WHO IS WANJALA WAFULA?
“Society teach men how to be violent, customs and traditions teach men how to be violent, the socialization process and the environment in which men grow teach men how to be violent, the media typifies men for violence.”
So often we find ourselves talking about innovation in the humanitarian aid and development space in terms of gadgets or technologies – the “shiny objects” of the future. While there is certainly a lot to be said about how the brave new digital world will allow us to help those in need more effectively, sometimes… it just isn’t necessary to take a massive leap.
My guest today on the 122nd episode of the Terms of Reference Podcast, Wanjala Wafula, is a classic problem solver and think-on-your-feet innovators. His organization, called The Coexist Initiative, has been working on gender issues in Kenya and beyond for more than a decade and, while they absolutely use the latest in technology, social media, and more, they also often rely on the most simple tools and ideas to help create change.
You can connect with Wanjala here:
IN TOR 122 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- The problems of one-sided gender interventions. If nothing is done about the culture where men’s morals develop, gender conflict will perdure.
- The dangers of socialization.
- How innovation can transcend technology and still propel mobilization in communities. Also, the increasing and yet never sufficient place of mobile and social media.
- How storytelling makes issues sound easy, and why that is a good thing, in work and personal life.
- The unbelievable divide between rural and urban Africa. In wealth, law abidance, telecom, political geographic awareness.
- Why no intervention without trust will have any lasting impact.
- The slow, tumultuous growth of interventions targeting African men.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Mululu Consulting
- Coexist Initiative Kenya
- Domestic Violence
- Violence, Aggressiveness
- Resourcefulness, Resourceful innovation
- Social Media
- Wealth inequality
- Telecommunications, infrastructure, access
- Kitengela, Kenya
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
Coexist began as a human rights initiative, focused on women and girls.
Change the paradigm about gender.
Women must be seen as partners. To counter popular sentiment of confrontation.
It began as Wanjala’s hobby.
“95% of the violence to women is perpetrated by men and boys.”
Even as women’s aggressiveness is on the rise it is still insignificant in comparison.
“Men are never part of the solution.”
The solution was about community involvement, in the raising of boys, the roles of women, the politics and economics of families.
Wanjala began to develop materials and short films.
“Society, customs and traditions, the socialization process and the environment in which men grow, the media, teach men how to be violent.”
Wanjala designs programs targeting men and boys about the dangers of socialization.
Wanala teaches how to avoid risky sexual behavior and alcohol.
“When we teach men about the negatives of socialization, and leverage that into a movement, we see people change.”
The programs have diminished violence, stopped practices such as genital mutilation, and increased school enrollment for both genders.
“Our program is unique because we tap into the roots.”
Wanjala’s old school approach
“We’re actually very high tech.” Tech is on the rise in Africa, primarily with youth. Mobile penetration, tech savvy.
Coexist developed an app to report violence.
Upwards of 80% women do not report violence in Africa.
Extensive use of Social Media to mobilize community, youth. Facebook, Twitter.
“We use every technology that lets us mobilize specific groups of people.
Not to say that everyone is unreachable through tech. If rural, isolated communities, as it happens in Somalia, do not use tech, Coexist goes there, pays a visit, tries to educate them on mobile tech.
Entree into isolated communities need to be done through “pilots” who introduce them to the families. Processes take time, but effects are visible.
It is important to know them and to know what they know (and don’t know).
Methods require some resourcefulness, and improvisation. Once they used the “rumor method.” He needed to mobilize boys in a village, so he decided to ask members of the community for “discreet recommendations” for people to select. The word of mouth managed to summon 5,000 people. “We intended to use speaker messages and banners. Instead, we innovated.”
Another time they had to convince forest dwelling tribal communities to use condoms and control child sex abuse. “They only obey gods and through music and dance.” Long story short, they became gods.
Storytelling makes it sound easy
“I’m still writing.” Wanjala has manages to acquire a “special sense” when it comes to tales of violence, starting since the death of her twin sister. “It’s more than a passion. It’s a calling. I want to make my sister proud.”
Making a peaceful community for everyone requires trust. “Agencies don’t trust us men.” They think all men are violent. “And men don’t trust us. They think we’re sissies and losers.”
Distrust explains issues in funding for specific subjects. But this fostered innovation
One of his priorities is trust and compliance. Distrust also includes towards the law.
Funding socialization projects was a special hurdle. Men are socialized to think they are superior. Women, inferior. The most difficult projects, hardest to fund, but most rewarding involve both genders.
Projects keep reinventing the wheel: Aids, HIV, humans rights. “There’s no diversity, no innovation.”
Not smaller issues
There are lots of divide between rural and urban Africa. It involves the law, it involves customs. It is not unusual for rural Africans not to know the name of the country they inhabit. Fragmentation.
Wealth inequality is daunting.
Access to communications, Internet, media also varies.
Awọn Tókàn 5 Years
“Innovation and technology are making our lives a little bit easier.”
Wanjala is working on a documentary. Communication takes place in social media.
Innovation will remain a priority, but communication needs human devotion. He is beginning to consider an implementation of a mentorship program with gender elements.
Wanjala is a year away from achieving a PhD. He is writing his 10th book.
Funding trickling further?
Wanjala was optimistic that technology would broaden funding possibilities and streamline them.
Some new volunteers came, but the impact was low.
Questions about sustainability, visibility remains.
Resource mobilization is still an issue. USD 50 is the largest individual donation they’ve received.
Large donors (UN) give some support, but “it is project-based” when it should be program-based. Coexist growth is limited.
When is work ever done
Project completion involves three criteria: #1 Robust financial strategy with follow-ups in place. #2 Sustainability plan, with synergies and links with communities. #3 New projects incorporate learning, components from previous models.
Men, menly men men men
Coexist is a pioneer in developing projects for men.
Today 5 in Kenya claim to work with men. One is about men from different religions (which affects projects focused on gender).
2 organizations run by men turned out to be led by domestic violent men. Media exposed them.
Some small organizations are growing, Coexist provides support.
“I follow so many people I don’t even know who I follow anymore” on Twitter.
LinkedIn: innovation, marketers, IT product developers, people who approach innovation holistically.
He listens to people with projects. Recently heard one linking domestic violence with climate change.
Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood (Nigeria’s Hollywood) starts to bring awareness to issues.
Mululu Consultants (also Wanjala’s shop).
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