Women of Faith in Action: Protecting Families from Violent Extremism

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Global Associate Emeritus

As part of our long-standing partnership between the Goldin Institute and Arigatou International, I'm pleased to share this progress report on the Family Resilience Project Against Violent Extremism that is led by Women of Faith In Action.

On 27th December 2020, women beneficiaries from the Family Resilience project organized an informal meeting with children to enlighten them about the challenge of radicalization into violent extremism, and how they can protect themselves from becoming victims. The participants also commemorated the 20 years of interfaith collaboration for children by the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC).

ArigatouUpdate202102As the Network and Programs Coordinator of the GNRC, I was pleased to welcome over 200 participants, including 50 adults and 150 children and youth, who attended the event.  Other guests that attended the session included the Assistant County Commissioner, Mr. Henry Rop, Nyali District Peace Committee Chair, Ms. Shamsa Abubakar, and Mombasa faith leaders Sh. Khamis Aula, Rev. Kipruto Menego and Bishop Daniel Matho Fondo.

During the meeting, I emphasized the huge role that women play in community empowerment and in peace building. It was an honor to be able to thank this room filled with women leaders for fully embracing the project, offering valuable teachings to their family members, children and youth, and to the wider community. I was pleased to hear from these empowered women ranging from teachers, small business owners, community leaders, and mothers -- that they have been able to reach almost 8,000 children with values education, peace building and coexistence among other virtues.

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While opening the meeting, the local program coordinator, Rev. Maria Menego, noted that GNRC recognizes the vital role religious leaders and their communities play in fostering healthy values and supporting positive behaviors in their societies. She added that faith communities are important in preventing violent extremism due to their unique institutional resources and ties with communities and their capacity to facilitate, mobilize and organize members of the communities. Rev. Menego appreciated the support that GNRC in partnership with Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) and Goldin Institute have provided to the community, through the Family Resilience project.

"The women from different faith backgrounds are provided with education on the nature of violent extremism and its prevention,” she stated. The project actively involves women working or living in informal settlements of Mombasa and Nairobi to prevent violent extremism (PVE) among children and youth.

The Family Resilience project came at an opportune moment when most children and youth are at home and idle due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, children are vulnerable to engaging in gang crimes and violent extremism. Involving women in peace building processes is a major step towards ending radicalization and violent extremism since women can easily reach to children. – Rev. Maria Menego, Program Coordinator, Family Resilience Project, and Faith Leader, Nyali Fellowship Mombasa.

In his remarks, Assistant County Commissioner Mr. Henry Rop was pleased with GNRC’s recognition of women’s important role in peace processes noting that women faith actors and leaders can provide forums, through which the government can engage the children and youth, build capacity, partner with the government, train and disseminate information to the people. He reiterated that it was time for women to be actively engaged at all levels. He urged children not to be lured into gangs or extremist groups that perpetuate violence, instead concentrate on their studies and progress.

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Ms. Shamsa Abubakar noted that the Family Resilience project brought a unique model of empowerment where it taught both women and children about peace, faith and development. She noted that due to the commitment the women demonstrated, the county government was ready to further equip them with peace building skills, to make them more effective in their outreach to the women and youth in their communities.

The meeting similarly celebrated 20 years of interfaith collaboration for GNRC that has focused on child rights; poverty eradication; ethics education; peace building; and network strengthening. Family Resilience Members, Ms. Margaret Gona and Ms. Eunice Amon led the participants in song and dance to celebrate the event. They expressed gratitude for GNRC reaching and transforming their lives.

Women of Faith Conclude the Children’s Peace Forums

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On 30th November 2020, Family Resilience project women leaders in Mombasa concluded their yearlong children’s peace building forums that have now reached about 8,000 children and youth in Kisauni and Nyali Constituencies.

Through the Family Resilience project pioneered by the GNRC, Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) and Goldin Institute, 20 women were actively trained in the constituency on preventing violent extremism, conflict resolution. These in turn acted as leaders and educated over 100 women, children and youth to understand violent extremism in addition to educating mothers/caregivers on positive child upbringing. They worked closely with the local government authorities, community based organizations, practitioners, and religious institutions before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“I feel it is the duty of teachers, parents, caregivers, women of faith, and women community leaders to reach out to our children and build a solid tradition based on values and principles. The skills from the Family Resilience project reinforces this.” – Ms. Rabia Kombo, Family Resilience Project Member

Among the topics covered during the peace forums included: Interfaith Coexistence; Conflict Transformation; Human Rights Education; Understanding Other Faiths; and Religion as a Resource for Peace. Participants shared their experiences related to radicalization into violent extremist and gang groups. The sessions also helped children to acquire critical understanding of their role in peace building.

Great impact has been made through the project and GNRC hopes to scale it up to a larger community. The idea is for the children and youth to also be young ambassadors of peace and reach and inspire their peers.

Young people need to be empowered to understand and know their role in peace building and promoting human rights for all. The children peace forums aim to do just that. Through women leaders more youth and children are resourceful in the community and in their lives. By empowering children and youth, we stand a chance in promoting peace and development now and in the future.” – Rev. Maria Menego, Project Coordinator, Family Resilience Project, and Faith Leader, Nyali Fellowship.

We sincerely thank Apostles Church Bombolulu, Freetown Primary School, Good Samaritan Church, Khadija Primary School, Kikodep, Maweni Primary School and Pentrose Community Bombolulu Pefa Church; for hosting all the children peace forums and ensuring that we got a conducive space for learning. We sincerely thank the leadership of Elim Nyali Fellowship for the great coordination of all the activities.

Income Generating Activities for Sustainable Peace and Development

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The women involved in the Family Resilience Program are organized into 5 groups each with 20 women pursuing a specific group enterprise.

The Network and Programs Coordinator visited the groups to assess progress of the projects in the Bombolulu area which are Breakthrough Women Group that ventured into hair saloon business, Beba Nikubebe Women Group that specialized in egg vending, Nafahirwa Women Group that opened a charcoal business, and Pamoja Wamama Twaweza Women Group and Vitendo Tenda Women Group, both focusing in broiler chicken farming.

The project aims to build the capacity of women to positively promote co-existence and respect, thus transforming their communities and eventually countering violent extremism. The project also provides economic support to women thereby building their family resilience against violent extremism.

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Existing research reveals that poverty increases the likelihood of participation in violent extremist groups especially for those with least education. Opening up microfinance opportunities is thus one way to prevent violent extremism and participation in other criminal acts.

To prepare for their business ventures, the women underwent entrepreneurship skills training facilitated Mr. Charles Masheti, a GNRC consultant and an expert in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The rigorous training entailed the development of a business and projection plan of their ventures as well as group dynamics.

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Each group comprises 15 - 20 members with a clear leadership structure made of a chairperson, deputy chairperson, secretary, treasurer and members. The number of women trained was 200 in both Mombasa and Nairobi counties. The economic venture comes at a time when the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected our economic standing.

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