Learning from Kisii: Transformative Crime Prevention (Part 1/2)

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Usalama is a partnership space that brings together local, national and international organisations working within the security sector reform in Kenya. It promotes the citizen-centred priorities in the security sector.

Today, we take a look at their crime prevention program in the Kisii County.


The Importance of Outreach in Kenya

The series of terror and grenade attacks, religious extremism, and youth violence have killed over 1000 people, and left hundreds more injured. A limited reporting on the impact of youth gang- and gender-related violence, remains a national responsibility.

Since 2010, Usalama has worked with funding and assistance from Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA). It has developed a safer community model that works with special interest groups. This includes women’s support groups, car wash, bodaboda motorcycle-taxis, and so on. It is hoped that these outreach activities will increase the understanding of violence in Kenya.


Doing Development Differently

This concept of ‘Doing Development Differently’, is a global initiative designed by Harvard University. It is used to facilitate a dynamic conversation about ways to achieve greater development impact from October 2014.

Too many development initiatives have limited impact or are too complex. Solutions are neither simple nor obvious. Those who would benefit most, lack the power. Political barriers are too often overlooked.

Some development initiatives, however, have real results. Some are domestically driven, while others receive external support. They usually involve many players – governments, civil society, international agencies, and the private sector. They work together to deliver real progress in complex situations. They function despite strong resistance.

Usalama adopted an innovative institutional reform approach of “Doing Development Differently”. This approach focuses on helping communities accept their problems, gain knowledge and financial independence.

The model also implements new tools for designing, implementing and evaluating development projects. These emerge around several principles: being problem-driven, iterative with lots of learning, and engaging teams and coalitions. 

The concept was introduced into local organizations to reach out to more people. We document stories from new sectors and contexts beyond those already collected. This way, we can improve our development plans and highlight the importance of organisational cultures.


Local communities at Kisii coming together for a sharing session

Local communities at Kisii coming together for a sharing session

Usalama Training Sessions

The Usalama forum empowers groups to have skills, knowledge, and information on entrepreneurship and family transformation. This helps reduce financial challenges such as getting school fees for their children, loan for their small business, etc.

Initially, members often report that they experience challenges in time management and the low tolerance of divergent views within the group.

Despite all these, they claim that they have been able to gain so much. They suggest that meetings be intensified, and include exchange programs with other women groups. This way, they can benchmark and learn from each other.


A Case Study in Kisii

Kisii is one of the eight local communities in Kenya where such a safer community model was tested. The team worked with the local authorities such as the police, to execute the plan.

45% of all criminal activities in Kisii is domestic violence. They are often related to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), alcohol and drugs abuse,Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and low education and economic status. Numerous amounts cases went unreported as some such violences, are accepted as the norm.

Mr. Simon Kiragu, Kisii Police County Commander of Kisii, explicitly requested support from in managing this issue – especially the cultural context such as payment in cows and the widespread acceptance of FGM. At his office in June this year, he stated that the approach used by Usalama would enable them to manage the problem from inside and with the culture. It will be more than “banging on the door and raising the anger of the communities.”

The ‘County’s First Lady’, Elizabeth Ongwae, also launched a campaign ‘Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation’ against the practice during February 2015.

The Usalama team managed to execute gender-sensitive training, role modelling joint teams. They also worked with local duty bearers such as the chief to help implement crime prevention programmes in Africa.


Part 2  – Success stories of transformative crime prevention program where Usalama has been practiced