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?

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