It’s been a week when reports of shocking terrorist atrocities (Paris, Beirut, Nigeria – and, as I write, Mali) have been dominating our news bulletins and social media feeds. And it’s been followed, of course, with the usual analysis around how best to tackle the issue: border closures, refugee expulsions, states of emergency and air strikes seem depressingly to the fore.
But in this fevered climate, I found it refreshing to see another different, inspiring approach to the challenge, that is being implemented by Hand in Hand Eastern Africa (HiHEA), one of our Kiva partners here in Kenya.
Kenya itself is no stranger to the devastating impact of fundamentalist terrorism. In April, 147 students were brutally gunned down at Garissa University by Al Shabaab extremists; it followed the deaths of 67 in the Westgate shopping precinct massacre of 2013. With this in mind, HiHEA has launched an innovative initiative for Kenyan youth, entitled ‘Peace and Prosperity through Job Creation’.
By way of context, HiHEA’s work since 2010 has focused around social mobilization; forming self-help groups, providing training in entrepreneurship, helping build basic financial literacy and then linking with Kiva to provide budding entrepreneurs with access to capital. By the end of July 2015, HiHEA’s work had created over 123k enterprises and 158k jobs.
The new ‘Peace and Prosperity’ project recognises that one of the key drivers of growing societal instability within Kenya (and elsewhere) is the absence of hope and means of income generation for young people. Such conditions can drive individuals to a point of desperation and leave them open to manipulation and dangerous influence. HiHEA’s initiative focuses on this vulnerable section of the community and looks to ‘prevent young people from ending up in destructive settings and practices, giving them hope and concrete means to build a sustainable income’.
Adapting their traditional approach, HiHEA has incorporated elements such as youth ‘Business Clubs’ and a ‘Youth Award’ into the programme. They actively target a range of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, with a view to promoting inclusion, tolerance and understanding.
Of course, the drivers and challenges of global terrorism are many and complex, and job and enterprise creation can’t possibly be a silver bullet. However, having witnessed first hand the often transformational impact of Kiva loans, I am convinced that initiatives such as these can ultimately play a vital role and make a significant long term contribution to global stability.
Mohammed Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning guru of social business, puts it well:
It’s a sentiment I feel worth keeping in mind, in the midst of all our current fear and confusion. A Kiva loan is a practical way in which we can join the longer term fight against social instability, hopelessness and desperation.
''Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society. For building stable peace we must find ways to provide opportunities for people to live decent lives.''
If you would like to join in that effort, you can find Hand in Hand Eastern Africa, and other similar Kiva partners across the world, on kiva.org.