Civil Society Use Kenya’s Constitution to Bring People Together

Members of civil society throughout Kenya played a pivotal role in reaching out to their fellow citizens and encouraging one another to vote and peacefully participate in the March 2013 parliamentary elections. To support this effort, IRI teamed up with Uraia Trust, a local civil society organization in Kenya, to publish The Citizen Handbook, which informs citizens on their rights found in Kenya’s constitution, gives examples of how citizens can participate in their government and talks about how Kenya’s devolution process will work and how it will impact citizens.

In the lead-up to the March elections, civil society organizations throughout the country, with the support of IRI, used the handbook in civic education outreach events. The effort reached nearly 50,000 citizens in more than half of Kenya’s counties. Since the elections, civil society leaders have continued to discuss and develop civic education efforts that can be undertaken that will inform their neighbors about the rights and responsibilities each Kenyan has under the new constitution.

At one such discussion, Esther Jayo, a teacher from Kibera, shared how she first learned about the constitution at an IRI event in Nairobi. Jayo attended one of IRI’s civil society leader workshops and received a copy of the handbook, and after reading it, she started to talk to her family about their rights in the constitution, and then presented the information to her students in Kibera. She has been asked on numerous occasions to give presentations on the handbook at church meetings and neighborhood events. Jayo stated, “The Citizen Handbook has impacted my life and the women around me. I will continue to learn more and encourage girls to get identification cards so they can vote and know that women and their children have rights.”

Two pastors from the Interreligious Council of Kenya also used The Citizen Handbook as a way to bring together people of all faiths. Reverends John Alusiola and Godffrey Ochieng have trained more than 500 religious leaders in Kenya utilizing the handbook. Ochieng underscored the success of the handbook, stating, “The curriculum IRI provided is straight to the point, systematic and allowed us to professionally train other religious leaders. Many leaders are asking us where we received this information and would like to know more.”

IRI continues to work with civil society organizations throughout Kenya and hold civic education events with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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