Watch this the Pace, Ian Urges.

Ian Alulu’s story is one of resilience yet with hope and a true definition that all is possible in the spectrum of life. You will be wrong to judge him by his past rather than the future he anticipates.

Born a firstborn in a family of seven, he felt obligated to help his family. He felt that he was a burden to his parents and saving them the extra plate of food would go handy and a long way for the siblings.  It’s a societal problem that many firstborns in African family setting face. They get accustomed to the reality of life that they are supposed to be responsible for their siblings and in most cases at their expense.

At form one at barely 16 years of age, he was ready to do that. Trade his precious dreams for the future comfort of his siblings or even ensure that there was more food for his siblings or afford a meal a day without bothering his parents who already had the burden of taking care of the other siblings.

Armored with nothing but hope and optimism, he hitched a plan to go to the capital city – a city under the sun where all people are given opportunities, and everyone seems to do better for themselves. I’m sure if not certain that’s the narrative that is sold upcountry that there is there are opportunities and ready money. Well, it’s true Nairobi is inhibited by two classes of people; those with the means and those who think they have. Ian dreamt of falling into the haves someday, maybe not soon but he hoped. Ian was sold hope that there was ready manna in form of a farmhand job that awaited him at the other end, all he needed to do was just to bring himself Nairobi and the rest would fall into place. “I was told that there was a farmhand job (shamba boy), and a man would pick me up in Nairobi,” recalls Ian.

The only means that he would have chosen to use and comfortably afford to get to Nairobi; would have been walking but, walking for over 300km and the urgency of the employment walking ruled out of the picture. He however needed to be in Nairobi come rain or high waters. On the escape day, he prepared to go to school as usual. Unknown to the parents this would be the last day they would see him in the few following months. They would be months of agony but then, they had other kids to take care of and all they could do, was to hope that he would land well and hope that someday he will go back home and maybe carry goodies with him. The plan was in place. “I walked to school that day but immediately went home, got a change of clothes, and changed at our neighbor’s compound,” he reminisced.

He hacked a lift on long-distance lorries and that’s how he landed in Nairobi. He would later be met with the horrible yet harsh reality that his job had been given to someone as he had arrived late in Nairobi.  What would he have you expect from a lorry? As the reality set in, he realized that he had to survive. He needed basic living needs food, shelter, and clothing. But then again how do you survive in a capitalistic country without a job? A city where your neighbor will cook, and you will see them eating without bluffing on your sight? He was not accustomed to this in the village, but again life is a teacher, and this had become his reality. He learned that Nairobi is a city where everyone exists for themselves. That’s the reality that faced him! He ended up in the streets. That’s the only affordable place he would get but even with that, he needed to eat and cloth. Necessity invented a solution. He started working as a menial worker, carrying luggage for passengers at bus stops and when business would be down or when luck allowed, he would look for scrap metals and sell them at KSH 30 a kilogram, or roughly $0.30. in a city with over one thousand street people doing the same in a city with no steel manufacturing factories, he was bound to fail. “it’s difficult to get a kilo of scrap metals as many of us are looking for the same, that’s why we end up in carrying luggage to compensate on that.” He spoke.

He lived in perpetual fear as there was constant friction from the county officers. He lived on a thread for he did not know the hour or the day the county enforcement officers would descend on them. They would chase them from the streets all the time. He particularly remembers a fateful incident, “they once chased us at night and it was raining, I had to salvage my beddings and run. They ended up being soaked in rainwater, it was my worst night,” he narrated, “I thought I would contract cold-related diseases and die, I was afraid,” he remembered.

He had a strong or you would call it nostalgia for home but again he had left without a goodbye. He was afraid that his parents would not take him back. Crime Si Poa through its street kids’ program under community engagement, managed to get to know him, by then he had adopted David as his street name. Life had served him the reality and when he heard and learned of the program through social welfare carried out by Crime Si Poa, he was more than happy to engage when he was asked whether he would want to go home back to his parents though hesitantly he agreed.

CSP with the help of a chief in Kakamega ensured a seamless reception at home by tracing his home and talking to his parents and community. He got reintegrated into his family. His parents could not hide their joy may be due to the return of their lost son.  

Today Ian is in the process of getting back to school, this time he is resolved more than ever that he wants to go back to school. His and many others are stories that inspire CSP to keep changing the world through little efforts, brick by brick to ensure a society that is changed and just to all. Ian needs school fees; he needs a small stipend for his personal needs. We can’t do this alone. Kindly partner with us and help him and many others to have a dignified life and change the story one story at a time.

Time to Abolish the Death Penalty is Now.

The 8th World Congress on the Abolition of the Death Penalty came to a grand close at the historic Berlin Town Hall Ballroom on 18th November 2022 with a clarion call to the retentionist countries to move with purpose to abolish the archaic practice. 

During the congress organized by the French based organization, Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (Together Against the Death Penalty) and attended by delegates representing 130 countries from across the globe, senior government ministers, youth, parliamentarians, jurists, and members of the civil society shared their different countries’ experiences in the abolition journey and best practices in championing for a death penalty free world. 

With Rwanda and Burundi, countries which have both undergone the worst genocide in the region having abolished the death penalty, and with the Zambian President and its parliament undertaking resolute measures to have the death penalty abolished in their country by the end of this year, Kenya, whose youth delegation stole the show at the World Congress, and which has had a moratorium on executions since 1987, should be well primed to claim its place in the high table of the abolitionist movement . 

Reports by both the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee (POMAC) indicate the unanimous public view as being for the abolition of the death penalty in Kenya. The reports capture feedback from Kenyans as being in favor of alternative sentences to the death penalty. 

Opening the Congress, themed “Let’s rekindle the abolitionist flame!” the German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock. These sentiments were echoed by Ministers from across the world attending the congress.  

Moderating the youth plenary session at the congress dubbed “The New Abolitionist Generation – Transmission and Innovation”, Sylvia Morwabe, the Programs Director at Kenyan based NGO, Crime Si Poa emphasized that the fight for abolition involves both the younger and older generation and encouraged all to commit to adopting an inclusive and intersectional approach that involves supporting and building the capacity of young abolitionists to enable them carry out their actions and reinforce the fight towards achieving universal abolition. 

Speaking at the closing ceremony presided over by the Former French Minister of Justice Arian Gresillon, and during which he was honored to present the Courage Award to the winners; RACOPEM of Cameroon and Pakistan Justice Project, Crime Si Poa Executive Director Pete Ouko rallied the delegates to work in unison and push until all countries abolished the death penalty.  

Recollecting his journey on death row due to a wrongful conviction, Pete called on World leaders to focus more on restorative as opposed to retributive justice. He noted that available data proves that countries without the death penalty have progressive,  correctional criminal justice systems in practice and less violent crimes in general. 

Honored to be appointed as the local partner of ECPM in the global abolition movement, Crime Si Poa calls on His Excellency President William Ruto to lead from the front in this final push to have Kenya death penalty free.  

Crime Si Poa which holds the unique distinction of being the first NGO to be formed on death row, and is currently led by a death row survivor, works in the social justice space to improve access to justice for all while building community ownership around safety and security issues through proximate youth leadership and strategic partnerships with players in the criminal justice sector.

Christmas Comes Early for Street Families.  

Sharing a meal is a global language, and it is in the spirit of the festive season that Crime Si Poa (CSP) staff, as part of their day of service, partnered with the Street Changers CBO to hold a colorful event for more than 500 children and persons living in the streets of Nairobi. 

During the sports, mentorship and food festival held at the PCEA grounds in Eastleigh, Nairobi on Friday, street children and families from Eastleigh, Huruma and Mathare areas of Nairobi were fed sumptuous meals and given clothes as the Christmas festive season sets in.  

Speaking at the function, Crime Si Poa Programs Coordinator, Ms Irene Were reiterated the importance of the exchange and learning platform and what it means to persons living on the fringes in society.   

“Crime Si Poa runs a street children project in Nairobi, Nakuru and Kisumu cities respectively which involves elements of psychoeducation to address the mental wellness of the beneficiaries, soft skills mentorship and life skills training. This has led to successful re-integration of some of the beneficiaries to their families,” said Ms. Were 

Ms .Were reiterated that as an organization that works with street families, Crime Si Poa believes that such events show true love while at the same time encouraging acceptance and inclusion of the street families. This in turn reduces crime rates and makes our cities and neighborhoods safer. 

The fun filled event involved multiple activities including; guests cooking, street families and community members engaging in a soccer tournament mimicking the ongoing World Cup, and counselling sessions on drugs and substance abuse.  

Mercy Murithi, the Coordinator of the Street Changers CBO acknowledged the enormous talent harbored among members of the street families that needs to be explored. ‘‘The amazing football game witnessed here today can be harnessed to elevate the lives of street kids, rehabilitate them, and help to ease the reintegration process with their families,” she said. 

Representing the government, Eastleigh area Chief, Edwin Muchere noted that hard economic times have driven many vulnerable children to the streets. He requested more organizations and community members to show empathy to street families emphasizing that we should all enjoy equal human rights.  

“We can make the world a better place when we all care for one another regardless of our status in the community. I usually request security people guarding different shops in Eastleigh not to harass children and instead treat them as fellow human beings,” Muchere stated, adding “It is not their choice to be in the streets we should exercise humanity, the fact that they have torn clothes does not brand them thugs to warrant beatings.”  

CSP thanks our sponsors the Schooner Foundation for their great support in changing the lives of the underserved in the community. 

Unleashed – The Justice Warriors in our Prisons  

Crime Si Poa has embarked on an intensive justice outreach and legal empowerment program aimed at bridging the gap in legal knowledge and awareness amongst the underserved and vulnerable members of the society. 

The first phase of the training under the Sheria Mashinani (grassroots law) project of the Access to Justice program, and targeting inmates and staff within 5 Kenyan prisons, as well as community members in Kisumu, Vihiga and Nairobi counties respectively has so far seen a record 170 beneficiaries complete the course work within the last 5 months. 

With legal aid in Kenya still largely reserved for murder suspects and child offenders, most inmates facing equally serious cases in our courts, and who previously faced injustice due to inability to afford legal representation, have since gained legal knowledge and skills that have come in handy in advancing their cases in court. 

According to Ms. Sylvia Morwabe  the Programs Director at Crime Si Poa, fairness and equity are fundamental principles on the Constitutional right to fair trial and representation and the paralegal training focuses on equipping inmates and staff with knowledge on accessing and demanding justice. 

“I appreciate the support we have received from the entire leadership of our partners, the Kenya Correctional Services and which has enabled the smooth roll-out of the project. I similarly applaud the inmates and prison staff who enrolled for the program in order to serve the wider prison population and also use the same skill set upon release.” said Sylvia. 

The trained paralegals assist their fellow colleagues in navigating the complex web that is, the justice system. Such knowledge transfer is impactful given that majority of inmates are illiterate and poor.  

“I am delighted with the training Crime Si Poa has been taking us through. It’s more impactful than I expected. I feel empowered and prepared for life after release. I would like to develop enough legal experience to be able to train my fellow inmates and other members of my community,” said John, one of the inmates’ trainees at Thika Main Prison. 

A key outcome of the project is the revelation that joint training of inmates and prison officers has greatly boosted the rehabilitation process and fostered high level of discipline and leadership among the inmates.   

“The group work and classes are excellent, and the trainers are very knowledgeable of the law. One of the most valuable things that I really enjoy from the program is the friendship that I have developed with several inmates. We get together every couple of weeks to catch up, this gives them a feeling of being loved, “said David Kamau an officer at Thika Prison for Men. 

The comprehensive training covered various topics including: appeal drafting skills, the court process, criminal procedure, Law of Evidence, community organizing, fair trial provisions and alternative dispute resolution amongst others. It also had the practical, but fun side of holding mock trails which was done as part of group work. 

“We are delighted to note that whereas some of our beneficiaries’ have used the skills learnt from the trainings to win their freedom in court, some have secured well-paying employment opportunities as a result of the training,” remarks Pete Ouko, the Executive Director at Crime Si Poa. 

As we look forward to the graduation of the latest cohort of our trainees from Thika Main and Women Prisons respectively, we call upon all legal practitioners of goodwill to consider committing some of their time to undertake pro-bono work.  

Did you know that you can get legal information for free at the click of a button? Kindly visit www.sheria.crimesipoa.org and be empowered to empower others. 

Resilience and Audacity:  A Story of Success After Prison 

The sewing machine is purring as another order for a customer is being put together. It is only two years since James Macharia walked out of prison after serving a 15-year sentence, and though the transition from prison life and back into the community was tough, James has put all that behind him and is gainfully putting to practice the sewing skills acquired while incarcerated.

Even though there is a presumption that sentences served are commensurate with the offence one is convicted of, and the Kenya Prisons Service prides itself as a correctional service of excellence in Africa and beyond, the reality is that Macharia, just like many other returning citizens (ex-inmates), find it difficult to get jobs or even finances to start business upon release to due to the much dreaded “certificate of good conduct”  from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).  

“After serving many years in prison, I faced a lot of challenges including stigma when I was released. The hardest part was getting a job or even money to start a business with the skills I had acquired. I knocked on various office doors with hopes of getting assisted to acquire an electronic sewing machine in vain. In most cases all I got was empty promises,” reckons Macharia.

According to Macharia, days quickly turned to weeks, weeks turned to months and months to a year, without securing any financial help to start a business to sustain his livelihood. He had whoever vowed and determined to not give up or allow himself to relapse into crime as an alternative to earn a living.

“I almost lost hope, but when I remembered how far I had come from my former life in crime, I decided to push harder. Sometimes you feel like doing the unthinkable, but you realize that crime doesn’t pay. I choose to approach Crime Si Poa, an organization that was founded in prison and which is now creating change in the society. This was a game changer and a beacon of hope to me,” said Macharia adding “To date, I remain grateful for the financial help I got from the organization.”  

Crime Si Poa through its empowerment initiative program granted James Macharia, financial assistance to purchase an electronic sewing machine that quickly helped him realize his dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

Born and raised in Nairobi, Macharia was able to quickly identify a niche for a proper location for his business and establish a customer base. His decision to start his business in the busy Jua Kali area of Ngara, aided him to tap into the thriving matatu industry.

“I have skills in sewing attained while in prison. When I got out of prison, I didn’t want to waste the skills. I am happy that today I have a customer base around Ngara area in Nairobi. Most of the cool seat covers in Matatus are made by me. This makes me feel satisfied,’’ Macharia said.

Through partnership with The Answer Foundation, a Dutch based Christian organization that focus on holistically empowering inmates and ex-inmates through spiritual, pyscho-social and employability skills, returning citizens like Macharia, have secured a second chance in life, and are now also offering job opportunities to other Kenyans. This not only helps reduce recidivism but also leads to reduced crime rates in society. 

Other than sewing and upholstery, the multi -skilled Macharia is also NITA certified mechanic, carpenter, and welder. “I am requesting those who have got jobs, to bring to me as I am qualified while my charges are pocket friendly,” concluded Macharia.

Crime Si Poa has always been on the front line of empowering returning citizens, to ease their reintegration into society.

James is proof of resilience, audacity, and focus. A model citizen worth supporting. You may call our office number 0741506060 if you want to place orders to, or support James.

School Mentorship a Major Boost to Social and Academic Performances for Pupils

One-on-one mentorship sessions held by Crime Si Poa psychologists in various schools have led to positive impacts on learners academic and social development. Through sessions held every week, in both secondary and primary schools in Kajiado, Kisumu, Nairobi and Nakuru Counties have help solve a number of challenges faced by pupils in schools.

According to Raphael a teacher at St. Gabriel Nahyeon Community Centre, guidance and counselling offered to student has help build a connection and trust among students and teachers in their school.

“Mentorship is the best modality when dealing with learners who have been affected psychologically, rather than canning them. These learners need someone from outside to talk to them and share their experiences,” he said.

Samuel Onyango a teacher at Friends Secondary School, in Dandora Slum, applauded, mentorship sessions saying they offered a structured, consistent time and space for teachers to better know their student away from a classroom setting.

“Weekly interaction helps learners develop a universal set of skills, goals, adaptability, and reflection that are necessary for success in school, career, and life. Through counselling and guidance, we have helped students especially those exposed to, substance and drug abuse, early sexual activities and crime overcome such vices,’’ said Onyango.

In addition to the personal connections made during one-on-one meetings, mentors have had access to content assessment data for each of their mentees. This has helped them collaborate with teachers to set learning goals across subjects for students as well as encourage the enhancements of students’ talents through co-curricular activities.

“These students have immense talents. The sessions you have been holding during this talent shows, are especially important. Students have been able to showcase their God-given talents something that is commendable,’’ added teacher Onyango.

The teachers acknowledged the impact of the mentoring sessions especially in curbing teenage pregnancy in schools based in informal settlement.

“Issues of teenage pregnancy among children in this school had become rampant. Since Crime Si Poa began counselling sessions here there has been a significant impact. We now have fewer case of teenage relationships. Students now focus on their academics,” Teacher Onyango concluded.

Information on what is happening with learners at a social and emotional level gathered from mentorship sessions has boosted performance in the classroom. The sessions have also helped mentors and teachers make informed decisions on the best interventions for students who may be struggling mentally and, or emotionally.

A date with MS. President Season 2 Contestants

By Calvince Otieno

On Mashujaa Day as the country celebrated legendary heroes, Crime Si Poa (CSP) was honored to host 6 final contestants of Ms President’s TV Show Season 2, at the head office in Nairobi. The purpose of the visit was to prepare the contestants on the topic of National Security, by learning the work CSP is doing in reforming and transforming communities into crime-free societies.  

The contestants from across the country included Pauline Odongo, Siaya County, Nuru Muhame, Kwale County, Bina Maseno, Nairobi County, Milkah Righa, Taita Taveta, Fridah Karani, Embu County and Angela Mbuthia, Kiambu County.

Speaking during the session with 6 final contestants from the highly contested TV Show aired on KTN Home, Sylvia Morwabe, Programs Director at Crime Si Poa, shared programs Crime Si Poa is working on especially with collaboration with the criminal justice system and the contribution it has made on matters national security.

“We are excited to host the final female contestants of the Ms President show and discuss pertinent issues concerning national Security. We hope the conversation we had during this session will prepare them for future high-level public service roles, whether elective or appointive, and contribute to making this country a crime-free society,” said Sylvia.  

According to Sylvia, Crime Si Poa is a non-governmental organization, anchored on three pillars, Inform, Reform, and Transform, hence such partnership will contribute largely to fostering good leadership, governance, access to justice and rule of law at the grassroots level.

“Our key goal with other organizations who are stakeholders in the criminal justice system is not to antagonize each other, but instead collaborate and find solutions to some of the issues affecting the community,” Sylvia said.

Rahma Ramadhan one of the Ms President finalists acknowledges the work being done by CSOs and especially Crime Si Poa of ensuring women and youth are involved in finding solutions to issues of security affecting communities in Kenya.

“Police reforms were informed by a lot of work done by civil societies. I am impressed by Sheria Mashinani project by Crime Si Poa. This is a great initiative geared towards ensuring access to justice for all is a reality,” said Rahma. Ms President’s show aims at increasing women’s political representation and participation. Women under this program are being exposed to leadership in various areas that the presidency handles from economics, governance and leadership.

Community Members Lead Anti-FGM Campaign in Kajiado County

By Calvince Otieno

In Kajiado County Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM) is prevalent and forced on young girls despite being illegal in Kenya. The harmful cultural practice has largely affected school-going girls. Most teenage girls drop out of school and engage in early marriage, after undergoing FGM. Crime Si Poa (CSP) in partnership with Kwetu ni Loitokot community-based organizations (CBO) are trying to end this vice that is deeply rooted in Masaai culture.
Speaking during a forum held in Loitoktok by Crime Si Poa (CSP) and Kwetu ni Loitoktok CBO, last week to facilitate constructive debate on how to eliminate FGM and Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Kajiado, Patrick Bure, Assistant County Commissioner urged community members to drop harmful cultural practices such as FGM and gender-based violence that are retrogressive to the growth and development of the Community.
“As a community, we must come together, join hands with other activists and support the government’s drive to end cases of female genital mutilation in Kenya. We need also to have equal rights for all to ensure everyone lives a dignified life,” said Patrick.
In Kajiado County, FGM was perpetuated by the misguided belief that it instilled good morals and discouraged promiscuity in young girls. A belief that has been termed misleading and not backed by any scientific research.
“FGM and gender-based violence do occur because they are culturally supported in this community. A woman is treated like a child. There is a bad perception that a woman can be corrected when she does something wrong, by punishment. This is unacceptable and against human rights,” said Rafael, a member of the community.
The practice of FGM is illegal in Kenya, with the government pledging to eradicate it by the end of 2022, eight years ahead of the global deadline of 2030.

According to Moses Orundu, Sub-County Health Commissioner, FGM has largely contributed to Gender-Based Violence with one gender perceived to be lesser than the other. However domestic violence among families has also been fueled by drugs and substance abuse, especially among male counterparts.

“In this area, there is high usage of marijuana and consumption of alcohol. This has resulted in misunderstandings among family members, which end up being violent. The high cost of leaving has also pushed community members to engage in crude ways of earning a living. We need urgent intervention,” Lamented Orundu

Crime Si Poa and Kwetu Ni Loitoktok after the event met with Shadrack Ruto, OCPD, Kajiado South Police Division, and engaged in ways to protect young girls and women from vices such as FGM and SGBV.

“Unfortunately many locals are not willing to cooperate with the police officers including area administrations like the chiefs. It is important to work with you to create the much-needed awareness in this area to eradicate, FGM, SGBV, drug and substance abuse as well as empower our community,” the OCPD concluded.

Crime Si Poa is in the process of extending its hands to partner with other community groups in Kajiado County to sensitize the locals on issues concerning mental health, domestic violence, and FGM.

Balling with the Community: Providing Alternative Solutions to Crime and Drug Addiction

By Calvince Otieno

Last Saturday saw over 400 youth and community members, mostly street families, from the Majengo area in Nairobi took part in a sizzling football tournament dubbed “kicking off crime and drug addiction from society” at St John’s Community Center in Pumwani.

Organized by Street Changers CBO in partnership with Crime Si Poa and other community-focused organizations, the event was aimed at creating awareness of social issues affecting young people in the city.

Young people from the area hitherto infamous for social vices including radicalization had an opportunity to showcase their talent in singing, dancing, and acrobatics. The community also benefitted from free guidance and counseling services at the Crime Si Poa tent and a medical camp by CheckUps Medical Center.

‘’The health of these children matters, and as an organization, we have today decided to offer free medical checkups so that if one is found ill, he or she can start medication as early as possible,’’ said Dorcas Saina, Marketing Officer, CheckUps Medical Center.

According to Ruth Wambui, Project Officer Crime Si Poa, the tournament came at a time when most young people in the community are facing a myriad of challenges, ranging from, unemployment, drug and substance use, mental health issues, crime, as well as sexual and gender-based violence.

“Apart from ensuring we keep sane and fit; the event creates awareness of the effects of crime and substance use, especially among street families. We are also here to avail services such as counseling to help build better mental health among young people,” said Ruth, adding “A great way to spread awareness about mental health is by engaging in events in your community such as this tournament to learn more and connect with others.”

Ruth further urged young people to speak out against sexual and gender-based violence in the community.

Speaking at the event, Thomas Lindi from Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) cautioned the youth especially members of the street families against consuming tobacco substances, warning of their adverse effects on health.

‘’Smoking tobacco causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It also increases the risk of tuberculosis. Young people, please keep away from tobacco substances,’’ Lindi pleaded.

Three teams, Pumwani Football Club, Young Achievers, and Zero Street participated in the tournament with the hosts Pumwani emerging as the winners after defeating Zero Street 2- 1 in the finals. The winners and runners-up were all rewarded with a new ball and trophy while the third-placed team got a trophy.

The Crime Si Poa street families project is aimed at the holistic reformation, rehabilitation of, and reintegration into the society of street children and is ably supported by the Schooner Foundation.

Stigma to Acceptance – Creating Safe Spaces for Mental Health

By Calvince Otieno

One notable outcome of the COVID-19 era is the demystification of mental health. Gone are the days mental health was labelled a “generational curse” only discussed in hushed tones and which required special exorcism. The era of locking up patients in dark rooms and feeding them through doors like caged animals is also gone.

These strides gained in the fight against the stigma associated with mental health, were widely acknowledged during the commemoration of World Mental Health Day forum organised by Crime Si Poa in partnership with Sarakasi Trust, Mental 360, NACADA, Kenya Red Cross, and varsity students among other stakeholders at the Sarakasi Dome, in Ngara, Nairobi.

The forum, preceded by mental health awareness walk in Nairobi, aimed at amplifying the voice of young people, on mental health challenges they are facing, possible remedies and avenues of available support.

Marking the international day themed “Making Mental Health a Global Priority,” Jacob Onyango from NACADA highlighted the adverse effects of drugs and substance abuse on mental health among the youth.

Issues of drug abuse are also issues of mental health. Drug abuse reduces psychological resistance, making it easier for individuals to give in to suicidal thoughts’’ said Onyango.

He encouraged young people to keep off drugs, noting that treating addiction is a costly and long drawn process. Onyango further called for increased psycho-social interventions, including establishment of more mental health facilities, to deal with the rising cases of mental health issues in Kenya 

Touching on mental health challenges facing varsity students including acute depression, occasioned by external stressors, Marcelyn Joel a student leader from JKUAT, stressed on the need for young people to take advantage of available psycho-social support services offered in learning institutions and like-minded organizations instead of taking extreme measures like suicide.

“Many students have difficulties in their academic journey. Though issues like poverty are family related, others like poor academic performance, peer and social media pressure, alcoholism, and drug abuse, are some of the stressors that affect their mental status negatively,” Marcelyn said.

Mental 360 CEO, Bright Shitemi, mentioned that although mental illness is more pronounced today than ever before due to the increased awareness of mental health issues as well as the increased pressures in life as our society progresses, more must be done.

Kenya is said to be lagging in awareness and treatment of mental health illnesses. Hence an increase in resources and awareness campaigns to build up support systems in the society is needed.

“Psychological support needs to be accompanied by economic empowerment. Most people dealing with mental issues also have economic challenges that inhibit them from accessing help contributing to the vicious cycle,” he said.

During the forum stakeholders urged the government to incorporate young people as well as survivors of mental health illnesses while developing policies that advocate for mental health. This is said to be a key demographic mostly ignored by the Ministry of Health Taskforce.

Martha Lee a consultant counselling psychologist from Crime Si Poa echoed sentiments from other speakers, adding that there was an urgent need for a holistic dimension in tackling mental health.

“1 out of 5 people experience mental health issues, depression and anxiety being the most common. We need to create more spaces for people dealing with mental issues,” lamented Martha, adding, “Positive associations in the environment such as a family keepsake, photos, or familiar objects can boost mood and a sense of connection.”   

She urged people to seek counselling as therapy can be beneficial for both the individual with mental illness as well as the other family members.

Crime Si Poa has since COVID-19 prioritized mental wellness as a core operational and programmatic issue with a fully-fledged wellness unit. The organization has also cascaded the same to all our activities in prisons, schools, and communities by creating awareness through psychoeducation and offering psychosocial counselling to the affected.