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ANPPCAN celebrates a decade of community development work

The African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) is better known for its struggle against various forms of child abuse and neglect. But contrary to that popular belief, the Pan African organization has also been at the forefront of improving the lives of communities where children come from, through Community Organisation Training (COT) over the past decade.
Zachary Ochieng

To celebrate ten years of COT, which is one of ANPPCAN s seven programmes, a conference was held on August 21 at Nairobi s Panafric Hotel. The objectives of the conference whose theme was Empowering and transforming communities through community organization - were to reflect on the development of community organization training and practice in the last decade, to bring together community development practitioners and share on emerging trends and to examine existing scenarios and chart the way forward for community organization training in Kenya in particular and Africa in general.

Key speakers at the conference included Local Government Assistant minister Betty Tett, who was the chief guest, Mr David Nalo, permanent secretary, Ministry of Planning and National Development, Ms Keziah Muniu, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mr Lawrence Apiyo, the chairman of Community Organisation Practitioners Association (COPA), Ms Rosalinda Valenton-Tirona, the Philippines Ambassador to Kenya and Dr Dennis Murphy, Board member, Community Organisation of the Philippines Enterprises (COPE).

MsTett congratulated ANPPCAN for initiating the project and called on other stakeholders to follow suit. The government alone can t handle the problem of street children. It calls for joint efforts , she said. She further called on donors to support the rehabilitation of street children.

Mr Nalo thanked ANPPCAN for being proactive in mobilizing communities. Communities have a major role as development agents by taking charge of their own development and as oversight agents in terms of demanding their rights, where resources are being used on their behalf by the government and other development agencies , he observed.

COT the only one of its kind in the country was introduced by ANPPCAN s regional office in 1993. According to ANPPCAN s Regional Director Dr Philista Onyango, the need to introduce the training followed a research conducted by ANPPCAN between 1990 and 1991 on the request of the Attorney general s office.

The research aimed at finding out the nature and extent of the problem of street children with a view to finding a lasting solution. Consequently, community organization was introduced in Kenya with a view to providing training to development workers from various development agencies as an approach to community development.

Community Organisation was thus introduced to provide a development approach that would holistically address the issues in the urban communities from which these children came. In her welcome speech, Dr Onyango said that ANPPCAN uses the community organization strategy as a means of involving communities in child protection.

The Philippines ambassador to Kenya Ms Rosalinda Valenton-Tirona, who was one of the guests at the conference, hailed community organization as part of good governance and appealed to the government to support the initiative through appropriate legislation. Empowering communities is part of good governance and I would appeal to the Kenyan government to support community organization through legislation , she stated.

The objectives of the COT programme are to provide training to field staff in the informal settlements in Kenya with the aim of extending the same to the rest of Anglophone Africa, to use the training as a strategy in making people face their day to day problems and solve them in a participatory manner and to use the training as a method of stimulating discussions among field practitioners.

Credit for the COT programme goes to former UNICEF Eastern and Southern African Regional Office (ESARO) Dr Mary Racelis, who was approached for assistance by ANPPCAN. Based on her previous experience in the Philippines, she helped to identify a community organization the Community Organisation of the Philippines Enterprises (COPE) - as one of the organizations that could offer training.

The then COPE director Dr Dennis Murphy visited Kenya and partnership started. COPE s partner in Germany (Misereor) agreed to fund the project and continues to fund it to date. Both ANPPCAN and COPE identified the type of personnel to be trained, namely individuals working for organizations in slum communities.

Since its inception in 1993, the COT programme has gone through two phases. According to Nicholas Ongondo, a senior trainer the first phase involved introductory work done by the Philippino expatriates, while the second phase was to solidify the training and hand over to Kenyans after initial consultancy work by COPE. The Kenyan trainers took over in 1997.

The training is designed in three levels, with each level covering a duration of nine months. It is an on-the-job training programme, with 75 per cent field work and 25 per cent lecture based component.

The first level is the Basic Community Organisation (BCO), given to development workers with a university degree in Social Sciences or those who have worked in a relevant field for three years. To date, 80 development workers from NGOs, religious organizations and the Nairobi City Council have successfully completed the training.

The second level, the Advanced Community Organisation (ACO) level is given to those who have successfully completed the BCO level and is aimed at enhancing their knowledge, attitude and skills. So far 15 community organizers have been trained.

The final level is the Training Of Trainers (TOT), whose eligible candidates are graduates of the ACO level. Six development workers have so far been trained. Due to the comprehensive nature of the courses, a number of graduates appealed to Dr Onyango to get an accreditation from a university so that graduands could be awarded diplomas instead of certificates.

Besides successful training of community organizers, the programme s achievements include the formation of Community based Organisations (CBOs) in Kibera and Korogocho slums. They include Takataka Afya Korogocho (TAK), Makina Umoja Usafi na Maendeleo (MUUM) in Kibera and Silanga Umoja usafi na maendeleo (SUM) in kibera among others.

Other achievements include peace interventions in Kibera and Korogocho and the home based day care centers in Korogocho. Among other achievements according to Dr Onyango, the frequency of demolitions of slum dwellings has been reduced significantly. She also notes that the environmental conditions of the two training communities namely Kibera and Korogocho have relatively improved.

Dr Onyango adds that the created CBOs are implementing projects with different agencies such as UNICEF, UNEP, OXFAM and the Commission on poverty eradication. The CBOs have also acquired property and are now engaged in active economic activities.

But the programme implementation has also met with stiff challenges. Notably, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has given rise to a number of orphaned children who are left to fend for themselves as their relatives are too poor to provide for them. Owing to the unresolved issues such as land ownership, there are frequent wrangles between landlords and tenants.

The government s tendency to initiate projects, such as slum upgrading, without consulting communities have always led to skirmishes. Mr Josiah Omotto, a community organizer challenged ANPPCAN to introduce a training for ministers to ensure effective co-ordination of community development projects such as upgrading of slum settlements.

But despite a few problems, a number of lessons have been learnt. Significantly, it has been learnt that it is possible to undertake community organization even in the most difficult circumstances.

It has also been learnt that effective community organization requires a combination of organizing activities and some projects, especially those addressing economic needs. While appreciating the role of community organizers in Kenya, Ms Anne Gathumbi a community organizer and also the Executive Director of the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) - observed that community members often asked for food from the organizers.

There is therefore a need to combine fundraising activities with our usual work to keep these communities surviving , she noted.

Moreover, community organization is a viable approach for involving communities in protecting their children.

The conference, however, should have been extended for two days, as there were a lot of issues to be discussed. Due to the limited time, some speakers had to rush through their presentations. All in all, the conference provided the right forum for sharing the challenges of COT.

Notes: Further information on the COT programme can be obtained from:

ANPPCAN Regional Office,

P.O BOX 1768 00200,

City Square,

Nairobi, Kenya.

Tel. 254-20-573990/561086,

Telefax. 254-20-576502.

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