Ruth is a young lady who has taken it upon herself to make sure that the heartbeat of the nation never fades. I met her at the residence of the Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya H.E. Sarah Hradecky during the International Day of the Girl. She was one of the girls who had been absorbed into the Girls Take Over Campaign. The initiative seeks to encourage leaders to step aside for emerging champions for a day so that they can be mentored and put into practice what they gain. Read more here ( plan-international.org/because-i-am-a-girl/international-day-of-the-girl# )
She teaches children on the importance of saving the little money they have in stead of using it to buy drugs. She also nurtures their talents in sports, music and drama.Despite the odds, she believes in the light she sees in the hundreds of boys and girls she guides but most of all, she believes in herself for there is no greater source of strength than this.
She is a volunteer with the Haki Group in Kibera. The Community Based Organisation was founded by Mr. Charles Ogutu with the aim of creating a safe space for vulnerable children in Kibera. The need for child friendly spaces continues to grow by the day. The major cause of the group is to mitigate the effects that HIV/AIDS has on the community and to meet the needs of orphans and other children who have faced immense challenges such as domestic violence.
My conversation with Rosemary Kaveza, the co-coordinator in charge of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) was very insightful. These are the untold stories of Kenyans who have dedicated their lives to changing other lives. The children are mostly orphaned when their parents die as a result of HIV/AIDS and related complications. Most of them have nowhere to go and end up living in their relatives homes or even neighbors. Unfortunately, it is there that they are abused, raped and made to suffer immense psychological harm.
The OVC assists victims of rape in seeking justice by helping them find lawyers and getting the necessary medical attention. They even offer counselling for post-traumatic cases. It is noteworthy that the program has managed to successfully bring to book two sexual offenders. They have gone through the court system and been jailed for twenty one years each. Pedophiles have no place in our society.
The number of teenage pregnancies is very high. The OVC encourages the girls to go back to school once they have given birth. They even provide mentorship and academic follow up and to add to that they donate stationery to them. Girl child support has been a major area of focus such as providing sanitary towels and encouraging them to move out of prostitution to earn a decent living. We must not forget that reproductive health education is key and these girls are taught that being a woman is a special thing and they should try not to miss school especially when on their periods.It is interesting to note how the children would want to express their pain. They are scared but through the necessary guidance, some of them manage to draw what is going on in their lives. Art is a form of mental expression, we cannot ignore this.
Sometimes, they mobilize resources so as to ensure that the children are not left idle but put into vocational training centers where they gain the skills required to have a sustainable way of earning a living. There is a resource center that acts as a haven for minors escaping from cases of domestic abuse. This is where they come to read and interact with other children. The Jomo Kenyatta Foundation donated books to the institution but they are still not enough due to the high population, 1210 boys and girls to be precise.
I was saddened by the fact that most perpetrators of violence are parents and guardians. They use their own children to peddle drugs and guns. This has led to an increased rate of crime and higher numbers of drug addiction cases. The worst part is that society does not forgive. If they are caught in crime then mob justice takes the lead. They are burnt to death. Can we do more? Yes we can. In fact, there are a number of organisations that train on self defense so that children are not forced to get into behaviors that are harmful to them.
Health is always a key debate in any country. HAKI has had the chance of partnering with various groups that have worked on improving health care facilities. Among them are the ‘Medicine Sons Frontiers’ and ‘Shining Hope for Communities’. They have built a hospital that provides free medical services. A mobile app called M-TIBA has been very efficient. People are able to save some little money to be specifically used for emergencies. Its partnership with Safaricom has once again proved the need and importance of mobile money transfer and other services. Other partners are Afya Plus, CARE KENYA, PLAN international, The Equity Wings to Fly and Barclays Bank.
We talk of job creation and employment. It’s no secret that there is so much competition. HAKI has promoted economic empowerment by encouraging parents to form groups in which table banking activities are done. This has provided an avenue for them to provide for their families and even start their own businesses.
A major concern is the lack of educational facilities for children who live within Kibera. Most good public schools are found outside the area and the walking distance is sometimes torturous for pupils. There are many informal schools inside Kibera that may not have the necessary equipment to ensure that a child develops holistically.
At the end of the day, we all want peace. Justice need not always be painful. It can be sweetened. The organisation has really brought out the importance of Alternative Dispute Resolution methods so as to reduce instances of domestic violence. The intervention has significantly helped to re-build families.
In conclusion, let us give a thumbs up for the many people like Ruth, Rosemary and Charles who are lighting a new candle of hope every day. This is to the many boys and girls who are afraid to take up positions of leadership. You too can take over like Ruth.
Here’s to strong men and women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them!
‘To learn more about HAKI, follow this link (hakigroup.org/ ) ‘