The Peace Heart Initiatives Network is a community based organisation established in 2011 and registered in 2014. The group is mainly made up of social scientists and religious leaders. It works with similar organisations to help communities address local justice, human rights and peace development issues.
PHIN's specific objectives are to:
- Work with marginalised communities for help them assert their human rights and dignity.
- Strengthen the ability of communities in Nairobi to lobby and advocate on justice, peace and reconciliation issues.
- Establish District Peace Ambassadors to ensure coherent leadership of program strategies.
- Advise, network with and support other local communities and groups working on similar issues.
- To advice, network, encourage and support communities and other groups involved in justice, peace and reconciliation issues.
PHIN runs a wide range of activities, including sports and dance events, local constituency peace and dialogue forums, electoral observation, civic education programmes and entrepreneurial support.
One pilot project, which ended in 2013, was dubbed "Dance For Peace." It introduced 60 different young people from 11 constituencies to tango. The main project will use ballroom dancing as a sport to impart skills on human rights, self worth and esteem. These youth will then become trainers themselves in their communities.
Another, currently being developed, aims to train young people in textiles and bag-making. Several of PHIN's members have skills and experience in the area and the intention is to train more people to be able to earn income from it.
Peace building activities:
PHIN tailors all its work to specific areas, aiming to spread a message of peace and cohesion in which ethnic, cultural and religious differences are used as a way to share and inspire, rather than divide and cause conflict. PHIN's peacebuilding work is based around four activities:
Dialogue: Constituency, local and village peace committee dialogues.
Hospitality exchanges: among different communities based around food, fashion and other cultural differneces
Indoor and outdoor sports: including the recent expansion into dance, as well as outreach programmes organised in the form of seminars and workshops
Peace caravans: and setting up a community call alert centre.
Working for peace in Kenya's elections
PHIN had significant success during Kenya's most recent general election, in 2013. It coordinated the Uchaguzi Bora Initiative in Nairobi city county, deploying over 200 local observers and peace ambassadors in 10 of the seventeen constituencies in Nairobi. They engage people on the ground through Church forums, community halls and other local venues. These ambassadors work together as a 24-hour incident reporting mechanism. Each constituency had an ambassador recording incidents and sending them to relevant authorities as quickly as possible in order to deal with and prevent them from escalating,
The peace ambassadors also work on continuous civic education, which has helped improved ethnic tolerance tremendously. Citizen participation is crucial for the development agenda, an PHIN deems it important to reach as many people as possible.
One of our peace ambassadors, John Ken Opiyo, lives in Dandora. It is the site of one of the largest landfill sites in Kenya. During the 2013 election, he was confronted by youths who were threatening to cause harm to anyone not on their side. He managed to calm them down and talk to them, persuading them not to use violence. Ken works to engage people living in Dandora and help them secure their livelihoods.