Kenya, like many other countries in Africa experience various forms of conflicts, mostly political violence and inter-ethnic clashes. These conflicts have great impact on children in rural areas resulting to, among others, disruption in education, displacement of families and exposure to violence and trauma.
Children growing up in these areas have to device survival mechanisms so as to fit into the already volatile environment. Most of them end up being part of groups that, negatively, affect their development. When faced with violence and one has to make a choice, you can only think of the immediate solution. So, the children cannot be blamed for a decision that they make at that point. They have to survive and some even to have protect their families (young siblings and mothers).
But there are a few ways that we can protect and support the children in dealing conflict within their communities. Possible interventions include:
- Provide a safe and supportive environment- Providing a safe and supportive environment will help the affected children with learning and developing into responsible citizens. They will be able to express themselves freely and without judgment.
- Provide conflict resolution skills – Providing and teaching children how to resolve conflicts peacefully and effectively has a lasting impact on the children and the communities they live in, as these children grow up, they are able to share and practice these skills. The skills may include communication, active listening, empathy, and compromise.
- Creative an environment for open communication- When we allow and encourage children to talk openly about their feelings and experiences, we are helping develop their self-esteem, confidence and affection for the community. This may lead them to develop empathy for others and support system in the community.
- Cultivating positive relationships- Relationship play a big role in preventing conflict. When children are taught how to build positive relationship with their peers, family members, teachers and other related group in the community, they are able to share their emotions, ambitions and feelings. These will also help to detect any sign of unrest or struggle among them.
- Provide counseling or mental health support. Community led intervention such as provision of mental health support helps children to process and cope with conflict. Thus, access to counseling or mental health services is very beneficial to them.
These aren’t the only the measures that can be employed to support deal with conflict in rural communities or areas. Based on the context and needs, practitioners working on these areas can develop both short and long interventions that would help children feel connected to their communities as well as improve their social and emotional health.
Through our Children-Led Community Peace Labs , we support school going children in urban settlements and rural communities develop necessary skills in dealing with conflict within their communities. A key component in our intervention is the emphasis on their involvement in volunteer work within their communities.
Further, we provide a platform for teacher and religious organizations to learn, network and develop themselves especially on issuing of children support.