A regional NGO has launched a programme to mainstream Covid-19 into Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism (P-CVE) activities amongst the youth in Taita-Taveta County following concerns that the pandemic had increased young people’s vulnerabilities thereby placing them at higher risk of being radicalized.
The AMKA programme, an initiative by Youth, Arts, Development and Empowerment Network (YADEN) involves organizing youth and their grass root communities to help them build partnerships with the government in order to eliminate the spaces exploited by terrorists to lure youth into violence.
Taita-Taveta County is one of the ten counties where the two-year programme will be implemented.
The director of YADEN Sami Gathii said Covid-19 had amplified the risks facing the youth due to the economic havoc wrecked by the killer pandemic. He explained that factors including massive job losses, widespread unemployment and lack of opportunities were considered as major risks that exposed thousands of youth into falling victims to radicalization.
Speaking in Voi on Saturday, Gathii said integrating Covid-19 recovery efforts into anti-radicalization and CVE programs across the country would ensure young people were secured from the adverse effects of coronavirus while at the same time investing in tapping their talents and skills. This would actively engage them and enhance their role in prevention of terrorism-related activities.
“The Covid-19 has increased the vulnerabilities amongst the young people. The risks of radicalization are now higher than ever and thus the need to embed the covid-19 into activities of countering violent extremism,” he said.
AMKA will use art forms including poetry, drama, spoken word, theater and short films to entrench the CVE messaging as they promote talent and skills among the grass root community.
Other counties that will benefit from this programme include Mandera, Wajir, Garissa in Northern Kenya and Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi and Kwale in the Coast region. Nairobi will also be included due to the large population of the youth in the city county.
Gathii noted that Covid-19 had managed to exponentially expand the community use of digital technology as a way of complying with social-distancing directive to curb spread of the virus. As a result, most youth were also engaging in various activities virtually including flooding social network sites to gather and share ideas.
He added that there were youth who were left out in this digital expansion who needed to be brought into the fold.
“Some of those youth were already hard to reach physically. With digital meetings, it will almost be impossible to meet them,” he said.
He stated there was a need to find such youth and enlighten them on the possibilities and potentials presented by the explosion of digital technology.
The AMKA programme comes in the wake of the County Action Plan (CAP) on countering violent extremism that was done last year. In Taita-Taveta, the county adopted five main pillars that would support the efforts to prevent, deter and rehabilitate youth engaged in radicalization activities.
The pillars adopted include education, politics, religion, media and internet and economic pillar.
Gathii advised the young people to use artistic knowledge and their unique creativity to design messaging that would support the CAP based on the five pillars.
“We can be creative and innovative in how we design our CVE messaging to ensure that we are supporting the five pillars adopted by the county,” he advised.
He added that YADEN would support creative endeavors that would enhance spreading the CVE messaging to the grass root communities and other clusters of populations that were marginalized.
A local stand-up comedian Steve Ndao said such initiatives would not only keep youth engaged but help them nurture their talents.
He noted that programmes targeting talent development at the grassroots were considered as one-off events which made it impossible for all talented youth to be highlighted.
“We don’t want to only showcase what we can do. We also need to benefit from the programmes and prove that talent pays,” he said.
By Wagema Mwangi