By Cyprian Nyakundi
Kibera is the largest informal urban settlement in Nairobi City and Africa in general. The slum has a population of approximately over 170,000 as per the Kenya Population and Housing census of 2009. Extreme poverty, poor sanitation, little access to clean water, high unemployment and crime rates are just some of the harsh realities that residents face every day. Not only do residents here have to deal with the unforgiving environment, but political incitement further splits the communities thus making them vulnerable to ethnic-based clashes, especially during the election period.
It’s for this reason that SCCRR has been working in Kibera since 2013 in partnership with the County Government and other key grass-root stakeholders and influential opinion shapers representing Youth groups, Business people, Women Groups, Community Leaders and village Elders.
The 10th of September, 2016, was a big day for these SCCRR participants who graduated after being trained on various peace-building techniques geared towards community empowerment. Throughout the year, these groups were taken through a series of trainings that would enable them to Prevent, Manage and Transform their own conflicts. This sustainable approach reduces the constant dependency on outsiders to solve their own problems. After each training, the groups would draw-up actions plans that they would go back and implement in their communities. Some of the activities they came up with included passing the message of non-violent methods of resolving conflicts illustrated in drama’s, dialogue sessions with community members and using the local radio station to pass the message.
The established groups trained included; the Kibera Arts Network, Kibera Women Group and Key Influential Opinion Shapers. The Kibera Arts Network comprise of youth between the ages of 18-25yrs from all the villages within Kibera Slum. Most of the members have finished secondary school, some are in college, and with low employment opportunities some are self-employed. Their talent in arts is what brings all these diverse individuals together. They are dances, actors, musicians, poets, etc. They perform everywhere, from planned events when invited, to the streets of Kibera for the community. They strongly believe in passing their message of Peace through such form of art. A lot of them have almost fallen into the hands of crime and lost their way, but the group offers an opportunity for them to express their feelings creatively and non-violently. The Women group, as the name suggests, comprise solely of women from 22-50yrs. Some of the women are survivors of conflict both domestic and ethnic based. Many of them work with other women on the ground as support systems for those who have been affected directly or indirectly by conflict. The experiences of these women and their strong presence on their ground makes them essential to receive the Peace building training techniques in order to have a greater impact in their work. The Opinion Shapers are a diverse group of men and women mostly above the age of 30yrs who hold administrative positions in the community such as Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs and Village elders. Other members comprise of individuals who have worked in the community on conflict-related issues. This group has a more authoritative voice in the community and have more access to County officials.
On the day of graduation, each group performed songs and dramas, all of which reflected the importance of empowering the community for sustainable peace. They illustrated that despite one’s ethnic background, political affiliation or religious group, there is need to tolerate our differences and use this diversity to advocate for equal opportunity and access to development. The graduates expressed their gratitude towards Shalom for the knowledge transferred and requested that it continues especially as we approach the election period.
Those present during the graduation ceremony included Oliver Noonan (Country Director SCCRR), Peterlinus Ouma (Program Manager SCCRR), Judy Akedi (Program Officer SCCRR), Paulson Erot (Program Officer SCCRR), Cyprian Nyakundi (SCCRR Intern). There were also representatives from Christ the King Parish, Mr. Philip Omondi (Secretary Peacebuilding Committee Kibera and Lang’ata), Mr. Clement Ombati (assistant Chief Laini Saba) and other invited guests.
SCCRR County Director thanked the graduates for their dedication to the trainings and the implementation of various action plans which are making a difference in people’s lives by promoting peaceful co-existence. He continued to emphasize that SCCRR was dedicated to building the capacity of people in Kibera to become leaders at the forefront of building peace in their respective communities. Mr. Philip Omondi acknowledged the hard work of the graduates and thanked SCCRR for the professional expertise and input they bring to building peace in Kibera.