Community Leaders Induction: The Mereroni Experience & Lessons

Today we continued with the Community Leaders induction process at Mereroni location, Nakuru North sub-county.  The stats for the location are: it is divided into 2 sub-locations – Nyonjoro and Ndimu Ndege sub-locations. The population of the area is approximately 7,497 people and 1,500 households, according to the 2009 census. Of all the locations in Nakuru North sub-county Mereroni Location has the smallest population,  led by Chief Karanja.

We have a history in Mereroni location. It was one of five of the locations in Nakuru North that we had targeted for the Global Goals for Local Impact programme. While the work that we did in the location represented our earliest signs of failure, it presented us with one of the strongest lessons that we learnt – that an organised community is a key ingredient for citizen participation and engagement. As we worked with Mereroni last year, we found that the location did not have a well organised structure of leadership that cooperates with the chief. There were no organised community leader groups in the location and the chief did not maintain strong relations with the community leaders. For this reason, we dropped Mereroni as one of the targeted communities that we would work with last year, before the electioneering period preceding August 8, 2017.

Today, through the process that was spearheaded by the Assistant County Commissioner 1, Monica Ithatwa, and facilitated by the Child Protection Officer and the Adult Education Officer in Nakuru North Sub-County, we saw a significant improvement. There was almost 100% (59 community leaders’) turn out of community leaders – 14 of whom were women.

 

The Community Leaders in Mereroni were mostly retired teachers and army officers – many of whom were considerably over 50 years of age. One of the things I found interesting in the process was that, upon asking where his wife was and why she did not join us, a community leader (77 years of age) replied, “My wife and many other women are the neck of the household and so we left them at home tending to domestic and farm issues.” The women who did show up, however, showed a high level of participation particularly when discussing Adult Education for young women who dropped out of high school and primary school due to pregnancy.

We observed that even among the community leaders, there was a clear expressed need for Adult education especially in literacy, proficiency and languages. They took time to brainstorm together on how to get Adult Education closer to their villages, because the existing classes for Adults are in the further off Kirima and Bahati location. The AE Officer was keen to work with them and assured them of their support should they organise themselves into classes. “Just tell us where and when you would like us to come and start teaching you and we shall come.”

Unfortunately in Mereroni, there was still little evidence that the administration officers there had become organised and that they had adhered to the original requirements set out by the Deputy County Commissioner, Mr. Mutua Kisilu.

All in all it was a successful day and we are looking forward to meeting with the interesting leaders of Githioro.