Women in boat competition to promote peace and unity

Member of a women’s group that won the boat riding competition aimed at enhancing peace and unity at Osieko beach. Photo: Henry Owino
Member of a women’s group that won the boat riding competition aimed at enhancing peace and unity at Osieko beach. Photo: Henry Owino

Residents of Siaya and Busia counties engage in different types of community games every year.

However, in December 2016, the games were not only aimed at celebrating and entertaining locals but were used as an instrument to foster peace and unity as well. This follows the need to bring residents together for cohesive and mutual understanding between communities living along the lake.

Residents of Bondo and Budalangi constituencies have been at loggerheads over their political differences but came together to showcase their talents in various games which included tug of war, boat riding, swimming, volleyball, perfect balancing, eating and drinking  competitions among other performances.

Both men and women took part in all these games including boat riding competition that saw women included for the first time. It is women boat riding competition that attracted huge crowd of spectators including local political leaders.

Competition

Four women groups drawn from both Bondo and Budalangi Constituencies field their competitors with each group having seven members. A total of 56 women lined up, each side with 28 strong ladies to paddle the eight boats.

Pamela Adongo and members of Tegemeo Women’s Group had to practice boat riding for three months in readiness for the event.

“When the beach leader made the announcement during the weekly beach meetings, I decided to prepare my group for the competition. I also managed to convince others as the group secretary,” Adongo explains.

Adongo whose team won the boat riding competition recalls that the announcement came early in October and her group members began immediately. However, she admits that it was not easy for most group members as they had never used a boat before, let alone paddling.

Even though majority of the area residents are fishmongers, a few have accompanied fishermen riding boat deep inside the lake. However, there are others who have been riding on boats crossing the lake from Bondo to Budalangi and vice versa.

“The experiences were different from one person to other and every women’s group had their own challenges. My group decided to devote their time practicing at least thrice a week for one hour,” Adongo explains. She added: “However, we had to report daily for two hours beginning December 12, 2016 as the day of the competition drew closer.”

Adongo acknowledges: “Nothing comes easy but with dedication and commitment, anything is possible. We had to sweet talk our husbands for permission, support and overcome all sorts of discouragement from other colleagues.”

Criteria

Adongo said that selection was based on strength, willingness, availability, commitment and experience. At least ten elderly persons were technically left out even before picking on the promising ones not by discriminating them but respect of their age.

The two constituencies share a lot in terms of business, medical facilities, schools, roads, lake, inter-marriages and even in politics.

The area is inhabited by Luos, Samia, Marachi, Banyore, Baganda, and Acholi among other tribes who are either married or engaged in several socio-economic activities along the lake.

Gideon Ochanda is the current Member of Parliament (MP) for Bondo Constituency while Ababu Namwamba is the MP for Budalangi Constituency.

Namwamba who was at the scene to watch and support his constituents participating in various community games, urged the residents to live in peace and unity regardless of their political differences. He said politics has its time and space and again political leaders come and go but the electorates will forever remain with needs.

“I am so happy to see many women who have come out in large numbers to participate in various games promoting peace, showcasing their talents which is a true reflection that women love peace and unity,” said Namwamba.

Peace

The Budalangi legislator encouraged women to venture into political leadership to help promote peace in the area. He said other than the County Women Representative position, women should vie for ward, senatorial and gubernatorial seats.

“I want to encourage my sisters to go for elective seats without fear because you can be good peace makers. Your attendance in large numbers, the energy and the zeal shown here is enough to tell the world that indeed, women can make a difference if given a chance,” said Namwamba.

The communities’ peace games competition also helped in reconciling fishermen and boda boda riders who have been fighting over operation boundaries. Business-people and county tax collectors were also reconciled over double taxation which has  been a bone of contention in the region.

Residents agreed to bury the hatchet and work together as well as share resources as brothers and sisters. This was key as the country heads to the General Election in August.  All winning teams were awarded a trophy, certificate of participation and cash money.