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Kenya-Finnish Youth Partnership Linked to Mathare Peace Barazas

Kenya-Finnish Youth Partnership Linked to Mathare Peace Barazas

OPINION ARTICLE by Venna Atieno

Kenya-Finnish Youth Meeting

On a hot afternoon in Mathare, the lifeless body of a young man lays in the middle of the road, his life taken by a bullet and his body left bloody, on the street. It is claimed he was a thief. The body is left on the street, maybe as a warning to others like him who took what did not belong to them and others who may entertain the thought.

Eventually, the police come to collect his body. This incident might not even make the news. Such incidences have happened more than once in Mathare.

Future leaders 254, a youth leadership body based in Mathare, recently brought together residents of Mlango Kubwa, Mathare, for the second in their series of community Barazas (Townhalls) to have a discussion about these incidences.

The Barazas are part of a series of initiatives the group started after partnering with the Oulu Youth Council, based in Oulu Finland. Both youth groups are interested in developing cultural and political advocacy skills among the youth, and have undertaken to share experiences between Nairobi and Oulu.

This particular Baraza was supported by proceeds raised by Air Guitar Kenya, a local entertainment initiative that is affiliated with the Air Guitar World Championships in Finland.

Stench of Death and Sound of Bullets

What happens when the stench of death constantly captures the air that you breathe? Does the sound of bullets in the air remind parents whose children have strayed into crime that it is only a matter of time before it is their turn to mourn?

Does it inform children and teenagers that, even though a safe home and environment is their human right, this is not their reality? Do they know that one mistake, maybe even just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, could put their lives on the clock?

Some say that crime drives brutality and others say that brutality drives the crime. It’s hard to say which is true. However, the frequency of crime and extrajudicial murder in Mathare prove that the community is in this cycle. In order to thrive, people need to feel safe in their homes and environment.
What can be done to make safety, security and justice become the new reality of Mathare? Future Leaders 254 brought the community of Mlango Kubwa together and put this question at the center of a discussion. There were deep experiences shared, more questions asked and ideas shared in a way that left everyone feeling inspired and hopeful that a safe community can be created by and for them.

Root Causes of Crime

One thing that was hugely discussed was the need to understand the root causes of the high crime rates in the community. High unemployment rates among young people was quickly pointed out as a major cause and this sparked a huge discussion on the role education plays in curbing this. Many acknowledged the barriers to formal education that poor people face including high school fees that bars them from higher education.

The scarcity of relatable stories of people from Mathare that children could look up to as role models when thinking of careers and employment came up. A lack of information may lead many to think that in the absence of formal education and sheer luck, success is difficult to attain, making crime a viable option. Especially when those criminal stories are louder than the positive ones.

Others spoke of disappearing community cultures such as child upbringing and instilling of values being communal as contributing factors to the easy recruitment of young people into criminal gangs. Others spoke of unresolved trauma from witnessing horrific experiences. It was sad to hear a comment from someone who was happy to see a former classmate in the gathering, pointing out that most of the people they grew up around were now long dead thanks to the crime-murder cycle.

Solutions

There was a lot of encouragement among the youth to be determined in seeking alternative and varied ways of creating value and making an honest living. Things like volunteering as a way of entering job markets, exploring business within the community and taking advantage of informal education opportunities such as apprenticeship as a way of acquiring skills.

The importance of mentorship to children and young people by the people who had grown up in Mathare and survived became clear in the attendees’ opinions.

Lastly, it was acknowledged that the laws in Kenya are not only strong and progressive, they leave room for amendment by citizens through due processes like petitions through parliament. It was acknowledged that there are bodies like IPOA set up to oversee and hold accountable law enforcement, whose duty is not to execute suspects but ensure they face punishment in accordance to the constitution.

Opinions were shared on the importance of stepping up to be leaders in big and small ways, electing and working with leaders that truly represent their community and staying informed about the things that happen in the community as well as the resources present in their community.

Venna is an official of Future Leaders 254. She can be reached on: futureleadersken@gmail.com


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