By Michel Owuor & Beatrice Atieno, AfriNov
The work and persistence of Venus Educational Center Community group of Maziwa location in Nairobi, Kenya is proof that an empowered community can non-violently achieve inclusive community leadership.
For years, the community members of Blue Estate in Maziwa location, felt that they did not have a say in local decision-making processes. In the past, it was the local chief that appointed people into leadership positions. As a result, the leadership was biased and did not reflect the diverse membership of the community.
Through the partnership between Venus group, community members in Blue Estate and the Africa Center for Nonviolence & Sustainable Impact (AfriNov), the community managed to achieve nonviolent change of their community leadership structures.
“Striving to achieve an inclusive community leadership in Maziwa location is important in realizing equity and accountability in public service delivery and access to job opportunities for youth”, says Volence Oloo, the Chairperson on Venus group.
Before being trained in nonviolence methods by AfriNov, there was intolerance between the community, Venus group members and community leaders. Every time community members and the leadership had contrasting views, there was violence. AfriNov provided training in nonviolent conflict resolution using the Turning the Tide (TTT) approach. Through close follow-ups, AfriNov supported them to realize peaceful change and take the lead.
The community confessed that it took time for nonviolent approaches to sink in. Nonviolent campaigners were often threatened, leading to most activists dropping off.
In a yearlong campaign, from September 2018 to November 2019, campaigners worked with the local chief, the Member of the County Assembly (MCA), local police in Shauri Moyo, leadership of the landlords in Blue Estate, religious leaders and others. All actors decided together that a community election would appoint the Nyumba Kumi Committee. Nyumba Kumi is a government-community partnership forum aimed at enhancing community participation in security and public service delivery.
“Five members of Venus group were elected to serve in four Nyumba Kumi clusters in Maziwa location. The voice of women has been amplified and now two ladies from Venus group are employed by local NGOs”, members of the Venus group shared with AfriNov.
Through their persistence on nonviolent approaches, leaders nowadays no longer see their community members as enemies, but as partners. Diverse voices are heard more, and the community is at the heart of its leadership.
Most encouraging is that the community members in the neighboring Shauri Moyo location have been impressed with the nonviolence approach employed in Blue Estate community. Venus group is working to support them to replicate and achieve inclusive community leadership transformation in Shauri Moyo through nonviolent means. AfriNov will continue to support the group with advice and connections.