Wounded Women Heal their Community
Burnt Forest, a settlement area in Rift Valley has not known peace for many years. The main communities in the area - Kikuyu and Kalenjin- have been in conflict since the 1997 general elections.
The violence, which has recurred with every elections season, has instilled fear and distrust among the people, turned neighbors against each other, and led to the creation of ethnic villages.
Kamuyu is an example of one such ethnic village. Known for its hostility against ‘outsiders’, the village is gradually changing into a center for peace and healing. With support from USAID’s Kenya Civil Society Strengthening Program, the Coalition for Peace in Africa (COPA) is assisting communities in the area manage trauma and undertake trauma healing initiatives.
KCSSP is a grant-making and capacity-building program, implemented by Pact, Inc. and Pact Kenya. KCSSP is helping civil society actors more effectively bring critical reforms in the democratic governance, conflict resolution and natural resource management (NRM) sectors. Program partners, such as COPA, work with Pact in an extensive process to improve service delivery to their constituents.
In March 2010, COPA and Rural Women’s Peace Link organized a community trauma awareness forum for the Kamuyu women. One of the participants, Mary Wachuka, was later trained as a trauma healing facilitator in Eldoret. She had lost her mother, her home and livelihood in the post-election violence of 2007/2008. She believed that she would never recover from the trauma. “I cried and cursed the other community. But this has slowly changed after I was invited to the trauma healing forums in which I realized that I was not alone. I am now a wounded healer,” she states with pride.
The healing process has improved the relationship between the two communities in the area. The members are now more receptive to peace-building interventions. The Kalenjin women have also come out to support their peers from the Kikuyu community in rebuilding their homes and donating seedlings to their neighbors.
COPA‘s success has encouraged other organizations to begin peace initiatives in Burnt Forest. Organizations such as the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and the Anglican Church of Kenya in Eldoret, working with KCSSP, have integrated trauma healing processes in their peace-building work.