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Theme: The Making of a Kenyan: Towards National Identity and Character Values
24 – 25 July 2017
Maanzoni, Kenya
The inaugural National Initiation Rites Workshop, convened by the African Character Initiation Programme (ACIP), was held between 23 and 25 July 2017 at Maanzoni Lodge in Nairobi. The Workshop, whose theme was “The Making of a Kenyan: Towards National Identity and Character Virtues”, was characterized by robust engagements. Adopting the workshop model ensured participation of all in attendance. Indeed, it was a great gathering of people whose experiences are key in setting agenda for the current and next generation. The participants included local and international academics, government officials, members of the clergy from different denominations, youth, parents, teachers, leaders of various initiation rites programmes, donors, ACIP alumni and mentors.
During the three-day conference, participants reflected on how the various rites of passage, currently practiced in Kenya, could help forge a national identify based on character virtues. The conference participants shared best practices from people and organisations mentoring youth with the aim of imparting positive character values. Majority of the groups and individuals were faith-based.
The participants also discussed the impact of harmful cultural practices that are part of initiation rites in different communities, for example, female genital mutilation. Participants also heard from ACIP alumni and parents who reflected on their experiences. They also reflected on emerging gaps in modern rites of passage and the genesis of these practices, particularly in multicultural urban settings. The conference provided a networking opportunity that underlined the importance of merging theory with practice through linkage between the academia and community.
The ACIP founders also shared research findings from a study they conducted to help them look back at the work they have done since inception. The tracer study, which combined quantitative and qualitative components, indicated the need for a longitudinal study. It was noted that the ACIP alumni, who were some of the respondents and research assistants, graduated from the ACIP at different times thus their experiences are somewhat varied. The study provided ACIP with valuable feedback on its impact, highlighting what was working well. It also enabled the founder members identify existing gaps.
Participants worked in groups to identify the character values that are key in forging a Kenyan identity. They identified the following: Integrity, equity, social responsibility, justice, good governance, cohesion, love for one another, patriotism, recognition of cultural diversity and a God-fearing nation. The conversation was hinged on Vision 2030, Kenya’s development blueprint, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Workshop was part of the activities of a research project titled, Assessment of ACIP: A Character Virtues Program, which was generously funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation Inc.