Engaging Children in the Prevention of Violent Extremism in Mombasa, Kenya

Women from the, “Building Family Resilience Against Violent Extremism: Women of Faith in Action,” Project in Mombasa organized a two-day children’s forum on 6th and 7th of August 2021 to reflect on the vital role of youth in promoting peace and preventing violent extremism in the community. The forums which focused on children and youth living in informal settlements, directly reached 300 learners in Nyali and Kisauni Constituencies of Mombasa County.

Earlier on, the women from the Family Resilience project were trained by Arigatou International–Nairobi with support from the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), Goldin Institute and the Islamic Foundation Kenya on sustainable ways to prevent radicalization, gang violence and violent extremism. The empowered women are now utilizing their acquired knowledge and skills to protect children and youth from the machinations of violent extremists. They are organizing forums for children and youth to educate them on the scourge; and they work with security agencies, local governments, parents and caregivers to ensure that the well-being of children and youth is upheld.

The children’s forum was conducted in two main institutions, the Nyali Fellowship Church and Khadija Primary School. In attendance were the Nyali Police Officer Commanding Station (OCS), Mr. Albert Chebii; the District Criminal Investigation Officer (DCIO), Mr. Rotich; Assistant Chief Maweni Ward, Mr. Bernard Omollo (Kajwang); and District Peace Committee member (DPC), Kongowea Ms. Christine Khabuya who was representing the DPC Nyali Chairperson Ms. Shamsa Abubakr Fadhili.

During the meeting, one of the issues that children raised was the continued existence of gang groups that lure children to join. It was noted that many of the children have been exposed to these gangs or know of a friend who has. Participants shared some of the reasons why youth join these gangs including: an increase in poverty in settlement areas, peer pressure, and the feeling of being alienated by the government, hence gang groups seem more appealing and welcoming. Children noted that they constantly need protection, attention and care in their lives so as to thrive.

Without proper guidance from our leaders, elders and parents, we will definitely perish. The problem of gang groups and gang violence will continue to be an untreatable wound.” – Ismail, student, Khadija Primary School.

Participants requested the women leaders to conduct more workshops and one-on-one talks with children which will help tackle some of the problems affecting children including child pregnancy, domestic abuse and sexual abuse. They also recommended for the availability of trauma counseling sessions for those most affected.

I have not seen a forum well organized by local facilitators who are informed on violent extremism like this one. I appreciate Arigatou International–GNRC for empowering our women at the grassroots level and finding solutions to support and inspire the young generation. I am impressed to hear that these children are really educated on the indicators of violent extremism including its pull and push factors. The journey is long but through partnerships with education institutions, security agencies, teachers, caregivers, community-based organizations and civil society organizations we can truly prevent violence and create a better world for children. I am personally ready to work with the GNRC to eradicate the moral decadence affecting our society. I thank this institution for putting the affairs of children first.” – Mr. Rotich, District Criminal Investigation Officer (DCIO). 

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