Isiolo: Fighting Radicalization through Interfaith Networks

Kupotea’

I struggled with this word, I kept wondering how an adult just gets lost, but the turmoil of emotions Beatrice seemed to be battling with, did not allow me to just blurt out the question. I was seated with a group of women from Isiolo interfaith as they narrated their challenges and wins within their network. They are among over 30 women from different faiths who had gathered at Mot Hotel in Isiolo County. So I listened keenly to Beatrice, trying to understand her agony, her pain and her tears. It is only when she paused in a moment of reflection that I asked, ‘what is it that you mean by ‘kupotea?’ Radicalization is a word that takes her to a dark, dark place, where she prays no mother will have to ever experience.

She cannot imagine where she and her family would have been if not for the interfaith network.

For people like Beatrice Gathoni she cannot imagine where she and her family would have been if not for the interfaith network. Beatrice is a mother whose son disappeared for over 3 years. At the point of disappearance he had just married and had one child; he woke up one day to go to Nairobi to get supplies for her shop and never came back that day. His phone went off, they couldn’t reach him, days went by, and as a family they panicked, wondering what could have happened. On that fateful day, 13 boys left and 12 never made it back home. Her son had been lured by the prospect of making big returns in Libya, what followed was a series of misfortunes and her not knowing if her son was healthy, safe or even alive. Gathonis son slept hungry, walked for days, slept on the streets and begged all in a bid to find his way home, when the allure of wealth seemed to be nothing more than a fallacy. It took joining the Isiolo interfaith to enable her track her son, fight for her sons rights and even be able to get the support system she needed to face this “thing” she always thought would never come knocking at her door.

Mama Amina has been chosen as champion for change in the whole county, she talks about how radicalization has been blamed on social media; most of the young men are recruited through their phones. When this happens the anti-error unit comes knocking giving no peace to these families; they harass many families demanding to know where the children are, who are their recruiters and by not cooperating are aiding with the ‘terrorists’.

The interfaith holds counseling sessions for the families affected; they give them avenues through which they can contact the relevant institutions by cooperating in order to combat the problem.

The women interfaith network through different programs is working with families that have been affected to help them understand how to handle the different circumstances. The interfaith holds counseling sessions for the families affected; they give them avenues through which they can contact the relevant institutions by cooperating in order to combat the problem. They educate them on how to deal with their children as well as how to cope as a family. They have Programs that train the women on things like signs of being recruited; what to look for and how to handle it. This enables them to have peace and to lead an almost normal life. Once in a while these children manage to come back, as the case of Gathonis son, in such a case they counsel them and help them deal with the stigmatization they face among their peers and the society. They help them integrate back to the society. This doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges, organizations try to take advantage of these families by giving them hope and promising monetary compensation only for them to sell that data for their own benefit.

The Isiolo women interfaith continues to champion issues that affect women in their county, they work with the relevant county officials, religious leaders to tackle these issues and make an impact in their communities.

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