Woman who survived post-election violence excels in peace building efforts
Fifty year old Teresa Otieno survived the 2007-2008 post-election violence. However, this did not deter her or break her zeal as she has now become a pillar of peace in Kisumu County.
She will be remembered for doing everything at her disposal to mobilise colleagues despite all odds to engage in peace building.
Otieno was ejected from her home in Nakuru’s Flamingo Estate at the height of the skirmishes. She was rescued together with 76 other women and taken to Kisumu Anglican Church of Kenya camp.
She vividly recalls that women were raped and innocent people killed in Kisumu.
“Women and children were hard hit by the violence and had to grapple with the appalling conditions in the camp including losing their source of livelihood.”
Otieno decided to lobby other women victims to engage in peace building and livelihood interventions to support the vulnerable groups.
In 2010, she mobilized other female post-election violence victims in the camp and unanimously resolved to form Community Support for Development in Kisumu.
Community Support for Development in Kisumu (CSD Kisumu) is women led community based organization registered with the Ministry of Gender and Social Development – Kenya. It is a non-political, non-discriminatory and non religious civil society organization (CSO) operating in Kisumu County.
“I mobilized other Internally Displaced Persons at the ACK rescue camp in Kisumu and unanimously agreed to form the CBO after realising the appalling quality of life and the vulnerability of the members of the community, the socio-economic challenges and problems after the post-election violence, says Otieno. She adds: “We have since moved a step forward.”
“The group operated as a youth and women wing of the District Peace Committees in Kisumu East until registration on March 15th 2013,” recalls Otieno.
She explains: “Community Support for Development in Kisumu exists to champion peace building by promoting efforts that empower the community with focus on capacity building in food security and health among other social issues.”
The organisation currently has 45 active members — 30 women and 15 men — drawn from the seven sub-counties of Kisumu County with ongoing advocacy, peace building, education, governance and livelihood projects in Kisumu West, Kisumu Central, Seme and Kisumu East sub-counties.
“Our intervention targets the Kenyan rural communities which are conflict hotspots drawn from the four sub counties with a combined population of 467,000 consisting of 60 percent women and 40 percent men,” says Otieno.
Community Support for Development, therefore, raises awareness through peace building, advocacy, education, governance, support livelihood and cohesion concerns.
The organisation has partnered with local radio stations to highlight women’s issues and peace approaches. “We have also been engaging in social media discussions through WhatsApp and Facebook and hosted dialogue barazas, road shows and peace platforms as well as engaged in people’s parliament discussions through the social accountability projects.”
She adds: “We also do capacity building and target mainly women and youth groups, peace committees and county government departments.”
Otieno says the CBO also sponsors students from poor families, provides food, clean and safe water to schools to curb school dropouts among the child headed households.
The Kisumu Community Support for Development has also launched Cohesion, Integration and Human Rights Advocacy Campaign Kisumu West Chapter.
“We want to create a unified society that has respect for human rights and development among the locals and Kenyans at large.”
Under governance, peace and advocacy, Community Support for Development members have worked towards uplifting women and other vulnerable group’s voices with advocacy approaches on peace building and human rights for girls and women.
“We are currently implementing the Voices of Concern campaigns aimed at raising awareness especially during the electioneering period where cases of human rights violation are always witnessed,” notes Otieno.
She adds: “So far we have trained 157 women activists who are working with the authorities to minimize rampant violation of the rights of women during the elections.”
Otieno states they have also supported the early warning and response centre where the community can report violations.
Apart from peace building which is the core objective of Community Support for Development, we are also providing, under women’s issues programme, livelihood and supporting health cases of vulnerable women such as widows, women living with disability as well as those living with HIV and orphans.
Otieno points out that the groups are supported under two programmes dubbed “feeding today and feeding tomorrow” which has also roped in three local primary schools with a population of 600 in school feeding program.
“As far as education is concerned, we are supporting the education of young girls and those of adults who might have dropped out of school as a result of early pregnancies or harsh socio-economic backgrounds but want to proceed on with their education for a meaningful economical gain.”
She says: We are currently supporting a total of 16 women who had dropped out of school due to early pregnancy and have enrolled them in adult education,” reveals Otieno. “We believe at the end of the day they will become useful members of the society and Kenya at large.”
On the political front, Community Support for Development is fronting for more women’s participation in the elective positions of leadership at the ward, sub-county and county levels.
“We also support early warning issues that give credit to women in the community,” concludes Otieno.