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.

Collaboration Between Police and Youth will Improve Service Delivery in Kenya

 The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in 2010 brought a new life in Kenya. Among them is the reform of police services, geared towards modernizing and transforming the police agencies into professional and accountable police services responsive to the needs of Kenyans. This came after decades of law enforcement marked by police brutality, harassment, and extrajudicial killings.

A lot of changes have been witnessed in the National Police Service (NPS) in terms of administrative, institutional, policy, and legislative frameworks. However, despite all these efforts, a daunting task remains in boosting a good rapport between the police and civilians.

The acts of impunity by some members of the police service have greatly eroded the confidence of Kenyans towards the police. Most of the time, the police force is viewed as an enemy, a threat to life and peace, instead of being protectors of life.

Unprecedented violence, human rights, and dignity violations have hugely dented the image of the National Police Service; despite the many good acts of service, they have rendered to citizens. 

However, as much as we would like to lean on the negative side of the police force, it would be a grave injustice not to mention the many good acts of service rendered to Kenyans by the police. There are many good officers who have done exemplary work for the people, and in them, “Utumishi kwa wote” has found its fulfillment.

Talk about the officer who traded a gun for chalk to teach some students at the Kenya-Ethiopia border. Not forgetting the 25 police officers recognized by Manu Chandaria for their good work. There is much to be said about the Kenyan police on the peace-keeping mission in South Sudan, honored by the United Nations. Many good, loyal, and dedicated members of the police service have proved time and again that the public can still trust them to protect them. 

Changing the narrative 

To avert further aggression between the community and the police force, we must look back and check where we went wrong as a country and find possible solutions to this menace.

Historically, a culture of impunity was passed down from the colonial era and is evident in post-colonial Africa. The colonists used African tribesmen to carry out punitive expeditions on their fellow Africans. In the same vein, the police have little regard paid to the law, and the fact that it is little or no accountability for the police does not help.

Secondly, how the police are trained could be a factor in explaining the violence exhibited by our men and women in uniform. If you have been to Kiganjo, you have seen how the recruits are subjected to dehumanizing and degrading exercises in the name of recruitment. The lack of professionalism in the process might explain the situation’s “Kwa ground”. 

Lastly, the almost non-existent structures of civilian oversight do not make things better. The Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) was founded in 2011 to investigate police brutality and killings as a way to check the power of the police. To date, only about 13 convictions out of 10,000 complaints lodged have been made. 

The much-needed shift 

There is a need for a 180-degree shift in mindset, which can only be brought about by training. If training is done properly, with regard to qualification and the dignity of the recruits, it will reflect on how they perform their duties. The training should focus more on human rights and the rule of law and be conducted in such a manner that the two are ingrained in the minds and hearts of the officers.

A powerless IPOA banking on the cooperation of the NPS will never perform as it ought to. The institution needs to have the power to compel the Inspector-General of Police to ensure accused police officers cooperate during investigations. Additionally, the government needs to allocate adequate funds to IPOA to enable them to conduct investigations. 

Another way to enhance oversight of the NPS could be to devolve the police service, borrowing a leaf from the American model that has established police departments in each state. Devolving the police service would allow for easier management of the officers by the county government. This would increase accountability as compared to centralized control of the police service. Devolving would also make the police more responsive to issues affecting residents of particular counties. This will also enable IPOA to monitor and investigate independent police departments, unlike a centralized one.

As Kenyans, we also have an individual responsibility to ensure that “Utumishi Kwa Wote” becomes a reality through expressing themselves by raising their voices against impunity as well as by being law-abiding citizens.

Youth in Nakuru County Engage Authorities on Best Ways to Shan Crime

On Friday 26th November 2021, 200 youth from Nakuru County, participated in a civic education session on active citizenship, access to justice and the institutions around it, and how they can avert being in conflict with law enforcement authorities in Kenya. 

During the session held at the Nakuru Players Theatre, most youths from Nakuru town and its environment complained of victimization and unwarranted arrest from the law enforcement officers. This has led most youths to lose trust and hope in the system.

“We have been arrested countless times while going about our boda boda business. Unfortunately, we had to part away with money even though we had done no wrong. The boda boda owner also had to bribe the police despite proving that we had not broken any law,” said John, one of the youths attending the meeting. 

This was echoed by fellow youth who have found themselves wrongfully arrested for crimes they haven’t committed.

However, according to the police representative present, Ann W Lucy most youth should make efforts to know their rights and how to defend themselves rather than rushing to bribe even in incidences where they are innocent. 

“Our offices are open for complaints, especially where youth have been victimized by law enforcement officers. Always report such incidences to enable us to reform the police force and offer better services to citizens,” said Ann W Lucy. 

Other than a representation from the National Police Service, the event organized by the Youth Safety Awareness Initiative (Crime Si Poa ®) was also attended by representatives from the Office of The Director of Public Prosecutions, Boda Boda officials, and civil society players from the region. 

Youth were urged to ensure they participate in public discourse on issues affecting them and exercise their civic duties and democratic rights such as registering as voters to be able to elect viable leaders who will represent their interest at all levels. 

“Youth must engage in decision-making, especially by participating in the electoral process come 2022. As a youth, we must ensure we vote in leaders who have our interests at heart and will represent our issues at both the county and national level,” concluded, Abubakar Bilal of Uraia.

From the intense engagements during the forum, it was noted that there is a need for more collaborative efforts to help tackle issues of youth, civic education, and crime. The Crime Si Poa team promised to organize more forums to foster a crime-free society.