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Kumekucha: It's a New Dawn

Trauma-Informed Conflict Transformation

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

In Kenya entire generations have endured protracted violence and as a consequence have existed in survival mode for decades. The exposure to violence has long-lasting effects not well accounted for in most peacebuilding initiatives. Extreme exposure to violent conflict negatively affects levels of resilience and the ability of the affected populations to transition from violence to sustainable peace. Persistent insecurity and structural violence result in both individual and collective trauma. Symptoms associated with trauma affects all levels of society including aspects of governance and security. Grievances related to war, colonial pasts, economic inequality, ethnic and religious differences and sexual violence are especially difficult to address in regions afflicted by extreme levels of mental and social distress. Therefore, we believe unresolved trauma is at the root of distorted perceptions of victimhood, acute dependency, micro-aggression, and tendencies to victimize others. These dynamics feed into the cycle of violence particularly during elections. Yet, the majority of peacebuilding / conflict transformation work in Kenya is not trauma-informed. The Kumekucha movement is driven by local network partners. It incorporates low-resource methods building upon cultural practices and traditions. The methodology uses local folktales, case studies, and artwork allowing participants to easily connect and understand complex ideas. Its success is built upon relationships rather than expertise, as community members form safe spaces where people can explore how to break cycles of violence. The public takes charge of their own healing process. Community leaders and other authorities are also supported through lessons on the relationship between trauma and conflict and trainings on how to address their distress.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Kumekucha is a community volunteer program which focuses on providing a safe space for participants to explore issues of violence, the effects of trauma, social healing and dialogue. Key participants include: bodaboda drivers, matatu touts, women's groups (chamas), GBV survivors, religious leaders, disabled groups like the hearing-impaired, the business community, and other youth groups. Kumekucha focuses on the transformative power of what is often overlooked - the courage and grace of ordinary people; the communal impulse to be whole again; the will to move past the ravages of violence; and the cultural wealth of traditions and practices of reconciliation. Emphasis is given to narratives which help individuals and groups break the "cycles of violence", developing community led peace initiatives which build on the body's capacity to heal itself. Leadership at all levels is engaged in an effort to support the break-away from a victimhood mentality.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Few organizations have developed sustainable, culturally relevant, grass-root trauma-informed interventions. There is a direct link between levels of trauma in vulnerable communities and the challenges faced with justice, reconciliation, security and overall social wellbeing. Violence begins with a thought, yet few interventions focus on the mental wellbeing of at-risk communities. Our approach has had major impact in challenging regions. In Somalia, there was a significant decrease in 9 out of 16 PTSD symptoms post-intervention. Findings also showed that there was less subscription among participants to the belief that fighting is necessary to defend the interests of one’s clan. In Kenya participants reported interacting with people they normally would not engage. Unlike many peacebuilding programs, we have empirical evidence showing the transformation of our participants. We use quantitative and qualitative methods to gauge change in behavior, attitudes and trauma symptoms.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Majority Adoption: I have expanded the pilot significantly and the program product or service has been adopted by the majority of our intended user base.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The Green String Network (GSN) is a not-for-profit organization which brings together professionals in the field of peace-building, trauma-informed approaches, sustainable economic development and research. and

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

I worked for USAID on projects in west and east Africa for a decade. The projects were never transformational. Mistrust and violence always reemerged. In 2008, we began to implement trauma healing programs as a foundation for peace and development initiatives. I was in awe of the transformation I witnessed in places like northeastern Kenya and Somalia which suffered from decades of violence and extremism. Social-healing, using a trauma lens is an antidote to hate which is embodied in violence.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

The economic, social, cultural and political spheres of society along with the natural environment form the context in which our program participants engage. Peace and Prosperity are influenced by these different spheres which are inextricable. In Kenya, conflict is driven by economic and political inequality which is exasperated by environmental injustice where marginalized communities overwhelmingly bear the burden of climate change and discriminatory practices of toxic waste disposal (Planet). The growing dissatisfaction over injustices in Kenya coupled with feelings of under representation or outright exclusion within the political and economic realm continue to fuel both national and local conflicts. Over the last decade, the general State response to acts of resistance or expressions of grievance has been to deploy the greater force of suppression through security forces. Rather than mitigating violence, the measures aggravate the sense of insecurity and injustice among citizens.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Local CBOs, leaders, police officers and communities are involved in the Kumekucha movement. Kumekucha is planning to certify individuals who work in the security sector to expand the program to the police, as well as, community based change agents. All have already been part of our foundational programming and have stood out as agents of change. To establish the official accreditation of the program, GSN will continue to work with educators, facilitators, psychologists and peacebuilders to improve and expand the training modules and instruction in order to support the creation of trauma-informed structures and systems. GSN will work with the facilitators on how to market their new skills so that they can begin to derive an income from offering the training within their own environment. The new facilitators will develop county based trauma-informed working groups, and will be able to engage a wider range of stakeholders compared to having GSN as the sole implementer of the program.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

A mistake that is commonly made in programing is to overestimate the capabilities of outside experts and underestimate local knowledge and skills. Kumekucha builds on the resources and traditions of the communities we serve. The program is driven by members of the communities because they best understand their environment, their cultural and political landscape and the challenges their people face. Also, the trust they have from their peers make them the most effective agents of change.

Geographic Focus

Kenya. The funds would focus on developing and piloting a 4-level TIR certification program.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months. GSN believes for lasting long-term sustainability it must be an organic and community led model focused on the question “how does the community hold itself together.” GSN will strengthen partnerships between local organizations and the county governments by supporting the capacity strengthening of new trauma-informed practices, resources, and service providers at the county level through the development and piloting of a 4-level TIR certification program for key local Changemakers.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Attachments (5)

GSN Profile (ENG) SMALL.pdf

An overview of Green String Network and our work in East Africa.

Remebering Ubah Poster.pdf

We remember our community coordinator, Ubah Aminah and her short but powerful life.

TIR Summary.pdf

The TIR framework involves working with practitioners who are already providing some sort of service and support in the community, such as teachers, nurses, doctors, religious leaders, women and youth leaders, NGO staff, elders and traditional leaders. The TIR framework gives them additional support and materials as well as sets up a debriefing and supervision network that makes sure that they are also caring for themselves in their very difficult and complex environments.

Thermometer Thinking Flash Card-1.jpg

Usually a thermometer measures temperature - either a person's body temperature, or the weather. In this context, we use the energy thermometer as a tool to help raise our self-awareness and measure our energy levels and how intense our emotions are. The thermometer's three sections are: The green zone represents the regulated state; The red and blue zones represents a state of dysregulation. Our thinking brain is shut down, and our survival brain is activated.

Systems Map (with images).jpg

Rebuilding institutional infrastructure damaged during conflict is as important as, if not more important than, physical infrastructure. Within systems responsible for recovery, one notices increased distrust, anger, hopelessness, corruption, poor leadership, and ineffective service delivery. The institutions and leaders are not functional. Typical responses include the mental health and psychosocial approaches. Many wish to ignore. Trauma-informed Conflict Transformation strengthens resilience.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jam Barre

Hi Angi,
A very inspiring and much needed project ! I am a social work student doing my degree in social work and I have always wanted to work with such kind of a program. I am very much interested to becoming part of this project if possible.Good stuff!

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