Does our society view violence and conflict as one and the same thing? As a child growing up in several townships in Kenya, violence was a natural thing in my community. Children fighting each other in schools, physical violence between family members, violent crimes reported daily during daytime or evening news, civil wars in neighbouring countries and not forgetting the common verbal abuse among community members. It also most seemed normal and natural. Teachers took little action in addressing or preventing student fights, neighbours rarely interfered with violence in families as they felt that it was a private issue to be dealt with by the family members and even though the police took action against violent crimes, it was never enough.
Fast track to the 2000’s, the first time I came across and heard of terms such as sexual violence, radicalization and terrorism. These were somewhat new terms to me, a young woman freshly out of high school and entering the society as an adult. Well, the parameters had just expanded. Not only was my community experiencing all types to violence known to us, but we were also experiencing violent threats, threating the entire global community. Sexual violence has affected the lives of thousands of women and girls and in some cases men and boys. In addition to other types of violence, it is widely viewed as a vile human rights violation which has to be prevented at all costs. When half of the world’s population is being abused and exploited, then a heavy burden in laid on a country’s economic and health costs.
Our world is experiencing a breakdown in societal and family structures which is a cause as well as a consequence of violence. More young men and women are engaging in violent crimes through gang violence, joining terror cells and participating in armed conflicts and civil war. Because of this and many other types of violence, the society as a whole is experiencing the psychological, physical, social, political and economic effects of violence. These effects demonstrate an urgent need to promote violence prevention strategies through formal and non-formal education. I believe every one everyone can be a change maker in their community. As a girl who has grown to be a woman passionate about human rights and committed to transforming her community, I sought to play an active role in championing a violence free society. A role I have played in the last 4 years working with children, youth, men and women alike by dispersing information and creating awareness on human rights, gender equality, non-violence strategies for solving community conflicts and building respectful relationships. The opportunities I have had working and volunteering in non-governmental organizations and with fellow activists and advocates strengthened my resolve to ensure violence is no longer seen as a natural occurrence in our society.
2015 was a historical year that saw the launch of our global development goals commonly known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Agenda 2030. The United Nations made the drafting of our global development goals an open and transparent process which saw many development stakeholders including individuals, give their suggestions on the future they want post 2015. As a young woman who had just been appointed a Post 2015 Ambassador of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), an organization that empowers girls and young women to develop their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world, it was an honour bringing the voices of thousands of girls and young women to the table and contributing to matters that concern me and my community which included peace building and a violence prevention strategy. The phrase from words to actions come to life, whereby my experience and exposure saw the birth of ‘Impart Change’ in October 2015, a local non-profit organization that uses art as a communication tool to champion sustainable peace and promote violence prevention among youth in local communities. My journey towards a more peaceful society had just begun. I committed to actively working towards violence prevention by empowering young people living and working in informal settlements with peace building and violence prevention skills, knowledge and information.
As a global community, we must not sit and watch as violence tears our communities apart. Women are the nurturers of the future. I believe that women have a critical role to play in preventing and reducing incidences of violence. This is because women are surrounded by their spouses, sons, brother, nephews, uncles etc. Our strong family and community ties have the potential of influencing men and boys in our lives by transforming mind-sets and inspiring a new generation of peace champions. I have strengthened my resolve to make this a reality through my words, deeds and actions. It is my prayer that we will all do the same irrespective of our age, gender, sex, religion or racial affiliation. Together with can work towards a peaceful, just and a violence free society for all.
This post was submitted in response to The Opposite of Violence.