainly perpetrated by men and thus it is imperative that when solving domestic violence related issues, collective responsibility and input from men and society at large should be emphasized.

Violence against women and children, be it during social conflict/war, structural violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, among other forms, is often linked to reproductive health. Thousands of women, young girls and children in informal urban settlements suffer from many forms of violence – sexual, child and/or forced marriage, sex trafficking and rape – which inflict very serious damage on individuals and families, and are global public health problems of epidemic proportions. The negative consequences resulting from this violence include exposure to suicide and depression, mental health issues, unstable family relationships, physical and psychological trauma, risk of miscarriage and having low birth weight infants and delayed onset of prenatal care.

There is a widespread increase in human trafficking in Kenya. Although boys and men are victims as well, the majority of individuals identified as trafficked for both labour and the sex trade are women and girls. According to the US Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2020, the government of Kenya reported identifying 853 victims of trafficking – 275 adult females, 351 girls, and 227 boys – a significant increase compared with about 400 identified victims in 2018. Trafficked women and girls encounter high rates of physical and sexual violence, including homicide and torture, psychological abuse, horrific work and living conditions, and extreme deprivation while in transit. Serious mental health problems result from trafficking, including anxiety, depression, self-injurious behaviour, suicidal ideation and suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and dissociative disorders.

Parenting is of critical importance as it is a sphere of life that significantly influences and forms the stability and future security of a child and, consequently, society as a whole. It shapes a child’s future morality, ethics, respect for the dignity of every human being, and their overall social responsibilities. Transforming and countering all forms of violence, including violence against women and children, can be enhanced by emphasising the collective responsibility of both parents for these formative issues. The necessity of establishing and ensuring impartial access to social care and support institutions for those who are the victims, and perpetrators, of violence is also of critical importance.

These are the sort of issues that the new Center will endeavour to address. There is a very well qualified team in place and all are Kenyan nationals. Sr Lucy Njori BA of the Dimesse Sisters is the Center Administrator, Sr Sarah Ngigi of the same congregation is Nurse and Counseling Officer, and Sr Catherine Mutua of the Daughters of St Anne is the Community Development & Social Worker. Mrs Nancy Mirera is Counselling Psychologist and Mental Health Officer. The Lead Project Officer is Mrs Judith Akedi Otsieno MA and the Project Officer is Ms Esther Njeri Kibe MA – both from the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution & Reconciliation.

Tags: KenyaNairobiShalom CenterFr Patrick DevineSr Lucy NjoriDimesse SistersSr Sarah Ngigi Sr Catherine MutuaDaughters of St AnneMrs Nancy Mirera, Mrs Judith Akedi Otsieno Ms Esther Njeri Kibe


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