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The 9th of July 2021 marked the beginning of a 4 day youth activism training for a group of 40 young people gathered from all the corners of Kuria (Yes the East and the west). This was supported by the accelerator project by Girls Not Bribes, funded by the players of People's Postcode Lottery and implemented by Msichana Empowerment Kuria (MEK) in Kenya and Children's Dignity Forum (CDF) in Tanzania.

The project uses the accelerator approach to help inform more effective and community driven interventions to address the ending of child marriage and other harmful practices, prioritizing youth engagement as a key part of community engagement.

The Accelerator Approach builds on existing work of national movements in countries, providing a tailored programme of support that is designed to support the members’ developing capabilities, unlock the potential of a wide range of partners and stakeholders, and encourage increased effort and collaboration to end child marriage. Through this approach, we are keen to demonstrate that accelerated action on ending child marriage at scale is possible.

The 40 young people ranging from the ages of 20 ~28 years old, convened to share their experiences, learn and form a network of young persons in the region to spearhead the ending of child marriages and other harmful practices.

The session began with the young people expressing their expectations and setting ground rules (even Aristotle also knows the importance of house rules)

The session then extensively discussed:

  1. Child marriage: causes and prevention

  2. SRHR (Sexual Reproductive Health &Rights)

  3. Sex and gender

  4. Advocacy strategies

  5. Finding your voice and power

  6. Power of partnerships

  7. Monitoring & evaluation

From the discussion, various aspects came out clearly:

  1. We are the generation to foster and bring chang

  2. Change is gradual- Rome was not built in a day.

  3. The four elements of SRHR: information, access, privacy and confidentiality have to be assured and maintained at all times

On sex and gender, sex is the biological difference between men and women while gender is the social and cultural differences between men and women. The latter is different for various communities, for example in the Maasai community women are the builders of homes while in the Kuria community, women building houses is unheard of. From this we learnt that gender roles/ norms are not cast on stone, they can change- we can change them.

It was interesting to note that even sex nowadays is changeable, the world isn't as rigid as it was a few years back, Sex is fluid these days. As such we young people should be ready and willing to interrogate our ways and cherry pick what works for the good of our communities.

The four day training had intense and interactive sessions which brought forth various norms that needed to be challenged, for example the Nyumba Mboke.

Nyumba Mboke

This is an arrangement where an older woman who has not given birth to a son marries a younger woman so that she can deliver male children for her. This arrangement has disadvantaged young children who fall victims to this arrangement due to difficult economic times.

The sessions were great learning ground and the young people vowed to make their communities better- FGM and child marriages will end when we work together, create awareness and be willing to challenge some of the traditions propagated by our communities. This can be achieved only when young people create strong units that have far reaching impacts in the larger Kuria community. It was very inspiring to see how willing and ready young people are to be part of the change.

Moses, one of the trainers shared that being an activist had put him in an uncomfortable position with his family because he protested against them marrying a young girl from his deceased cousin. He added that it is a difficult position to be in because the community observes keenly to see how an activist will speak on the wrong committed by his or her family. He concluded by saying being an activist means standing against any wrongs regardless who is committed them.

Natalie the Msichana ED concluded the sessions by reminding the trainees to always stay safe, work with other young people because activism could turn ugly within minutes.

The session was a much needed push for young people to continue fostering change in their individual communities and protect our girls from child marriage and FGM.

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