It All Depends On You!
Like the Roman Catholic monk Thomas Merton said, “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” This is the feeling professionals drawn from law, medicine, business, engineering, media, among others experienced when it dawned on them that the success they had laboured to train and work for all these years may end up in ashes! Why, because they had just realized that Kenya may be irredeemable 10 years from now, Vision 2030 – and we are sitting on a time bomb- unless we do something now!
The context was workshops Hesabika had organized for five focus groups – the youth, clergy, theologians, Christian professionals, and development workers- each comprising about 50 people, held to discuss their role in national transformation. At the close of each of the five brainstorming and heart-searching workshops, the effect of the findings on the participants was like they were new to their country!
The issues affecting Kenya that the focus groups considered most critical included the following: a crisis of leadership which manifests itself in lack of ethics and accountability of leadership; massive looting, corruption and mismanagement of public resources resulting in poverty and unemployment; a crisis of values, which is evidenced by family breakdown (rise in divorce, single families, sexual violence, and substance abuse). Environmental factors critical for Kenya included deforestation, mismanagement of water resources, and pollution due to poor waste management. From a legal perspective, access to justice to Kenya is limited to due over-commercialization, corruption, and a passive population unaware of, or unwilling to demand, its rights.
So, What Can You Do to Influence Change?
The youth confessed that they have not been innocent bystanders: they have been complacent in accepting the status quo, and in some cases have contributed to the problem. For example, during elections, many youth used social media to propagate hatred and stereotypes of those different from them. The youth have also put materialism before their own values without caring about the effect greed and corruption has for their future. The youth committed to the following actions:
- Mindset change: Attitude, character, and adoption of Biblical principles and values; Believe it can happen and that change begins with me.
- Take action: first by cultivating awareness of the challenges that our country faces and opportunities for involvement; mobilize like-minded youth for action.
- Take leadership: Strategically develop in areas of interest and calling so as to provide the much-needed engagement and leadership in the life of our nation.
- Be mentored and mentor others: Commitment to life-long learning through internships, apprenticeships, and coaching in entrepreneurship and business.
- Use social media wisely: Be pro-active in developing progressive content and taking initiative to offer alternate narrative.
The professionals recommitted themselves to being good stewards of the skills, experience, and the leadership responsibilities in their workplaces and communities, as well to serve the church and the nation.
Actions that professionals can commit to in order to change the direction the country is heading:
- Be informed and open-eyed about the issues facing the nation: Change mindset and equip with necessary competencies in order to have impact in their spheres of influence; be model to peers in purposeful and ethical living; lead by example in professional and personal life.
- Influence change through professional life: Use professional positions and platforms for activism and influencing society’s value system. Create jobs and self-employment through entrepreneurship and apprenticeships.
- Mentoring peers and younger professionals: Commitment to being mentored, and mentoring students and young professionals.
- Use social media as a tool for transformation: use social media to address social ills such as corruption and negative ethnicity; develop and produce world-class content to influence values in our society.
- Mobilize peers for citizen engagement: promote and participate public participation in ward, county and national fora.
The development workers noted that they have opportunity of mainstreaming civic education in their programming as they are everywhere in the nation, have access to funds, are acceptable by the communities, and therefore can use their grassroots presence to influence the least of the Kenyans. However, they noted the threat of donor dependency, unsustainability of projects due to insufficient funding, and programming for survival rather than to transform, duplication and lack of coordination of programs leading to wastage and overlap. Development workers committed themselves to the following actions:
- Civic education to all citizens so that they are be able to hold government accountable.
- Modelling and championing accountability and integrity
- Holistic discipleship on wealth, success and money.
- Capacity building for self-sustenance; Capacity enhancement on financial matters.
- Community engagement to address critical issues such as cause and recurrence of violence and environmental conservation.
About forty-five senior theologians from nearly all theological institutions in Kenya gathered at the workshop to consider how they could break their silence and become agents of transformation for the nation. The theologians were struck by how little they, and conversely the church pastors they trained, were informed of the pains the society was encountering. The theologians committed themselves to the following actions:
- Curriculum review to embrace interdisciplinary approach to theological education, such as civic engagement, national values, politics, social change and patriotism; include a theology of work/ theology of marketplace; Stakeholder participation in curriculum development.
- Model value-based teaching and preaching the classroom; focus on teaching for transformation; Meeting with fellow scholars and Theologians to deliberate on our role in the transformation of our country.
- Advocacy and promoting civic engagement through CBOs and FBOs; Proactive participation in policy making.
- Offering refresher courses for serving pastors as a way to change mindset and break the sacred/secular divide.
- Interdisciplinary research and publications through networking and collaborating with other theological institutions, government, and NGOs.
The clergy noted that the church, despite some sections going rogue, is still the most trusted organization in the country. Furthermore, the church is well connected to the grassroots and has the largest number of any organized entity in the country. Sadly, the church is not united enough to have a common voice and has allowed itself to struggle with the same ills as the rest of the society, such as corruption, ethnicity, and greed amongst its leaders. The church leaders committed themselves to the following actions:
- Strategize for the places of formation such as the family, the Sunday school, the church. Coordinate and strategize to make full use of PPI in the neighbourhood of various churches.
- Mobilize for social change: Gather courage to confront political issues and economic injustices in society and raise voice on corruption and governance of the nation.
- Lobby and influence parliamentary discussions and legislation on critical issues affecting the nation. Form an accountability group for Church members who are in public service.
- Entrepreneurship training especially for young people; connect the youth interested in business with people doing successful businesses for mentorship and entrepreneurship.
- Mentorship and internships for content development as a way of creating alternate narratives to counteract the prevailing secularization.
For more information on how to plug in, please visit our website: www.hesabika.com or write to us on: [email protected]