The 10th anniversary of Creators of Peace Kenya (CoP Kenya) was celebrated by over 100 women gathered at St Mary's Pastoral Centre in Nakuru, Kenya, from 26 February to 2 March 2018.
Participants came from the 17 counties where CoP Kenya has been active over the past 10 years, as well as from Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania, and included women from all walks of life and communities. The President of CoP and three other representatives of CoP International were also present.
The conference held over the first two days engaged participants around the theme of 'Women as Every Day Peace Builders'. Alongside celebrating the achievements of CoP Kenya since its creation in 2007, delegates were invited to reflect on the impact of CoP in their own area, to share best practices and explore challenges and inspiration, and to workshop on the way forward and on creating the vision for CoP and the personal commitment for the horizon 2028.
It was followed by a two-day training of CoPC Facilitators, building and strengthening capacity for a sustained CoP action.
'As a community worker with over 30 years of experience, I have attended many conferences such as this one. And today, I feel very happy. Because unlike other high level programmes, CoP is the only one I am aware of that is going all the way to the grassroots. And that is why their action is successful, where those other high level ones fail.'
Keynote speaker Dr Joy Mbaabu invited the women present to reflect on their own journeys as peace builders and recognize the 'wounded healer' in them. She encouraged participants to examine honestly their motives, and care for their own needs and aspirations as a first step to any further community work. She also guided delegates through an exercise aimed at identifying their own purpose. Guest speaker Dr Karambu Ringera insisted on the importance of knowing oneself before becoming an efficient peace builder, and of doing the necessary regeneration work to reclaim 'the wastelands of our lives'. She outlined the essential aspect of working on changing mindsets for any transformation to be sustainable. She also challenged the narratives of the victim/perpetrator or poor/rich: 'We always work with the poor; when are we going to start working with the rich?' Both encouraged Kenyan participants to use the National Action Plan for Kenya, based on the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (2000), as a tool to advocate within the country.
Case studies of CoP Kenya were shared to describe the impact of CoP and the offshoot initiatives that developed as a result.
A woman from Nakuru shared her story of healing and how she came to forgive her husband after participating in a Creators of Peace Circle (CoPC), and from there got involved in building dialogue between Muslim and Christian communities in her town. A woman from Bungoma shared the pain she went through when she lost one of her children and started withdrawing and rejecting all participation in community or family, until she participated in a CoPC and began her journey of healing; she is now a facilitator training other women. A county representative from Baringo shared on the difference CoP has made to the community in her area, with over 1000 women having experienced a CoPC, an official apology having been offered by one community to the other communities of the area, the inclusion of men inside CoP events, a motion being passed for a rescue centre for girls forcibly married at an early age.
The core team of CoP Kenya presented the CoP Kenya model, which relies on facilitators as well as 'mobilisers', explaining the latter role and providing grassroots examples and case studies. The team shared their stories of organizing and facilitating peace circles in the most challenging and improbable circumstances, exploring their motivation, their most challenging moments and most powerful moments. This epic session drew tears, laughter, applause and inspiration from the whole audience.
Delegates also had the opportunity to attend a selection of workshops: 'Reclaiming the wastelands in our lives' by Dr Karambu Ringera; 'Managing conflict' by Shoshana Faire; 'Telling a new story' by Amina Dikedi; 'Practising mindfulness as a way to peace' by Lena LePoullennec.
Two working sessions
On each day participants were invited to spend a session workshopping on the sustainability of CoP in their area and country, exploring questions such as 'How do we build and sustain our team and action?'; 'What is my personal commitment to taking ownership for making CoP happen?', and creating a personal and organizational vision for CoP 2028, as a first step to the action plan of the various teams.
Shoshana Faire celebrated the CoP Kenya team as setting the new models and spoke about ways to attain the 'critical mass' that represents the tipping point in transforming mindsets and ways. President Amina Dikedi concluded by challenging the participants to reflect on their own contribution to peace and on maintaining culture versus maintaining practices which may no longer be serving us nor the world. She asked: 'Culture… what culture? Culture is you, culture is me. What are we doing with our story?' All participants were finally invited to light a candle and read together the Declaration of Peace drafted by Kagwiria Mbogori, Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a declaration of personal commitment she wrote as a result of her attending a CoPC in Ngong Hills in April 2017.
'I was feeling isolated, now I am feeling supported by a family of sisters who are working for peace across the whole country.'
The conference was followed by a two-day training of CoPC Facilitators. Two groups of women were trained simultaneously, as part of the capacity building (training of new facilitators) and capacity reinforcement (training of experienced facilitators) component of the programme. In total, 35 women were trained, including 23 new facilitators and 12 experienced facilitators. The training was provided by Dr Joy Mbaabu, Ann Njeri Kimanthi and Shoshana Faire.
Way forward and Acknowledgements
A new strategic plan is in the first stages of being designed, with the benefit of a consolidated base of facilitators. New domains are also being integrated as part of CoP-KE policies and practices as a result of the conference, such as self-care, security and risk assessment, debriefing and evaluation, team agreements to support team work, and a more professionalized certification process for facilitators.
This conference and training would not have been possible without the generous support of the Mustard Seed Foundation, County government of Baringo, Friends of Sydney, Friends of Africa, Creators of peace International and individual well-wishers. We extend our deepest gratitude and appreciation and look forward to strengthening our partnerships.
Creators of Peace Kenya is a programme of Initiatives of Change Kenya, aiming at recognizing women as key peace building actors in their communities and at providing safe spaces for them to reconnect with their inner resources and become equipped with tools for transformation, starting with themselves and extending to the community and beyond.
Report compiled by Lena LePoullennec. March 2018
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'If my life is a message, what type of a message am I?'
Photos by Shoshana Faire