By Beatrice Atieno
Grassroot community groups that are trained on nonviolent ways of identifying and addressing social injustices, are better placed to peacefully safeguard their communities’ wellbeing and development. An empowered community is timely in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic where help and assistance should reach the most vulnerable and needy in society. However, that is not always the case, because we have a lot of corruption in our country.
In Nairobi, AfriNov supported grassroots organizations like Venus Education Medical Centre- VEMC, to launch a campaign against a corrupted Covid19 aid distribution scheme by local officials. Community members reported to VEMC that local authorities were handing out Covid-19 relief aid along tribal lines and that government subsidies were being misused. AfriNov advised the group and helped members to gather necessary evidence. VEMC interviewed 150 residents and learnt that in total 121 vulnerable families were to receive Covid-19 cash fund from the government. The group also found out that 34 out of the 121 received funds only because they were related to the area chief. A further 24 families were well off and still received the funds. 10 others were not area residents yet still received the funds. Only 47 needy families were fairly identified.
The campaigners shared their survey report with the Deputy County Commissioner and made recommendations on how the distribution should be handled more transparently and fairly. The Deputy Commissioner was very grateful for the information and acted on all the recommendations. He also promised to work closely with VEMC in the future.
Following this nonviolent action by VEMC, other development partners like World Food Program- WFP, started physically verifying their aid delivery services. They also found some mismatch of names and contacts. Some of the beneficiaries were relatives to those who were compiling the list yet they did not qualify to get the relief aid. Other people on the list were deceased while many other were not even aware that they had been listed to benefit from the relief aid.
Authorities together with the community created a new list through a more transparent way and 1200 needy people were identified for consideration. This corruption would never have been discovered without the bold nonviolent action by VEMC.
“Through the training and support from AfriNov, the community is empowered to identify gaps, identify injustices and peacefully mobilize residents to non-violently address issues”, shared VEMC chairperson, Volence Oloo. “This is clear departure from previous periods where the youth and residents did not know how to build positive relations with leaders. They would respond to issues violently to the disadvantage of the community”.
In pursuing strong relationship with their elected officials, holding them accountable and solving injustices non-violently, the community continues to enjoy increasing opportunities for their wellbeing. It is through such initiatives that 46 young people of Blue Estate in Maziwa area got opportunities to work in the government funded beautification and environmental conservation initiative popularly known as Kazi Mtaani (Work in Communities).
VEMC hopes to continue to promote nonviolence and AfriNov will continue to support the group in this important work.