SOCIAL ECONOMIC CHALLENGES:
Tana River county as whole is considered one of the poorest counties within the Kenya. This has indeed affected most aspect of its social economic development. Some the key challenges include:
Generally, the average education standard of the entire county can be termed as low. It is low to the extent that when the students attempt national exams it is almost a norm to find Tana River county ranked amongst the poor performers. Indeed, when any student achieves the standard for progression to the next level, it becomes a matter of public debate. The conflict that was recently witnessed made matter s worse. There confirmed reports of teachers failing to teaching in certain schools thereby negatively affecting the education standards even further.
Transition rates from pre-school to standard one, from primary to secondary is of great concern to all stakeholders in the education sector. This has generally affected the transition from poverty, increased hopelessness amongst the most productive members of the society and perpetuated the increase of crime.
Creativity is generally affected even due to lack of exposure. Early marriages, family break ups, lack of family planning can all be linked to low education level.
With education sector operating in the red zone, poverty is rampant. A survey done in 2005/2006 indicated that at least 80% of the entire population in the county can be considered poor. Poverty manifests itself in all spheres of social economic development. Access to quality medicare is hampered due to affordability issues, child mortality is high as many households cannot afford balanced food, lack of job opportunities disillusions many young people and as a result poverty motivated crimes are high.
Poverty is also manifested in the mode of economic production. New technologies in farming are not easily adopted. Heavy reliance on traditional farming methods and traditional crops has triggered low productivity which in turn explains the high poverty indices.
The mobile technology has now been felt within the county. However, there is no alternative media such as radio. The county relies on national radio-Kenya Broadcasting Corporation channels (notably, English and Kiswahili). These channels broadcasts national contents and in most cases do not adequately cater for the needs of the communities at the grass root.
Occasionally stations broadcasting in languages such as Somali are heard. But again these stations do not address the community needs. Thus, inter/intra community dialogue perpetuated by local community media lack in the entire of Tana River county. Undoubtedly, this has shaped the social economics of the county.
Crime patterns-ethnic conflicts, economic triggered
The challenge of lack of adequate communication channel, poverty and low education levels is greatly appreciated through crimes that are common within the county. Tana River is known for conflicts that take either ethnic or economic dimensions. In year 2001, there was ethnic conflict between the farmers and the pastoralists, just as was recently witnessed. Apart from what the media covers as the triggers, (water and pasture), there are deep rooted stereotypes that each community perpetuates against each other.
Other crimes that involve persons such as sexual offenses are related to cultural practices that are outdated but still being adhered to date. They include FGM, early marriages due to early pregnancies and assault amongst others.
These are crimes that are attitude related. They can be minimized through dialogue and understanding of each other’s culture, exposure to wider issues and through community debates that promote integration.
PROBATION CASES REVIEW COMMITTEE’S ROLE
Probation Cases Review committees are committees that have gazetted members. Each probation office has two of such committees that sit biannually to review all the cases that have been placed on non-custodial orders. Probation department deals with offenders in the community and it is the department relied upon by the government to decongest prisons.
The committee comprises of community members and it is the bridge between the government and the community where the offenders serve their orders. In the review process, the committee:
Analyses of the general crime trends:
Probation Officers handle petty offenders. Petty offenders may eventually graduate to serious offenders. When the Probation Cases Review Committee sit to review cases, one question that the members try to understand relate to what the numbers (of different offences) suggest about the society. With this understanding, they are able to suggest remedial measures. Thus, petty offenses are not assumed. They help the committee to understand the crime trends and look for ways of addressing the same.
Safer youth project initiative
In year 2010, number of cases reviewed in the category of defilement involving minors raised concerns in the committee. In the review ten cases (10) involved young boys all charged with defilement under the sexual offenses act No 3 of 2006 Laws of Kenya. Members felt, there was need for intervention since the ten boys meant at least ten girls had been involved and in total at least twenty families had been involved. By extension, this was a large portion of the society.
Safer Youth Project was formulated to bring to the attention of the youth in general the contents of the sexual offenses act no 3 of 2006. The project had three distinct activities, sports event during which we commentated on the act as it is as the games went on, a talent show that involved drama, poems, songs, narratives and dances around sexual offenses issues as they happened with the community. All these items were presented in a competition which at the same time passed the message of the sexual offenses act no 3 of 2006. Inter schools debate did not take off.
The success of the project enabled the committee, secretariat and the funders of the project-Akiba Uhaki Foundation to learn very vital lessons. These lessons were:
· Empower the youth to fight crime: Safer Youth Project propelled the realization of the youth’s rights through creation of awareness of the Sexual Offences Act 2006. However, instead of focusing on a handful youths that would be to be taken to a paid up workshop somewhere, using activities that empower and inform them, it is possible to fight crime. By appreciating and empowering their talents, it is possible to nurture a culture that always celebrates the youth and not take advantage over them for political or otherwise gains.
· Youths have talents beyond education: The coordinator Akiba Uhaki Foundation noted that the talent show showed that it is possible to “right” some of the mistakes advocated by some artists. The youths that participated in the Safer Youth Project were not scholars, neither were they very exposed. They were ordinary members of the community, some of whom dropped out of school. These are youths that are likely to commit offences. They are considered challenged as they may have no educational opportunities, lack money or interest to open business enterprises but have talents. These are the talents that Safer Youth Project celebrated even as the project passed the message the sexual offences. The project provided the map, but the youths cruised into self realization. This should be pursued even more.
· Networking in project implementation adds value: Safer Youth Project brought together multiple players. The success of the project cannot be attributed to Probation Case Committee and the Probation Department only, but also to other government and non-governmental agencies. In other words, in a venture that reaches out to the community there will always be people to assist in reaching the goal. Action Aid through Girl Child Network provided abridged copies of Swahili version of sexual offences act, Arid Resource Management, a government body provided a lorry that we used to ferry the youths from a far areas, ministry of youth assisted in reaching out to the young people while the children department assisted in the logistical support while Akiba Uhaki were the main donors of the event.
· The community does not have to demand the services, it’s possible for the government to reach out to the community: This is one of the biggest lessons that Safer Youth Project brought to the fore. Countless number of civil society groups, foundations, major funders and other trusts put their resources into Community Based Organizations, Faith Based Organizations to empower them so that they can demand their rights from government and government agencies. Often, when this happens, the government agencies feel pressurized to offer services. Safer Youth Project showed that it is possible for services to be delivered to the public “willingly” and “happily”. This in turn ensure that the public get value for the taxes paid, feel that the government cares and above enable the community come up with long lasting sustainable solutions. Government officers are usually highly trained officers, through such a project it is possible to tap into that capacity for better service delivery.
· It is possible to replicate and up scale the project: The design of the project is not complicated. The objective is to enhance crime prevention. The goal is reach to the most vulnerable group of society as far as crime prevention is concerned in a language that group understands. Thus, its simplicity means that it can easily be replicated or up scaled to greater heights.
NEED AND PLACE OF COMMUNITY MEDIA
The need for community media is born out of the wish to upscale the gains of the Safer Youth Project. It aims to involve the community to a great extent in the fight against crime and boost the potential of community members by unlocking their potential. A community media then is aimed at creating the necessary environment for social economic transformation of the county. Specifically, the Tana River community media aims to:
Promote community dialogue-helps to demystify stereotypes
Historically in Tana Riverr county two language groups have traditionally laid claim to land and other natural resources, each claiming that it has bona fide rights as inhabitants. These are the Cushitic speaking languages that occupy the larger hinterland of the county and the Bantus found along the river line area. There are other people that have settled in the county in the course of time.
Due to their economic, social and cultural diversities, each of these groups cautiously embrace each other. As a result it is very common to see ethnically motivated animosities. To the Probation Cases Review Committee, this is fueled by lack of structured and objective inter-community dialogue. A community media can break this trend by promoting inter-community dialogue that will eventually break stereo types against each other.
To be a social economic development and transformation forum
We noted earlier that poverty, lack of innovation, low education levels are common in the Tana River county. A community media would be able to break this and promote social economic development. Programs aired through the media will be educative and sensitive to the specific social and economic needs of the county.
Thus, the community media will then begin to transform the inherent social environment. As development forum, the media will enable the county access technologies that can be essential in the different economic fields.
A means of talents and skills development-incubator.
A community media at the county is an ideal incubator of the artistic talents of the youth. Talents go unnoticed due to the high quality that mainstream media houses demand. A community media aims at passing a message that is beneficial to the community. It thus will be essential in incubating and promoting talents irrespective of the quality. It is possible for the media to develop the talents to a certain threshold.
As a talent and skills incubator, community media will seek to promote participation of the youthful members of the society in volunteer work and skills enhancement opportunity through industrial attachment in the media house.
To be a community asset-since it’s a means of communication.
A community media is a community asset. It is an asset that has huge potential for holistic development. Thus, it can be used for crime prevention, education promotion, peace building and wealth creation too.
Provide a means of entertainment.
Community media provides entertainment. Entertainment made by people known by the community members and played within the community is more powerful than when listening to foreign performers. Its place in entertainment cannot be overemphasized.
To be a means of cultural preservation and promotion.
A community media preserves culture. By promoting local content, it preserves creativity, innovation and diversity. This is crucial in the cultural development of the county. It will also enhance cohesion as communities celebrate each other’s culture through music, poems and other programs that will be aired.
6.0 WAY FORWARD
To realize the Community media in Tana River, we need to support from all partners and agencies that can help us :
- Set up the community media
- Develop its content
- Anchor the project within the community.
Probation Cases Review committee would like to play a midwife role in the establishment of the community media but later hand over the same to the community. This is due to the fact that:
· The committee enjoys goodwill from all sectors-government, non-governmental, and community sectors. This makes a neutral that can ably initiate the project and develop it with the community.
· Any of the mentioned language groups attempt to initiate such a project would fail due to the mistrust and misconceptions that are historically perpetuated.
· Probation Cases Review Committee is professionally run and will thus be able to remain focused on the course. It has an interest of playing a tangible long term role in crime prevention, conflict resolution and management. Hence, it is determined to see the success of the project.
We therefore appeal to your organization to assist us with the necessary support to help us make this a reality. On your consent, we will develop a detailed proposal for the same.