Silence Bring Social Change?
Benard L. Agona, Field Coordinator, Turning the Tide, Kenya.
aspect of violence prevention is to teach people, particularly the youth,
how to conduce non-violent direct action campaigns. The Turning the
Tide program channels the anger, grievances, and energy from destructive
tendencies into constructive resolutions of problems.
of being silent youth have decided to speak with nonviolent actions.
Here in Nairobi youth were captured in a road show agitating for their
we just remain silent when things are going wrong?” This is one
question that we have always been asked by most groups that we have
trained in Turning the Tide (TTT) approaches in dealing with violence.
program was introduced in Kenya in 2010 as a long term intervention
to social injustices in our communities .The program is being implemented
by Change Agents for Peace International in collaboration with Quaker
Peace and Social Witness (QPSW), a program of Britain Yearly Meeting.
This was the beginning of community empowerment.
one and half years on the road, the TTT –Kenya is touching peoples’
lives in those communities where we have introduced it. Indeed it is
power for social change. It has even dawned on peoples’ mind that
strategic silence is also power for change. The program emphasizes the
importance of training and preparation for any successful campaign for
the most used methods for demanding justice have been demonstrations
which are not well planned, consequently resulting in massive destruction
and even death. For example, whenever university students go on strike,
they blockade all roads, throw stones at anything passing by, loot from
shops, and make unnecessary noise and disturbance. At the end of that,
nothing is achieved.
to that, TTT approaches are peaceful and more effective. Last year when
some students in one of the universities in western Kenya wanted to
be addressed by the authorities, a two-hour pre-action workshop made
a big difference in their campaign. They were taken through the steps
of an effective campaign for social change and introduced to the TTT
tools, such as the pillars of power and social speedo-meter, which helps
groups to analyze their issues and plot the kind of people to work with.
After that there was a thorough planning overnight, considering all
factors, to ensure that all adhered to nonviolence discipline.
result was amazing. It was a peaceful match to the local government
offices, and because it was peaceful, they were joined by community
members attracting numbers which in itself is a strength to any successful
campaign. Eventually they had a sit-in at the office grounds, demanding
to be addressed by the local leader who could not ignore the force of
the students who were supported by local community members. Armed with
facts, the students tabled their issues boldly. The local leaders immediately
responded to their demands positively. For the first time, students
acted peacefully and were given what they wanted.
in Nairobi, after undergoing a two weeks training in nonviolence approaches
for social change, youth from the eight constituencies in Nairobi went
back and quickly engaged local youth officers challenging them with
facts about the impact of youth unemployment. The result was a one day
road show organized by the ministry of youth to promote youth opportunities
within the youth affairs ministry. This was to curb the high rate of
job insecurity in Nairobi. The trained youth had been opened eyes to
see the invisible violence that causes the visible violence. And one
such invisible violence was youth un-employment. When they analyzed
the issue they discovered that this was being supported by lack of information
about available opportunities for youths. They went ahead to plot who
to work with on their campaign and identified among others the ministry
of youth affairs, who eventually became their key ally contrary to what
they thought. The success story is that many youth groups were formed
and are now accessing the available opportunities.
It is now
clear that if you train people to start thinking and acting in new ways
they will achieve what they want no matter how big the issue is. It
is possible with nonviolence power!
Turning the Tide is now scaling up having started small in western Kenya,
then Nairobi, and now we have launched it in North Rift Valley. It is
our desire to move to other regions as we build a nonviolent movement
in Kenya for sustainable social change.