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(Picture from the Washington Post)

The Obama administration takes a step back as a Super Power and refuses to use preemptive strikes even as Russia invades the Ukraine. The community organizer in Obama arises here, as he tries to find other solutions such as sanctions, and bringing together outside nations to support the rebels in Syria. Yet as the killing continues in Syria, and Russia plans on annexing Crimea shortly, it brings the question of what to do in the face of authoritative military power? We’ve all seen the shots of protestors getting shot whether in Tiananmen square or Cairo streets, but how do we come together as a world and address the national powers that insist on using violence against their citizens? What can we do to address what is going on in Syria?

Organizations like Change.org, ask people to sign online petitions to hand to government officials in the hopes that things will change. Questions: Where is the relationship building among supporters?  How does this build a shared purpose based on deeper relationships? What happens after we ‘sign’ the petition? Do people feel agency ‘signing’ an online petition? What happens if the petition does nothing?

Other organizations, actforpeace.org.au appeals to our softer side, and asks for money to support Syrian refugees, to which I ask – Why must the main picture be of a poor, sad child? Where is the hope that change will happen? Why must we sell humanitarian crisis to bring people together? Where is the relationship building with peace keeping and prevention organizations?

Peaceinsyria.org asked people to support a Syrian civil society conference on March 8-9th to give the Syrian people a voice in the peace-keeping process, and a conference was held with delegates and activists from Syria and a few international voices. My questions – What next? What was the result of the conference? Where was the press when this happened? What is the agreed declaration or actions to happen afterwards?

I ask these questions not because I have a better answer, or want to put down the brave organizations above trying to make a difference  We, at Tatua, do not know the answer to long term peace, but we want to ask the questions that will help us all get there. What are you doing to address the violence in Syria, or the rest of the world?

– Sarah Welch, Tatua Kenya

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What do you Value??

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Our new office, covered after our Visions conversation – Ken working hard.

Community

Integrity

Justice

Human Capacity

Resourcefullness

Servant Leadership

What do all these words have in common? They are Tatua Kenya’s new values, help us stay accountable to them! These are the values that will guide our decision making, and how we behave as Tatuans in the world. Thanks for all those who gave feedback to help us decide on these values, and we hope you will all help us reach our vision:

We envision a society where emboldened leaders work together with their communities to build meaningful relationships leading to long lasting solutions that create a just world.

Join us on the path, our strategy coming soon…

Liz’ Corner: A year of devolved government and a call to action.

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(Cartoon from http://tinyurl.com/nel47nw )

Every year on our birthdays, we are faced with a choice to reflect on the life we have lived so far. Do we take center stage to celebrate or panic at the mere thought that we are getting older, yet not even close to where we want to be? This week we are celebrating Kenya’s first year acting as the devolved government, following its Jubilee anniversary of independence. After one year, there is still question on whether or not devolution will succeed in Kenya. The object of this form of governance is meant to be more inclusive, closer to the people and able to lead to fair and equitable development for the ordinary mwananchi. The only way to sustain it is to ensure there is enough community participation. My question today: is the community involved in decision making on ground? What are the good and bad parts of this year’s progress?

Majority of the people in Kenyan communities do not know who their leaders are. From this reality, I tend to think that public participation is yet to be fully accomplished. As a community organizer, I know that community participation is a fundamental aspect of any sustainable change and as a leader one must also be able to inspire others to action. So, I fail to understand how your constituency would be unable to recognize you if you are consistently in your area and with them during decision making. This leads me to believe that the politicians are not on the ground enough.

Some of our governors are currently facing corruption charges, which are grounds for impeachment. We may choose to view this as a bad omen or as a sign that Kenya is actually transitioning for the greater good – a place where corrupt governors are removed.

Within the last one year there have being positive events contributed by the new government, such as the Huduma center which is a one-stop shop for government services and also the Uwezo fund, which is a six billion shilling project aimed to enable youth and women to start income generating activities. However, does the community have hands on information to enable them to benefit from these initiatives? How long can these initiatives survive in being efficient and effective?

We may not be able to choose how many years we live, but we can choose how much life those years will have. We must all as a community take responsibility to make this new form of governance work. Why? When we voted for the new constitution in 2010, we accepted devolution. If corruption is in it, let us eradicate it, if there is inefficiency, let us fight it. We must be a team to ensure it succeeds. Let us not blame it all on our leaders or wait for commands to act but let us be inspired to act. If not by our leaders, by the fact that we are celebrating Kenya beyond 50 and beginning to nurture what may become of this country. And though we cannot go back and make a brand new start, we can start from now and make a brand new end. Join Tatua, join Kenya in participating in the devolved government. Tell us how you are or will be involved in your local government today?

March Theme: Government Progress (Happy 1st Birthday to Kenya’s Devolved Government)

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This month we are saying Happy 1st Birthday to Kenya’s new government, elected in last year’s historical election process. In line with this birthday, our theme this month will be Government Progress. We will be discussing the first year of Kenya’s devolved government, what this has meant for communities, how this fits into the larger historical perspective, and how Tatua’s work is transforming communities to be a part of this government process.

This new government was put into authority by the new constitution voted in by the people of Kenya on August 27th, 2010, the first Kenyan constitution being written during independence in 1963. To put that into historical perspective – San Marino has the oldest constitution still in use, written in 1600 (414 years ago), and Tunisia created a new constitution adopted on January 26th of this year. Since Kenya adopted their new constitution in 2010, 12 countries, including neighbors Somalia and South Sudan, have adopted new constitutions.

How have international relationships and partnerships affected the creation of the constitution? One example, Article 53 of Kenya’s constitution addresses children’s right to education, free compulsory basic education, basic nutrition, shelter, health, and other rights. Many of these laws were outlined initially by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, which was ratified in Kenya in 1990.

Its great that the international community came together to ratify laws that address child rights, but my question is how do these international policies affect communities in Kenya? What is happening on the ground for children in Kenya?

Having spent the last few years working with children’s organizations in Kenya, including the Advocacy network for children’s rights, I have seen a big disconnect between what happens on the ground, and the policies created from the top. I believe one of the reasons for this is while the constitution, and many laws claim to incorporate ‘civil society’ feedback, few actually use effective community implementation methods to ensure that these laws are in place, and there is a sense of accountability.

Why not? Community implementation is not cheap, nor quick. For example, looking at corporal punishment in schools. According to Kenyan law, this is banished, but speaking to people on the ground, it is often still used, and it is not understood why it should be banished. How do you implement a law if the community who is responsible to obey it, do not agree with it? How do you ensure it doesn’t happen without the manpower to oversee every school in Kenya?

Example of what works: Celia Bray from Omni One Consulting, did a project with teachers and parents about corporal punishment, where they actually did a psychological workshop revisiting their own personal experiences with corporal punishment and what it did to their mindstate at school. This workshop left the teachers not only understanding the larger impact of corporal punishment, but becoming advocates against it.

Here at Tatua, we are trying to understand the best methods for community implementation, and involvement. How have you seen laws effectively implemented in your community, where ever that is? How have you seen it fail?

Sarah Welch, a co-founder and Managing Director of Tatua Kenya, will be writing and gathering reports about the international and historical perspective of community work. How do policies from abroad influence Kenya? How do we build international communities and relationships? How do world economics build a place where communities can transform? Where does this all sit in history? How does Tatua address and build international community’s focused on local problems?