Women and youth roped into peace bid

National Cohesion sand Integration Director Millicent Okach address Participants at the National Cohesion and Integration Commission peace meetings dubbed the 'Extension of the Handshake' at the ACK Guest House in Homa Bay last week, [PHOTO: GEORGE ORIDO]

A national commission is seeking to involve more women and youth in bolstering peace initiatives.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) announced this after a series of meetings in Homa Bay, which also explored the impact of the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga.

What emerged is that many county residents supported the handshake, but were eager to reap the benefits.

“Whilst we are glad with what is happening in Nairobi, we are faced with a situation where the youth are generally unemployed,” said a youth leader, who warned that the situation exposes youth to manipulation and temptation to engage in sponsored violence.

And the elephant in the room was that what NCIC Director Millicent Okach called gonya gonya culture (habit of asking for handouts) among youth in Homa Bay.

“As a people, we can get into small scale businesses; it is worrying that the Youth Enterprise and Women Empowerment funds have low intake here,” said Ms Okach.

According to Homa Bay County Commissioner Irungu Macharia, locals have not embraced the culture of investing.

“A look at the fishing industry shows that very few people, politicians from the region as well, own vessels in Lake Victoria,” he said, adding that as a result, it was difficult to grow the industry.

Thirty-year-old Stephen Ouma said the problem in Lake Victoria was deeper than, and blamed cage fishing as the most alienating practice for young fishermen.

“What we have is a cluster of rich men who demarcate the water for cage fishing; they secure the area with patrol boats and it becomes difficult to fish in the lake,” he said.