A conservation group in Taita-Taveta has launched annual rural cultural extravaganzas that include traditional dances and music as tools for combating extremism amongst youth in areas with high unemployment rates.
Management of Arid Zones in Development Options (MAZIDO) started Bughuta Cultural Extravaganza as a platform to counter radicalisation among youth in over 20 villages in Kasighau Ward in Voi sub-county.
The project is funded by USAID and involves promotion of traditional dances and music to foster communal values in rural areas.
Speaking in Bughuta on Thursday during a cultural dance competition, the group’s Executive Director John Mlamba said cultural events played a major role in instilling good morals and values in a society.
He added that rural areas with high unemployment rate were becoming rich hunting grounds for radicals with jobless youths becoming soft targets.
He said that culture had a unifying factor that brought communities together and urged the government to promote cultural integration across the country.
“Music and dance are powerful tools to counter radicalisation and discourage youth from joining outlawed groups,” he said.
The event featured dances from various communities including Giriama, Duruma, Taita and Watha.
Over 23 youth and women groups made presentations where Nyangala traditional dancers from Kasighau village emerged overall winners with their Kishawi dance.
Mlamba said MAZIDO was also promoting the enrolment of youth in vocational training institutes to equip them with skills that help them become self-reliant in job markets.
He added that the group had supported 800 youths in 15 of the 20 wards in the county.
Area Assistant Commissioner Wangui Mugo asked the residents to embrace Nyumba Kumi security initiative which enhanced personal safety at the grassroots levels.
She asked the residents in the region to be vigilant and know their neighbors to avoid harboring criminals, law-breakers and other fugitives from justice.
She stated that such initiatives were intended to keep them safe and protect their lives and property. “We must all embrace all initiatives that are meant to keep us safe,” she said.
Mlamba asked the county government to support cultural activities and involve the youths to keep them engaged with beneficial activities.
Kasighau MCA Ibrahim Juma said Taita-Taveta County Assembly will support such initiatives and urged well-wishers to join hands to promote the youths and women.
He stated that culture was a resource which if well exploited can be beneficial to the region.
“We have a rich tradition that is a potential revenue earner. These dances and music will not only bring people together but also act as a source of revenue from tourists,” he said.
By Wagema Mwangi