TWIGA YOUTH DIALOGUE
By Getry Agizah, Coordinator, Friends Church Peace Teams
Introduction: On world peace day, Getty Agizah writes shares an example of how Quaker expertise in grassroots peacework is being utilized within local communities.
When I did Civic Education with the County Councilors of Transzoia County, Kenya, they asked what other programs FCPT does. I told them what we do and one councillor took my contact information. Later he called me to ask if we can accept to sponsor a youth forum for three days to talk about conflict, peace and rights followed by a dialogue and have them raise issues that affect their community. I went to discuss the idea with him and shared that we don’t have funds and so we couldn’t handle the sponsorship but I assured him that we can bring facilitators and take care of their travel. He said the government is still working on the budgets from the county and money has not been released yet. He approached the Free Pentecostal Fellowship in Kenya (FPFK), Kitale branch, for support and they agreed to fund the workshop meals. After the 2008 post election violence, we had conducted some Alternatives to Violence (AVP) workshops for FPFK’s youth street program. The county office for youth was responsible to do the mobilization.
During the first two days of the workshop we mostly used exercises from the AVP Manuals and from Guidelines to Mediation. We used the trees of violence and non-violence, empathy, transforming power, elements and principles, forgiveness, “who am I?,” affirmation exercise, listening exercise and the Bill of Rights as it is in the new Kenyan Constitution. Then on the third day we embarked on the dialogue and way forward. My co-facilitators were Erastus Chesondi, Erick Simiyu and Emily Sikoya.
DATED 28–30 AUGUST 2013 IN ENTEBESS
This was a great process – first the background of understanding conflict and peace, then knowing ones rights, and finally having a whole day to dialogue with each other. The group was active and vibrant. Real issues came up during dialogue. People raised their voices at a certain time but calmed down after expressing what they felt. The forum was frank and genuine. Some of the issues touched the area chief and his office. We experienced courage and boldness of expression as the discussion took place leading to agreement. This brought up some open apologies from the administration and even from the participants who happened to have uttered words, which according to the group, were not true. Transforming power was real and seen in the sessions.
We started well. First the crowd was big and the organizers gave the mobilizers time together with the area senior assistant chief to control and reduce the number to the 148 youth for which we had planned. The organizer talked of the Mabanga Peace Accord, and gave the specific objectives. In general it set a great climate setting that we all felt accommodated. The agenda was typed and acted as a guide. Due to shortage of time and the size of the group, we could not have an in-build introduction and thus, it was not easy for the facilitators to remember the participants and even participants remembering each other.
We were in Chepchoina Location, with participants from the three of its sub-locations. Their home areas are covered with challenges and people were free to share them. Ignorance is rampant and leaders take that to their advantage and manipulate the citizens. The area is surrounded by the Agricultural Development Corporation farm, and the Kenya Seed farm. I had believed that, when we have big companies in an area, the people benefit and the town grows. But for this community, that is not true. Most people explained that these farms are the major causes of child labor, school dropouts, insecurity, minimal wages etc. Also, the farms are taking the community vigilantes into their employ and leaving the community in dilemma when it comes to protecting civilians.
This is a youth forum and the attendees were mostly young Kenyans from Chepchoina. We had six people who were above the age bracket of youth who represented elders, two area assistant chiefs, and one chief. It took three days. On day 1, we learned about conflict — what is conflict, causes of conflict, elements of conflict, and effects of conflict. Then we introduced peace and ended the day. Day 2, we did more on peace and reconciliation and its roots, forgiveness and importance. Then we did the bill of rights as given in the constitution. Day 3, we focused on the dialogue. This was a very fair and open space for the people to share what they think and know according to their issues.
The facilitation process was participatory, giving the participants time to break into small groups and have group interactions. Most of the topics were explored in groups. Then energizers (Light and Livelies) picked up the energy level. Participants were involved in activities that at their age made them feel respected. In the third day, participants were in deep dialogue on issues they had raised in various discussions. They started by sharing in twos and then discussed their thoughts in groups and presented their finding in the larger group. Each day, we did a recap to make sure we were reading from the same page with the participants before starting a new day. We had the participants in groups and shared their expectation on the workshop. They came up with the expectations below and, as we ended the day, some were answered and a few had not been answered.
1. Gain ideas on how to change our attitudes towards our peers.
2. To receive handouts and certificates.
3. Learn about the rights of youths.
4. Learn to maintain a good relationship with each other.
5. Discuss about the giant corruption.
6. Learn about the connection of peace and rights.
7. To have time to interact with each other.
8. Learn how to restore peace.
9. Share personal experiences.
10. Get skills on how to live peacefully.
11. Understand our role after the workshop.
12. How to cooperate with matters of the society.
13. Get manuals and booklets.
14. Be role models in the community.
We did have one-on-one sharing with a few participants noting their testimony in private – it was more of opening up and need for a safe space. One participant shared, “I have not been in good terms with my mother, but from now I’m going to share everything I have learnt especially about anger.”
Participants 148, Administration 7, Facilitators 3, Organizers 2.
a) I have learnt the effect of conflict and have decided to change the bad attitudes I have been carrying in me, one participant commented.
b) After the dialogue, I have realized that as your chief, I did not know a lot of the issues you have raised. I am going to form a vetting committee, so that the people who are taking bribes in my office should go home and we get others. Keep helping my office to serve you better. This was said by the chief after the youth raise the issue of being asked for money to obtain their identification cards.
c) My life is going to change for the better, said another participant, I have been careless with my life to the extent of having many affairs with different women, I am going to be tested and I have vowed to stop that. In fact one of the ladies I was to meet called me and I did not want to talk to her.
d) During the dialogue, one participant talked on how when they go to the chiefs office they are asked to pay money to get their identification cards, and yet they all know that this process is free. One village elder stood up in defense, protecting the office of the chief and accepted that they only ask money for lunch and it is not corruption. Participants were not happy with this until they insisted that he should withdraw his statement. Having all the pressure he had no option but to apologize and take back what he said. This proved that people were genuine and had learnt a lot in two days; that they did give their society first priority more that which tribe they come from.
e) The dialogue again brought up successful responses from the chief. Having heard what the participants were saying, he promised to do his best to look into their concerns and also asked the participants to work with him in making the community a better place. If I knew this day I would be sitting on a hot seat like this, I would have come in the evening to close the session and avoid attending this dialogue.
f) As a major focus of the community is education, a lady stood up and shared with the group that she is on a committee that is looking at education and the country has been serious about children going to school. She promised to follow up teachers who are coming to school drunk, as one participant shared, and she said that things will start working next year. The participants echoed with one voice that next year is too far; let’s heat the iron while it is still hot.
The workshop was very successful; we did group participation and did a lot of exercises, some of which are not in the manual. We tried to have a flow of the activities in the workshop. Giving participants time to share amongst themselves built bonds that could not go unrecognized.
Having understood dialogue as a forum, in which people talk about issues affecting them, time and space is needed to explore and accept the direction of the discussion. We did the 3rd day to build more on the dialogue and we are happy on how it went.
There is need for the community to learn the skills of non-violent social change to enable them to have choices that are more humane and care for the opponents. Some of this was like empowering them to have a peaceful demonstration in case they think a structure in an institution is not working well. Some of these big mistakes just need numbers of people with the same voices to reach resolution.
1. The numbers of participants was too big to deal with and it is not easy for facilitators to keep track of who came each day and who missed.
2. Representation of some ethnic groups was not well considered; e.g. having only one Pokot, and one Turkana.
3. Having the presence of administration, village elders, church leaders, increased the number of participants who were above the targeted age bracket and it was really hard for the young people to freely bring up issues.
1. Need to develop a manual for the ordinary citizen; we did have many exercises from different manuals. Addition exercises should be added to enable the facilitators to choose what works for each group.
2. The seating arrangement for the dialogue was interesting to the participants – they encouraged this should be done again
3. There was a lot of energy from the youth that can be taken back by the organizers and the FCPT office to visit and guide them.
4. There is high need for follow-up so that the community can feel the presence of the office and appreciate the effort we all have invested in the community.
5. Some of the participants had no education background and thus communicating with them meant we talked more Kiswahili than English
1. Many people were sent back home because of the large number. One recommendation is, if the FCPT office can do more forums like this, to reach many youths and even mixed ages of people in this location.
2. More days to be added in the session so that we can go deeper and heal our wounds from trauma.
3. The criteria of getting participants should be based on tribal representation so that the number of participants from each tribe is equal.
4. Is it is possible for the FCPT office not to pay the transport but give food and do more workshops?commented the area chief.
5. If the FCPT office can empower the group and give them a one day forum to keep talking about issues in order to help parents and administration and the whole community practice conflict transformation.
6. Pick a few individuals who can be key dialogue facilitators to join the women-in-advocacy and have representation.
7. Have a camera to measure and document our success.
Now Mt Elgon observed this community dialogue and requested to do the same in the six divisions in Mt Elgon.
Afternoon: To support the Friends Peace Teams/Africa Great Lakes Initiative visit www.friendspeaceteams.org.