By IPJ Program Officer Zahra Ismail
I arrived in Nairobi excited to see and hear what transpired since my previous trip, when we conducted the training of trainers (ToT) in February in the communities of Mathare, Korogocho and Kibera. Meeting the Cissta volunteers who participated in the ToT, I found a group transformed, now confident in their role as facilitators, eager to move forward with the project and ready to take the reigns as leaders in their communities.
Enthusiastically, they shared the details of the trainings they facilitated over the month of March, introducing community members to conflict resolution and violence prevention skills. Recounting how well participants responded to the training, they relayed how many came forward wanting to know when they could attend further training. Building on that momentum, Cissta volunteers and I facilitated three workshops in each community, focused specifically on learning and practicing tools for preventing and responding to situations of violence.
Each workshop started with a mock scenario of a tense situation in which participants might find themselves. The scenarios highlighted how much feelings influence responses, and how having procedures in place can help us effectively respond to situations — especially dangerous ones — when they occur. In the debrief sessions which followed, participants shared the fear, anger or shock that arose, and in many cases expressed that they were ready for a fight, ready to jump right in. Others recounted their internal dialogue as they processed what was transpiring, and their desire to remain calm despite rising anger, knowing how quickly the situation could turn violent.
In the three communities where Cissta and the IPJ are working, day-to-day threats of violence include police brutality, murder, tribal conflict, theft, rape and drug abuse, many of which intensified following Kenya’s last elections. As the clock ticks toward the next presidential elections, set for March 4, 2013, tribal hostilities, armed gangs and politically charged rumors are already increasing tensions. Through our violence prevention project, we are supporting each community to develop procedures for preventing and responding to some of these issues before they spiral out of control.
As I leave Nairobi this second time, I am humbled by the challenges ahead, but also excited for what is to come. Seeing the participants shift from feeling helpless in the face of the violence to devising strategies and procedures for responding to it — and eagerly planning to do these same exercises with their own groups — left me holding my breath, anxious for what will transpire over the next months.