The Africa Character Initiation Program (ACIP) 2022 initiation workshop,kicked off on Saturday,12th March 2022 at Utu-GlogoH where the ACIP and Utu-GlogoH team met up with the initiates and their parents.
In this meeting,they received short talks on the importance of character development in the initiation process.Dr Chirchir even gave them a brief history on the initiation process in other areas around the world.He also educated them on the health benefits of circumcision such as it being a HIV prevention mechanism.
Professor,Kamaara, one of the ACIP co-founders,then led the initiates in the importance of setting goals and reflecting on their daily actions.She guided them through journaling and handed out some journals for them to use.
Here is the schedule for the program:
Sat, Mar 12: Arrival and registration of boys’ participants
Sun, Mar. 13 Doctors perform Circumcision
Mon- Frid., Mar 13- 19th: Boys’ healing process accompanied by role modeling and Doctors’ visits. Entereducation and passive indoor games
20th Mar. 2022: Parents Workshop and Alternative rites for girls Mar 21-26th 2022: Intensive Workshops
Sun. Mar. 27: Graduation, Highlight of the day: Individual Graduates promise to parents/guardians & Communal sharing of a meal
Every graduate takes home an ACIP Jewel, a Promise and a Certificate of Commitment
The Science and Religion Club of Kenya (RSCK) is an initiative of the Christian and Scientific Association (CSAK), a project led by Prof. Francis Muregi of Kenya by the Mount Kenya University funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation Inc. (TWCF). The Club is designed to create spaces for young people to interact and debate on questions about the relationship between religion and science, whether the two intersect and how they do if they intersect among others. It also aims at character moulding of students through giving them a sense of belonging and mentoring them in life. The main objectives of the club include to promote mutual understanding of science and religion and to champion constructive interaction of science and religion. Other objectives are to provide a platform for narrowing the gap in knowledge and attitude between science and religion and to promote synergetic interaction among science, religion and culture. The launch is part of a series of others launches in tertiary and higher education institutions across Kenya.
ACIP actively participated in this launch because it is important to ACIP for two reasons: i) Some members of ACIP are members of CSAK and Eunice Kamaara is the Chair of CSAK- Eldoret Chapter and deputy Chair of the Board of Management of CSAK ii) ACIP partners with RSCK because they have a common mission of promoting character values among young people. While ACIP deals with early adolescents in lower levels of education system in Kenya, the RSC of Kenya operates in tertiary and Higher Education levels. ACIP would refer their alumni joining tertiary and HE institutions to join RSCK and would have RSCK members mentor the ACIP Alumni It is for these reasons that ACIP embraced this as one of its activities.
2.0 ACTIVITY PROCEEDINGS
The session began with tree planting to commemorate the day. After that, attendees convened in the School of Information Sciences for an interactive session marked by presentations from different speakers.
2.1 Participation in the 16 Days Activism
This is a global campaign between the 26th November and 10th December 2021 to prevent Violence Against Women and Gender Based Violence in general. To sensitize young people on current global activities and to motivate them to endeavour to always be part of the global community, Professor Emily Choge began the session by enlightening members on the 16 days of activism, a campaign on prevention of Violence Against Women (VAW) and Gender-based Violence (GBV). She led the team in understanding various forms of GBV and VAW and the importance of sharing with others in case one needs help. She also reminded the men present to break against the stigma of not reporting incidences of GBV especially if they were victims. Students and other members present gave their experiences on the same. The group then took part in a short breathing exercise, led by Perpetua Oogo, from the African Character Initiation Programme (ACIP) to mark 16 days of rest, in line with the regional theme for 2021. The exercise involves relaxing, closing one’s eyes, breathing in slowly for long for as long as is possible, holding the breath then exhaling slowing. This is repeated 3 or 4 times to make one restful and relaxed. It was agreed that when one is annoyed or anxious, they should take a minute to do the breathing exercise before they talk or act in order to prevent violence and generally improve individual wellbeing.
2.2 Religion and Mental Health
Prof. Eunice Kamaara began by reminding members that the RSCK are part of the activities of the CSAK whose mission is to promote synergetic interaction between Religion and Science. She noted that there was need to guide youngsters in answering questions on science and religion as they grow so that they may know how to balance the two, one of the aims of the RSCK. On this day of the launch of the SRCK at Moi University, focus would be on the theme of mental health. It would therefore be important to understand the relationship between Mental Health and Religion before we hear more on Mental health. Prof. Kamaara made a short presentation on the relationship between religion and mental health terming them as ‘jealous spouses’: they heavily rely and borrow from each other although, both, if their relationship is not effectively managed, they may threaten the other. She noted that modern psychiatrists never want to publicly discuss the subject of religion and religious leaders never want to publicly mention the subject of mental health. Yet, the jealous relationship between the subjects of religion and mental health is very new – dating only the age of Enlightenment in the 1600s and much more in the 1900s. Otherwise in indigenous societies for example in Africa, religious leaders would be mental health experts; the first mental health institutions were monasteries; and religious ideas influenced the development and adoption of the Hippocratic Oath which guides healthcare providers. The real situation is that religion and mental health are closely related and will interact negatively or positively depending on what we promote. We have an obligation to moderate this relationship for synergy and consequently promote human wellbeing.
2.3 Mental Health – Key Note Speech
The highlight of the day was a keynote speech by, Dr. Saina, a consultant psychiatrist at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret. She highlighted various mental health illnesses, their causes and treatment options. She also spoke on how stigma against mental ill health escalates the problem and may lead to suicide. She also recognized that cultures and environment also lead to mental ill health and cause people to fail to address the issues. She gave an example of how men, according to the African culture, are hardened and grow up masking emotions and experiences which is detrimental to their mental health. Dr. Saina also noted that extreme anger is a sign of poor mental health and Gender Based Violence is a manifestation of a person’s inability to control their emotions, first and foremost, for their own wellbeing, and secondly, for the wellbeing of others. She encouraged the young persons present to be self-aware in order to understand when they have negative emotions and control them with simple exercises like the one of breathing given earlier.
Dr. Araka, also a consultant psychiatrist at the MTRH, picked up from where Dr. Saina left and discussed drug and substance abuse as a mental health issue. He explained that since they are chemical substances, drugs interfere with human mood and emotions leading to ill mental health. He dwelt on why young people engage in drug and substance abuse (especially peer pressure); what to do to avoid drug and substance abuse, and encouraged them to seek help to get support to stop drug abuse.
3.0 OFFICIAL LAUNCH
On behalf of the Project Leader of CSAK, Prof. Francis Muregi, the coordinators of CSAK from Mount Kenya University, Dan Gatungu and Joel Malala, made an impressive recap of the presentations and officially launched the Science and Religion Club of Kenya at Moi University (SRCK- Moi). They then closed the session by advising the students on life guarding principles and to request them to take charge of their Club. They ended with three commandments borrowed from the last lessons of the Holocaust: 1. Though shall not be a perpetrator of GBV and of Drug Abuse 2. Though shall not be a victim of GBV and of Drug Abuse 3. Though shall not be a bystander who takes no action against GBV and of Drug Abuse
3.0 LESSONS LEARNT
Key lessons learnt: 1. Religion and Science should work closely to create synergy for good mental health 2. Stigma associated with GBV and mental health causes a reluctance or failure of victims to seek help 3. Mental illness is an illness like any other. While many mental health conditions are chronic and may not be cured, they are effectively managed. 4. A person of good character does not perpetrate ill mental health and/or GBV; does everything possible to avoid being a victim of these; and is not an indifferent observer of these ills.
It was resolved that all participants present would strive not to perpetrate ill mental health and/or GBV; do everything possible to avoid being a victim of any of these; and will not be indifferent to these negative practices.
5.0 RECOMMENDATIONS AND REQUIREDACTIONS
Rev. Tanui, the University Chaplain who was representing the Dean of Students explained that the Dean very much wanted to be at the meeting but she was held up by other University assignments. Rev. Tanui expressed the support of the office of the Dean of Students for the SRCK indicating that this was one of the most important clubs to be started in the University. He urged the members of the club to take charge of the club, and to be mindful of leadership transition so that the club can keep running smoothly even when other individuals leave. He also promised to work closely with the patron for the smooth running of the club and that the Office of the Dean of Students would support them with every resources within the means of the Office.
6.1 Launch Program 6.2 List of Participants 6.3 Launch Budget
Did you know that September is World Suicide Prevention Month? Well, come nikupeleke na mutara Hi (flow).I bet by now we all know a thing or two about suicide. Whether you have once contemplated it, known someone who has or heard of someone who succeeded in it.
It is easy for society to sit around and judge those who attempt suicide for their actions or lack thereof. Hell, some African communities even cane the mwenda zake (the deceased) for taking their lives. Many a times, those who have had suicide attempts are asked why they want to hurt their families, why they feel like a cloud of sadness is hovering above their heads, what are they going through that has happened to noone else yet? Why can’t they hold on a little longer? Or why can’t they pray or just shun the feelings? This is just a tip of the iceberg.
You may be reading this article thinking I have the answers but I don’t. I am just trying to navigate through life as it comes as we all are. But don’t you worry. Through this article and more in this series, we’ll tackle some of these questions.
In this modern era, people face pressures from all the ends of the earth. COVID pandemic has worsened the situation. People have lost incomes, their families, their loved ones while facing an unknown future. That’s why we keep seeing the, “Be kind, you don’t know what someone is going through” quotes. I agree with them. Totally. In a world where someone is trying to balance work, children, family, economic hurdles and an unknown future, the last thing they need is to be around heartless people. That may just be the last nail on their coffin. Fellow humans, kindness doesn’t cost you a dime. Care for others does not put a literal crown on your head, but it may melt someone’s heart. It may give someone a purpose, a will to carry on. Empathy; is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes even when they may be suicidal and facing unknown battles. Be the hand that says, “Here brother, here sister, let me lift you up.” Let’s cease pointing fingers and yelling, Let us ask each other: “How do I make it better for you? How do I help?”
I understand that someone may read this and assume I am designating the Messiah role to my readers. I am not. I am just here to remind all of us that suicide prevention goes beyond pushing flowery hashtags on social media. It goes beyond attending vigils for the ones we’ve lost to this monster. Suicide prevention begins with ME and YOU.
In solidarity with this year’s theme: Creating Hope Through Action, the African Character Initiative Program (ACIP), will be doing more articles of this nature. We will also have a program containing daily challenges to help us create hope for our alumni and like-minded individuals. We will also be offering probono counselling services at the comfort of your home, through our able counsellors .I would suggest you hop into our bandwagon and CREATE HOPE THROUGH ACTION.
Invitation to become an ACIP Champion in the land of Champions!
In March 2020, the Kenya Government woke up to the reality of COVID-19 and it was declared a national pandemic. The Government undertook a raft of measures to contain it including, restriction of local and international travel, stay-at-home orders; quarantine; partial lockdowns and cessation of movement into and out of Mombasa and Nairobi; countrywide dusk to dawn curfews; stoppage of public assembly including religious gatherings in churches and mosques; closure of all learning institutions, calls for all to sanitize, wear masks, observe social distancing and wash hands as frequently as possible.
In some places, the securitization of a public health issue meant that these measures were instituted violently, leading to the loss of human life. From towns to rural enclaves, anxiety has grown, and life has changed – dramatically for most – even after the government eased some of the social restrictions in July 2020. While businesses, government offices and service institutions such as courts, hospitals and some schools have adjusted to new ways of working in order to survive, the fact remains that children and adolescents are at home and many of them, especially girls, are not safe in these homes.
Beyond the tally of the sick and dying from COVID, the tally of those whose livelihoods have been severely impacted – and how they have been impacted – has hardly been made. Our concern is not with a tally of those children and adolescents whose lives are being destroyed in their homes by violence of various kinds, our concern is with finding measures to contribute to solutions for even one child or adolescent in danger. How do we do this? How do we intervene in a space filled with secrecy and deceit? How do we send a signal, a helping hand to rescue, reassure and/or reinstitute safety?
ACIP has identified Kijiji informal settlement in Hill School area of Eldoret as an area for possible intervention and has come up with a proposal for Participatory Action Research in Kijiji (The PARK project). ACIP is hereby making a call to its alumni to help us think through how we can be useful in Kijiji. What would be an effective, quick, accessible to all, and yet sustainable community action to support children and adolescents through COVID-19 and beyond?
We welcome you, dear ACIP alumnus, to become an ACIP Champion in the land of Champions by:
1. Volunteer your time, expertise and skills in a project that we have identified to facilitate our entry into the Kijiji community. The project involves distribution of reusable sanitary towels to all adolescent girls in Kijiji, and footballs to adolescent boys in Kijiji. We should make these sustainable into the future by recruiting alumni to keep it running and hand it over from one generation to another. Toward community building, we wish that both boys and girls are provided with basic hygiene, as well as confidence and self-esteem training together as one group. Once you volunteer, ACIP shall crown you ACIP Champion in the land of champions and meet (F2F or virtually) with you to agree on how each of you may be involved for those able and willing to work in that space.
2. Share ideas on what other community actions ACIP could engage in within Kijiji. We do not have any idea what kind of project this would be, but we would want it to be geared towards community building and it should be sustainable. If you are interested in this, please submit a two-page document indicating:
<> Target age group:
<> Need(s) to be addressed:
<> Time period:
<> Required human and other resources:
<> How to keep these activities going on for long:
<> Release date of Invitation: 1st October 2020
<> Submission Deadline: 10th October 2020
All submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org
All submissions that ACIP will adopt will be crowned ‘ACIP Champion in the land of champions’ at an event to be announced soon. The top four submissions will be awarded cash prizes of between twenty thousand (20k) and five thousand Kenya Shillings at an event to be announced soon.
Together we can be ACIP Champions in the land of Champions!
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 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.