ACIP Blog

Core Activities

Driven by the desire tocontribute in building a society of responsible young men and women leaders of the day ACIP seeks to empower young people with practical life skills that they need to make the transition from childhood to adulthood without falling victims to challenges inherent in this transition period. Since its foundation in 2004, the programme targets adolescents aged 10-15 through the following activities:
1. School Visitations – This involves visiting both primary and secondary schools to give talks on the beauty and challenge of adolescence.
2. ACIP Education Foundation – This contributes fees to needy students, especially those labelled ‘not bright’ identified in the visitation programmes. ACIP founder members find that there are many individuals and organizations/initiatives like “Wings to Fly’ of Equity Bank which target needy ‘bright’ students. ACIP questions the labelling of children as ‘bright/not bright’ and believes that, when provided with the necessary support, every child has potential to become a successful responsible adult.
3. Youth motivational and mentorship programme – This involves mentoring young people within the local communities in Kenya as well as advocacy for young people as occasions emerge.
4. The Annual African Christian Initiation Programme – This is the core activity of ACIP. Every December, ACIP brings together between 30 and 50 adolescent girls and boys together for two weeks to provide them with knowledge and skills for holistic development. Rituals to physically mark their transition to adulthood are part of this annual event. These include the facilitation of the African custom of male circumcision. However, there is no similar physical rite of initiation with women. To fill this void, ACIP provides an alternative symbolic female initiation ceremony that meets this function of a rite of passage without the practice of any physical form of female circumcision. The alternative rite involves a night vigil marked by a ‘crossing over’ at midnight from childhood to adulthood. After crossing over, each individual is given a copy of the ACIP Jewels (referred to as a Teenage Survival Kit) which serves a twofold function:
i) provide a tangible affirmation that an individual has ‘crossed over’ from childhood to adulthood, and,
ii) provide a summary of ACIP training embodied in the motto ‘Choose Life’. This motto emphasizes freedom of choice even as it affirms that responsible adulthood involves choosing life. During this night, lessons on responsible African Christian womanhood are offered.

For boys, ACIP facilitates male circumcision, which is carried out by expert biomedical practitioners from the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret – a teaching facility for the Moi University College of Health Sciences. Parents provide Informed Consent in written form when they present the boys to ACIP. After the surgery, ACIP provides each individual with the ACIP Jewel and boarding facilities for them to recuperate together for two weeks with a qualified doctor coming daily (and is on call) to provide follow up health care. During this time, responsible young male adults comprising of Moi University students and/or ACIP alumni live with the initiates to take care of their nutrition and hygiene and to mentor them in terms of character. Throughout this time, their parents and older siblings are encouraged to visit. Meanwhile, other adults that ACIP consider responsible with regard to African and Christian virtues are invited to talk to the boys on responsible manhood.

After the two weeks, we hold a one day workshop for parents on responsible parenting. It is after the parent’s workshop that girls register for ACIP and during that night the girls have the alternative rite described above. The following day, the boys and girls come together for a one week’s training through the 13-module training documented in My Life Starting Now. Each day starts with worship. Bible study, prayer and worship modules punctuate the entire event with time set aside for individual participants to reflect on their relationship with God, with the self, with others and with the environment. A copy of My Life Starting Now, The ACIP Jewels, and a sample of the ACIP Annual Schedule are attached as appendices to Supporting Documents.

History

History of the African Christian Initiation Program
The African Christian Initiation Programme (ACIP), is a community participatory programme of the Eldoret-based Gender and Development Network (Eldo-GADNet). Eldo-GADNet is an inter- denominational, inter-disciplinary and inter-ethnic initiative. It serves to i) meet the mandate of Moi University and more specifically of the founder members to translate knowledge generated in the University into practical development for communities at the local, national, continental and global levels, and ii) meet the needs of loca+l and national community to empower young people to transit from childhood to responsible adulthood. This initiative, which began in the mid- 1990s as Ladies To Ladies Talk (LTLT), was founded by four female lecturers/researchers of Moi University, namely, Pamela Abuya, Eunice Kamaara, Joyce Nyairo and Mary Wahome. The group later grew to include like-minded men and women from different ethnic groups, professions, church denominations and academic disciplines. The initiative initially focused on female university students and revolved around their social, economic and academic challenges. The experiences of the four founding members indicated that many first-year students of public universities had neither any experience of – nor any preparation for – the demands of social life without the supervision of teachers and away from the watchful eyes of parents and guardians.
The series of LTLT sessions embarked on informal interaction and dialogue with female students at different levels, beginning with a special programme for first year students during the five-day orientation week. With time, the organisers realized that young people needed training in knowledge and life skills well before entering university. Consequently, the initiative spread to secondary schools and later to primary schools. In the course of this work the organisers recognized that adolescents are a neglected lot.
The introduction of Christianity and the condemnation of all traditional African beliefs and practices as evil created various gaps. Among the major practices that were condemned is the traditional process of initiation from childhood into adulthood within which there were some harmful practices but also many valuable practices that are actually in line with Christian values. Christianity did not offer anything to maintain valuable aspects of the process. Consequently, many adolescents today rely on uncoordinated information on sex and other aspects of their life from their peers, parents, the mass media, churches and other sources. Yet adolescence is the critical point in human physical and psycho-sexual development, at which socialization for responsible adulthood should be offered in a systematic way. In view of the lack of such socialization, Eldo-GADNet designed the African Christian Initiation Programme. The programme aims to systematically integrate African values with Christian values, and to provide a process of initiation (and transition) from childhood to adulthood for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 16. Eldo-GAdnet adopts a holistic asset-based approach to youth empowerment and therefore the programme is designed to cover 12 broad areas of life skills which are critical for healthy development of young people. The programme recognizes the many assets that young people possess and only serves to facilitate development and exploitation of these assets by the youth themselves. The broad area of building skills in confidence and self esteem among young people is central in empowering young people to develop and exploit their assets.
In early 2006, Eldo-GADNet began a process of consultation with the Strategies for Hope Trust, a UK-based organisation which produces and distributes information and training materials on community-based responses to HIV and AIDS, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. This led to a partnership through which the Strategies for Hope Trust provided Eldo-GADNet with technical and financial support for the production and distribution of this manual. The manual provides African adults with the information and practical skills needed to conduct a life skills training workshop for young people aged between 11 and 15.

In 1992, in response to these global Higher Education trends coupled with the desire to give back to their communities, a group of female researchers from the then School of Social Cultural and Development Studies at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya, came together to establish the Eldoret-Based Gender and Development Network (EldoGADNET) as an umbrella organization through which they could translate their research findings into practical development (research uptake). Right from initiation, the researchers were clear of the need for local communities to be in charge of their own development and therefore the imperative for community supported and community participatory initiatives was highlighted. They registered EldoGADNET as a social welfare organization with the Ministry of Social Services in Kenya.

Among the pioneer research projects whose findings these researchers sought to implement was a project on sexual behaviour of Moi University students. The findings of this study indicated that over 80% of university students were sexually active, over 56% of them having had multiple sex (Abuya & Nyairo, 1993). The result of this behaviour was clearly manifest: high incidences of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, unplanned pregnancies, abortions, and stress. For example, the study established that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) were among the top five diseases treated at the university clinic. Further the study suggested that ignorance on matters sexuality due to a culture of silence, characteristic of many modern Kenyan contexts, was responsible for this situation.

Under the auspices of EldoGANET, the researchers sought to intervene to transform this life- threatening situation into a desirable situation by organizing ‘Ladies to Ladies’ talks at Moi University main campus. These talks revealed that university students were largely ignorant of their identity as biological sexual beings (with natural sexual instincts and impulses), and at the same time ignorant of their identity as rational and spiritual beings capable of effectively and successfully managing these sexual instincts and impulses. The findings indicated also that for a significant number of the sexually active girls, sexual initiation had occurred well before they got to campus – while they were still in high school. The researchers, therefore, sought to come up with interventions at earlier stages in the school system, interventions that would, gradually, also include boys because the male students at the university had indicated that they too needed help understanding themselves and the protocols for healthy interactions with their female counterparts. Thus the EldoGADNET researchers started School Visitation programmes. These involved visiting schools around the university to provide forums for motivational and mentorship talks to address the identity and sexual crises associated with adolescence. Fortunately, these visitation programmes were replicated and supported by the Association of African Women in Research and Development (AAWORD), a continental organization to which the researchers belong. For close to a decade, the founders of EldoGADNET continued with their school visitation programmes under the auspices of AAWORD.

Meanwhile, a doctoral study by one of the researchers on gender, HIV, and youth sexuality, was completed in 2003 (Kamaara, 2005). The findings indicated that unequal gender relations, engraved over traditional ethnic initiation from childhood to adulthood practised in rural areas, significantly contribute to unequal gender relations, sexual activity and the consequent prevalence of HIV among young people. For urban youth, the absence of any form of initiation rite left adolescence without any guidance through their sexual and identity crises. A most telling finding was that while over 90% of all young people interviewed indicated that their preferred source of information on sex were their parents, only about 20% got this information from the preferred source (Kamaara, 2005:74). Similarly, about 60% of them said they preferred to get information from religious leaders but actually only about 10% got information from this preferred source. On the other hand, while less than 40% said they would prefer to receive sex information from their peers and the mass media, over 80% said that they actually got sex information from peers and mass media (ibid). The conclusions of the study indicated that there was need for an intervention in form of an initiation rite towards supporting young people to successfully transition from childhood to adulthood by providing not just information about sex but also information on their holistic being. It is in response to this study and to earlier efforts that the African Christian Initiation Programme (ACIP) was founded as the pioneer programme of the EldoGADNET. Affirming the imperative of local communities to be in charge of their own development ACIP was designed to be a local community-based participatory initiative.
The African Christian Initiation Programme (ACIP) is a character virtue Development programme for adolescents that was founded in 2004. The founders of the programme seek to fill a cultural void created by the erosion of indigenous African rites of passage by modernisation.

ACIPKenya

ACIP Motto: Choose Life (Deuteronomy 30: 15)

To empower young people with life skills they need to make the transition from childhood to adulthood without falling victims to challenges such as HIV infection, drug abuse and lack of self-esteem.

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