Barry Silah @obel_barry
Female genital mutilation and tribal conflicts have remained the key factors that have denied Marsabit county, in Northern Kenya region, peace, livelihood and development for decades.
Even when men, women and children were not dying of either of the factors, tribal animosity was evident in virtually all the region’s communities—especially the Borana, Gabra and Rendille. Not anymore!
Various community programs have helped the residents integrate and work peacefully for social and economic gains.
For 17-year-old Kabale Halake, football has changed her perspective on life and saved her from a perilous path as a youth. Her football ambitions stand a chance of glowing success, courtesy of the Horn of Africa Development Initiative (Hodi) project that has become a new source of hope for youth in the region.
Steadily, there has been a shift of perception and more inclusivity, which has seen youth such as Kabale embrace their talent with passion and renewed sense of purpose.
Over the past decade, communities have engaged more openly to defuse tensions.
“Back then, it was unheard of for Gabra and Rendille or Borana folk to sit together. It was uncommon of for girls to engage in sports, but all that has changed. We, the young, are beginning to understand the need to foster new ideologies,” says Kabale, the captain of the local Hodi FC and student at Moi Girls’ High School, Marsabit.
Interestingly, the football team consists of boys and girls, which, previously, would have been a taboo. The initiative now has a membership of 180 youngsters across different ages.
Kabale a resident of Saku, is testament to the greater confidence emerging in the area.
“There is measured validity of what we are doing on the ground based on continuous assessment. The best way to address communal challenges is always by involving everyone. It is important to understand what they feel and need, so that finding solutions to their problems becomes a collective responsibility,” says advocate Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan, Founder of Hodi-Africa.
Social empowerment and financial dependency are now hit subjects in forums across the county. Kheri Self Help Group chairperson Mama Amina Hassan, 70, is keen on enhancing the plan.
“Nowadays, we do not beg because we have projects that give us returns. The fact that we rely on the work of our hands and trust each other to develop, is inspiring. We can fully support our families and even save and loan our members,” says Mama Hassan of Nagayo location, whose group focuses on greenhouse farming.
Security has also improved partly because of growing trust between police and the residents.
County Police Commander Wachira Mathenge says: “We have facilitated programs around community empowerment which have greatly impacted lives. Cattle rustling and cross-border conflict have greatly reduced because of the intervention measures. Peace forums have enabled people to ventilate in the open. Additionally, for the girls, we have ensured all police stations have gender desks.”
Moyale MP Gufu Qalicha is hopeful that beyond the now precious cohesion, a bigger agenda of involving more youth can be encouraged.