The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya is part of the consortium that is implementing the Joint Initiative for Strategic Religious Action (JISRA) project in Kenya. The Council has been implementing the project in three counties in Kenya, which include Mombasa, Kwale and Nairobi County. Faith communities are creating awareness on emerging issues such as elections, SGBV, interfaith dialogue, and legal rights using their congregational platforms such as mosques, temples, and churches. In Nairobi, Embakasi Sub-county Rev. Josphine Kambua of Embakasi Women of Faith (WoFN) Network has been actively sensitizing women in Kayole on SGBV and urging victims to speak up.
Rev. Josephine has indirectly over 300 young women under her care; young single women who have been victims of SGBV and as a result exiled from their homes. She has taken these women under her care and counselled them through the trauma, all this through her congregational platform. Through the Anti-SGBV, drives WoFN has held engagements in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kwale, scaling up their abilities in the process. The WoF have held trainings and sensitizations supported by the JISRA project, Rev. Kambua was able to mobilise young women from informal settlements and through several SGBV drive interventions, eight cases were reported and addressed. The Kwale Women of Faith Network as anti-SGBV champions has been holding joint outreaches in collaboration with the local administration to address the SGBV menace in the County where they have been able to report 13 cases, which are currently ongoing.
In 2022 when Kenya was holding its General Elections, Religious Leaders were able to work and synergize their efforts with the activities of women of Faith Network members in Mombasa, Nairobi and Kwale Counties to address SGBV issues. In the build-up to the national elections, IRCK held a training for gender monitors, which saw women of faith across the country, attend. Through these trainings, the women were able to address issues and conflicts affecting women through different platforms. A Women’s situation room was established to address issues of gender violence emanating from across the counties. The Women Situation Room was established in Nairobi, and received feedback from across the country and with collaboration with different stakeholders the women were able to address gender-based violence issues emanating from the country.
The Interfaith Youth were also not left out; with sensitization trainings conducted in the various counties youth were able to strategically position themselves in platforms and spaces where they can be able to influence and have their voices amplified. Through the JISRA project, there were capacity-strengthening sessions with the youth on peaceful co-existence and relations. The youth have successfully been able to position themselves in positions where they are able to influence; for example, Mzalendo and Stephanie in Nairobi; Diana and Abdalla in Mombasa have joined peace Committees in their sub-counties as youth representatives and have been conducting Maskani outreaches preaching the culture of peaceful cohesion and relation. In Mombasa County Alfani Alfani as a member of the District Peace Committee has been able to reach out to his fellow youth and has been involved in the transformation and reforming of youth in Nyali County.
Because of the JISRA project, Alfani has been able to travel to Dubai and Geneva to talk about interfaith and the influence youth can have on society. Youth leaders in these counties – Mombasa, Nairobi and Kwale – have been able to embrace the culture of peaceful co-existence and reinforce their commitment as peace champions. The youth in Kwale are conducting self-initiated beach cleaning exercises, in an endeavour to promote the green economy and environmental conservation. Lorraine Katoni one of the interfaith youth members in Kwale was nominated for a blue economy award, an award to young people who are making a difference in conserving the environment. She has been able to embrace a positive culture of environmental conservation and management. IRCK projects have incorporated environmental conservation sensitizations, with the youth engagements during JISRA activities implementation as well as joint activities with like-minded partners. The youth in Kwale have had collaborations with local law enforcement officials including the police, chiefs, Nyumba Kumi leaders, and county commissioners who are working together for environmental management practices such as beach clean-up exercises.
Freedom of Religion and Belief has had a positive impact on promoting interfaith tolerance and has gone a long way in cementing the interfaith culture of Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB). Interfaith Youth in Mombasa, Nairobi and Kwale have had capacity-building sessions on inter-faith tolerance and relations. The youth in Mombasa and Kwale have held self-driven ‘Welcoming the Other’ initiatives during their worship days in an endeavour to promote the culture of interfaith relations and tolerance. In Kwale County through interfaith sessions, the youth have held activities that have brought together different faiths and have been able to address issues that are affecting them as youth in the counties. In Nairobi County Ambrose Kilonzo from one of the faiths was able to mobilize youth from the different faiths bringing together 100 youth across the country to address issues facing the youth in Nairobi County. During the Ramadhan period, the Mombasa WoFN chairperson, Shamsa Abubakar hosted other faith communities in Mombasa for an Iftar dinner, which can be attributed to the series of inter-faith tolerance sensitization, which strengthened interfaith tolerance and relations. One of the Mombasa WoFN members, Pastor Sylvina Lwembe has also hosted interfaith meetings at her place of worship, which bring together women, youth and Religious Leaders from different religions to hold interfaith dialogues.
The JISRA project continues to leverage positive forces within and between religious communities for more peaceful and inclusive societies. The aim is to do this as much as possible by stimulating interfaith cooperation and thereby showing that different religious traditions can come together in their vision for a better and fairer society with special attention on advancing women’s rights, gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls as well as youth and women’s participation.