Final Day of Community Leaders Induction: The Bahati Location Experience

Bahati Location, marked the final location of Community Leaders Induction. Since we understand that an organised community is a crucial ingredient to successful citizen participation and engagement, we set out on a journey in the beginning of this month together with Nakuru North sub-county leadership namely: the Deputy County Commissioner (DCC) there, Mr. Kisilu Mutua as well as his three assistant County Commissioners and twelve chiefs to organise the communities of its 12 locations under the Nyumba Kumi Initiative.

This location is comprised of three sub-locations: Biblioni (mainly large scale farms in which grow wheat and vegetables in tens and hundreds of acres – a few farm owners and many workers), Chania (an area of small-holder farmers, many of whom are older) and Bahati (the more peri-urban and metropolitan sub-location). The Location is estimated to have a population of about 16,344 people according to the country’s census data carried out in 2009.

 

Of the 97 Community Leaders we expected today 84 attended the Induction accounting for 87% out of whom 32% were women. It was very encouraging to see youth ( people under the age of 40 years) participating in the Community Leaders induction, making up 31% of the participants.

Today’s cohort of leaders was very active during the sessions and engaged the facilitators on different discussions. Led by ACC 1 Monica Ithatwa who conducted the leadership and conflict resolution sessions the leaders delved deep into the discussion of the qualities of a good Community leader. A Community Leader should be a person of high integrity and have high moral standards. She went ahead to ask them to be aware of individuals who seek leadership roles in the community for selfish reasons. These individuals use such positions to commit crimes and since they are Leaders they are the last people to be considered as suspects when the community is affected by say crime. Also as a Community leader being courageous is an important trait to have, because when it comes to providing information to authorities you have to inform even on your friends if they happen to go against the law. Courage is also important because as a leader one needs to do the right thing even when other people stand against you. They also learnt it was not their place to act as vigilantes taking the law into their own hands to arrest offenders and so on. Instead their role is to report to the police or administration of individuals breaking the laws and let the police do their job.

They were then taken through the Child protection session. It was interesting to note that despite everyone of the Community Leaders being an adult they were uncomfortable while discussing issues such as child defilement,child abuse both physical and emotional yet this are issues affecting their communities. Their uneasiness however comes from the fact that society does not speak out about such issues. When it comes to matters of child defilement most people prefer to keep it within the family since they have the mentality that this will bring shame to their families and people will talk. They instead hold what the officer from child protection Mr.Peter called “Kangaroo courts” ( a gathering of family members of the victim mainly the parents and the accused where authorities ie the police and courts are not involved in the proceedings). They come to an agreement and the accused should pay the victims parents an agreed amount of money and the issue is pushed under the rug. The Community Leaders  learnt today that when these “kangaroo courts” are held the parties involved do not have the child’s interests at heart. They instead act selfishly and only see the short term benefits, not considering the emotional and physical trauma the child has been put through. The child’s best interest should always come first. They learnt that when it comes to children ( people under the age of 18 years) they should not use the term rape when reporting to the police instead they should use defilement. He sensitized them on the importance of using the correct terms in such situations since it determined how the case is handled. After which they were taken through the adult education session.

Having gone through the process of organising the communities of the 12 locations in Nakuru North sub-county, we feel that the designed programme of activities that the Community Leaders were taken through will lead to having a sustainably organised community – not just for data driven development work in the locations but also to work better with the chiefs to improve security and improve their lives. This has created a consistent and easier route for government to engage with citizens and for citizens to amplify their voices on their needs. It is our hope that the Administration keeps up the good work they have started and that they will keep engaging with these Community Leaders more frequently. This is not the end but only the beginning.