Violent extremist groups tend to target poorer communities owing to their high unemployment rates and lack of education. In Likoni, unemployment rates are relatively high and even more so among youth. Likewise, within Likoni very few youth make a smooth transition from primary school to secondary school (if at all), so that makes this town an ideal recruitment site for ill intention acts with misguided values tempting the younger generations. We believe that by encouraging the youth in our community to question established patterns of radicalization, election violence and voting based on patronage, we can help the community seek positive and safe methods for addressing trying and difficult situations in their lives.
In order to put our thoughts into actually ACTION, we gratefully partnered with the organization, SAFE Pwani, who have the experience and expertise in addressing such sensitive issues on a large scale. SAFE helped organize and implement a training for Hatua’s 43 Gap Year students. This training provided the students with a one week comprehensive study and practice that would equipped them with basic counter-terrorism knowledge and how to communicate the knowledge gained to the general public in a positive yet effective manner.
Through the months of March, April, May, June, July and August, our Gap Year student mentors taught at 35 schools, and 2 community gatherings introducing and showing SAFE Kenya’s original film Watatu and reached 8,170 youths. Following each screening, lessons were taught focusing on ways to prevent violent extremism and radicalization starting at home. Another main lesson/theme was to encourage youth to become responsible and educated voters as they become older and eligible to vote in upcoming elections.
Through this method of peer mentoring we tapped into an underused yet valuable resource and were able to provide support on a whole new level for students as they face difficult decisions at critical points in their lives. Through this project we provide over 8,000 youth in Likoni with the knowledge and confidence to become more engaged and active in standing up against threats of terrorism at the household level. Furthermore, it was a two way street as peer mentoring is a mutual way of learning and allowing both participants to develop transferable skills that will help them throughout their lives.
Always remember that acts of violent extremism undermine international peace and security; it violates basic human rights, and interferes with the progress and development of any country. It is important that we all stand together and work within our communities to promote peace and unity, understanding and friendship among all cultural and religious divides not just in Kenya but throughout the world!