In a response to this increased vulnerability of young people to extremism and exploitation, the AAYMCA and Kenya YMCA are implementing the Because I Count Project in the Kenyan regions of Nairobi County’s Shauri Moyo and South C, Kilifi County and Mombasa County. The programme is funded by the Norwegian Government Fund (NORAD) through Y-Global. The project is based on a systemic and evidence-based approach and methodology, which will explore inter- faith collaboration.
It further seeks to promote religious tolerance and create awareness about countering violence extremism through:
- Inter-faith dialogues between Christians and Muslims
- Creating youth safe spaces in selected YMCA local branches for interaction and mobilisation of Christian and Muslim youth for peer to peer dialogues and skills building
- Training young people for competency in community action and advocacy to enable to engage with decision-makers and stakeholders and influence policy-making and implementation.
YMCAs are currently integrating interfaith programs based on the belief that bringing people from different cultures together will help prevent radicalization. Why? Because this bringing together will help challenge intolerant beliefs that extremists use to advance their agenda. Bringing people together will also help foster social cohesion and allow for stronger multi-cultural bonds that undermine the “us – versus – them” narratives that extremists use. It will provide an opportunity for youth to network and establish friendships, which could be vital for those individuals who feel marginalized and that they have nowhere to belong.
As the YMCA, we believe that engaging youth in advocacy and civic engagement activities will enable them to gain confidence and skills in being able to facilitate change in their communities. This can give them a sense of purpose in their lives and direct their energies towards peaceful and productive activities. We are further convinced that the absence of such programming may leave political grievances unresolved, which could fuel political violence.
The Because I Count project fundamentals are based on the African YMCAs Subject 2 Citizen change model. This substantive model aims to empower young people to liberate their mind-sets from preconceived notions of disparity, failure and socio-economic, political and religious marginalisation to a process of self-awareness and self-analysis so as to position themselves as young men and women liberated from the indignity and lure of bad politics, crime and social vices.
As the YMCA, we are certain that it is necessary that policy responses be coordinated more effectively across the expanding plethora of actors. This means defining and distributing appropriate roles and responsibilities; ensuring common understanding of drivers and entry points for prevention and transformation to ensure that young people are protected and empowered to enable the achievement of the Africa we want: A peaceful, dignified and prosperous Africa.
Lloyd M. Wamai
Africa Alliance of YMCA