INERELA+ Kenya has been extensively involved in carrying out advocacy on paediatric HIV and TB issues and elimination of stigma using the holistic and comprehensive approach (SAVE) which simultaneously emphasizes Safer practices, Access to Treatment and Nutrition, Voluntary Counselling and Testing and Empowerment of individuals to reduce vulnerability to HIV.
INERELA+ Kenya continually engages key policy and decision making organs and stakeholders at both national and county levels to advocate for the fulfilment of the commitments that governments have made to ensure successful combating of HIV and TB. These include educating and raising awareness on UNGASS declarations, Universal Access Declarations, 15% health spending from National Budgets among other key commitments.
Religious leaders incorporate the PEPFAR messages of hope in their congregational sermons, to give hope and encouragement for HIV testing, as well as assure support and care for those who test positive. During the month of February 2020, INERELA+ Kenya trained 40 religious leaders on utilizing the messages of hope during congregational moments such as sermons, Bible study, home visits among others. Following the onset of the pandemic in Kenya, in March 2020, the government of Kenya gave directives that consequently limited religious gatherings to help curb the spread of the virus. INERELA+ Kenya has since utilized congregational online platforms such as congregational Whatsapp groups and virtual sermons for the religious leaders to disseminate the messages of hope to their congregants.
INERELA+ Kenya’s network of religious leaders and youth champions utilise social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to disseminate messages of hope to their congregants and fellow youth. The religious leaders further utilize the messaging platforms to remind their congregants to adhere to the Covid-19 prevention guidelines of social distancing, wearing masks and maintaining hygiene. In addition, the messages have also been disseminated using 5 radio stations, by in-person visit, tele-conferencing and prior recording of the messages to for airing by the radio stations. Since the onset of the pandemic, at least 80,000 people have been reached by messages of hope disseminated by INERELA+ Kenya, her network of religious leaders and youth advocates, using online platforms, mass media and social media.
Capacity Building and Dialogue
INERELA+ Kenya works with regional and grass root membership at the county levels to organise, mobilize, empower and transform communities through capacity building of skills to address key issues fuelling the spread of HIV. Moreover, the network has built the capacity of more than 5000 Religious Leaders from over 2000 congregations countrywide, through trainings, dialogues and theological reflections. These trainings have enabled the effective dissemination of key HIV messages on Stigma reduction and quality Healthcare among children, adolescents and young people as well as adults.
INERELA+ Kenya has held dialogues between religious leaders and people living with HIV in Nairobi, Machakos, Kiambu and Siaya counties which has further informed her stigma reduction work using a Framework for Dialogue Manual. Through her core mandate of building capacity and engaging religious leaders living with and personally affected by HIV in Kenya, INERELA+ Kenya has greatly enhanced the disclosure of religious leaders living with HIV as heralds of hope for their congregations and communities. The elimination of HIV related stigma is a key success of the Organization. Documented through a series of booklets with the title “Beyond Stigma’’ as well as video documentaries of lived experiences with HIV, the messages of anti-stigma have reached more than 100,000 people through the network.
In addition to dialogue, INERELA+ Kenya regularly holds theological reflections with religious leaders to develop key scriptural references to guide and support HIV-related messaging. The scriptures are often incorporated into digital messages or booklets that are distributed widely within the INERELA+ Kenya network of religious leaders. The sessions recommend the utilization of a ‘Sermon and Khutbah Guide’, a book containing sermons revolving around issues of stigma reduction and accessing quality healthcare, to be utilized by religious leaders for congregational and community messaging.
HIV Testing and Treatment
INERELA+ Kenya aims to increase access to HIV testing services to all, in due regard for the elimination of stigma and myths associated with HIV. The Organisation especially focuses on ‘reaching the unreached’ by providing testing services to those who are yet to know their HIV status.
The network has previously implemented a project on ‘Increasing Access and Utilization of Quality HIV Testing Services to the Last Child, Adolescent, Youth and Adult Males in Congregational Settings in Nairobi County.’ Under this initiative, the network reached more than 30,000 people with key messages on HIV and greatly influenced congregational and community mobilization of HIV testing services for over 4,000 people. INERELA+ Kenya has also implemented the Wajibu Wetu project in Nairobi County, providing testing services to thousands of people in the City’s informal settlements and identifying more than 400 positive clients.
INERELA+ Kenya is currently implementing the FCI project as part of the USAID Afya Jijini programme designed to strengthen Nairobi County’s institutional and management capacity to deliver quality healthcare services. The objective is to improve county-level institutional capacity and management of health service delivery. The project entails close collaboration with Religious Leaders to provide the platforms and aptitude for implementation and reaching out to congregations and communities.
One of the key components of the project is finding men and children using the HIV self-testing method. The method was proposed as a convenient form of testing to especially find men who would not ordinarily visit the HIV testing facilities. Since the onset of the project in June 2020, more than 500 HIV self-testing kits have been distributed throughout informal settlements in Nairobi and atleast 35 positive clients identified and linked to health facilities for treatment.
Combating Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV)
Upon situational analysis and previous survey findings, INERELA+ Kenya has observed a strong correlation between HIV and SGBV, therefore according significant importance to the fight against SGBV. INERELA+ Kenya works closely with religious leaders and community leaders who provide the networks and platforms to engage with communities and congregations in the prevention and response to SGBV.
Due to the influence and trusted nature that these leaders exercise in their congregations and communities, it is possible that they receive cases of SGBV from their congregants before they are reported in the designated government institutions. INERELA+ Kenya therefore builds the capacity of the religious and community leaders through training and dialogue to address and respond to SGBV cases. In addition, the Organisation reaches out to people and communities directly through community outreach programs, creating awareness on the forms of SGBV and enlightening communities on the available response channels.
One of the Organisation’s most significant work on SGBV is the ‘Faith Action to End SGBV’ implemented in Narok County between 2017 and 2019. The key activities of the project entailed the training of religious leaders, the police, Children’s’ officers and health workers on how to report, investigate and generally handle cases of SGBV.
INERELA+ Kenya worked closely with community champions who helped to identify sexual offences and facilitated referral to health and legal services. The trained leaders mobilized the communities on change of behavior and attitudes towards ending FGM, child marriage and defilement, which were identified as the most pressing SGBV issues in the County. In collaboration with the Judiciary and County Children’s’ Department, INERELA+ Kenya supported facilitation of rescue services and access to justice for survivors by working closely with the police gender desks, the Childrens Officers, the Chief Magistrate of the Narok Criminal Courts and the Court Prosecutor.
INERELA+ Kenya is currently implementing the ‘Justice for Children’ component of the Faith Communities Initiative project in Nairobi County. This entails working closely with religious leaders and the County Government of Nairobi to strengthen response institutions for efficient health and judicial service delivery for abused children and those at risk of sexual violence. A baseline survey was conducted at the beginning of the project to identify the extent of cases of sexual violence against children and the link to reporting and justice institutions.
There has been a spike in Gender Based Violence cases since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Data from the Director of Public Prosecutions, records that sexual offences form 41% of the total cases reported since March 16, 2020. The majority of the survivors are women and children, with a majority of the reported cases occurring in domestic settings during the quarantine period, with the perpetrators being relatives and persons living with victims in a domestic relationship.
In this regard, INERELA+ Kenya Organisation has utilised digital platforms and social media to disseminate awareness raising messages on SGBV prevention and response, and especially focusing on the prevention of domestic violence, child abuse and exploitation. Religious leaders have utilised congregational Whatsapp groups to send awareness raising messages to their congregants.
INERELA+ Kenya continues to use bulk SMS and membership groups to send response contacts, with the information that help is available and the designated response contacts. More than 20 cases of sexual violence against children have been identified and referred through the referral pathway, since the onset of the pandemic. The survivors have been liked to congregational support groups for psycho-social support, and taken through counselling through the INERELA+ Kenya counselling department.
INERELA+ Kenya has in place a Child Protection Policy for use by faith communities. The policy has been disseminated widely and has enlightened religious leaders on what constitutes the rights and best interests of children. INERELA Kenya+ works closely with religious leader to oversee the implementation of the policy in their congregations.
A key focus of INERELA+ Kenya SGBV program is meaningful male engagement in gender equality. The Organisation seeks to empower both men and women to be advocates for gender equality and champions to end violence against women. Upon training, the male religious and community leaders in the network have helped to bring other men on board by holding dialogues and focus groups with them in their congregations and communities, challenging them to support and respect the women around them. INERELA+ Kenya projects on ending harmful cultural practices in rural areas engage male traditional leaders as agents of change. This has been particularly significant in helping to shift the norms in those societies, largely patriarchal, by abolishing the practices. Boys are also engaged during religious initiation programs through VMMC referral where they are taught to be responsible men and to treat the girls and women with respect and dignity.
INERELA+ Kenya is currently implementing the Coaching Boys into Men Program in collaboration with 20 sports teams. This is an Evidence Based Intervention that utilizes sports as a tool to mold young boys aged 9-14 years into responsible men. The initiative commences with training and capacity building of coaches for boys’ sports teams that meet regularly. At the end of every game, the coaches give the boys messages on responsible living and encourage them to change their behaviour and attitudes and adopt a respecting and protective behaviour towards girls and women.
The approaches of engaging boys in preventing sexual violence aim to transform them by changing their behaviour and mindset. In the long run, it is expected that the approach will reduce the number of perpetrators, hence securing more women and girls from the threat of sexual violence.
We believe that to fully combat GBV in our society, there is need for a change in behavior and practices to reduce and eventually nullify the number of GBV perpetrators. This requires full participation of men in the process.
Legal Aid and Rights Empowerment
INERELA+ Kenya is keen on eliminating discrimination, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable members in the society, notably people infected or affected by HIV, widows, children and women. Such discrimination often leads to violation of their legal rights, such as disinheritance of widows, and denial of basic rights like right to reproductive health care, Gender Based Violence and discrimination of people living with HIV.
INERELA+ Kenya has previously applied a human rights-based approach to build the capacity for access to social-economic rights. This has been enabled by empowering communities to claim their rights and by building the capacity of duty-bearers to understand and fulfill their obligations towards citizens.
INERELA+ Kenya engages legal experts to train religious leaders and selected community leaders on human rights issues such as land rights, Gender based Violence, Family law and awareness on discrimination practices prohibited by the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act. The organization also works with lawyers to provide free legal aid to members of the community who cannot afford legal representation.
INERELA Kenya has previously addressed discrimination of women, especially widows and PLHIV, in land ownership and property rights. In 2016, the Organization successfully completed the project ‘Promoting Women Land and Property Rights and Economic Empowerment’ in Laikipia County. The project’s greatest impact was the increased capacity of 27 women to utilize their land and property ownership for economic gain through training on entrepreneurship, financial literacy and business management. Through the project, INERELA+ also facilitated legal aid to assist 10 women previously denied land ownership on discriminatory grounds to gain access to land and use the land productively to generate income.
In 2018, INERELA+ identified and trained traditional, religious and county leaders on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to assist in amicable dispute resolution of civil cases in Narok County. Atleast 15 family and land disputes were settled through the committee, most of which involved restoration of children rights to maintenance. The ADR committee was formally recognized by the Narok County government and Law Courts, enabling its work to continue even after the end of the project.
Menstrual Hygiene Support
INERELA+ Kenya seeks to ensure access to proper menstrual health and hygiene for girls as part of its program on access to sexual and reproductive health rights for adolescents and young people. During the months of May, INERELA+ Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking the Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 21st by organizing a rallies and campaigns to raise awareness on menstrual hygiene challenges facing adolescent girls.
In 2020, INERELA+ Kenya conducted a successful menstrual
health campaign by engaging 21 Youth advocates who actively participated in dialogues, webinars and social media conversations to raise awareness on the specific menstrual health challenges affecting the education and social-economic potential for girls. In addition, INERELA+ Kenya has also embarked on supporting adolescent girls from disadvantaged areas with menstrual health and hygiene products and information during the pandemic. To this end, INERELA+ Kenya has distributed sanitary pads to 200 girls in Korogocho, 100 girls in Mukuru kwa Njenga, and 150 girls, in Majengo, Nairobi. INERELA+ Kenya is also a partner in the #PadsforSlums initiative launched by Team Environment Kenya (TEK) to ensure that girls from urban informal settlements and rural areas have access to sanitary hygiene products during the pandemic and beyond.
One of the key milestones of the May 2020 Menstrual health campaign was the launch of a stand-alone Menstrual Hygiene Management Policy 2019-2030 by the Cabinet Secretary for Health to address menstrual health and hygiene using a multi-sectorial approach.
Nutritional & OVC Support
Among the key areas of focus is a focus on nutrition with focus on Orphan’s and Vulnerable Children and Families. Working with faith communities, INERELA+ Kenya has been able to identify orphaned and vulnerable children and link them with educational opportunities including at the higher Education Level through UDEMY college, we have also linked many to bursary opportunities for secondary education as well as building the capacity of guardians to access economic empowerment.
As part of her congregational response, INERELA+ Kenya has worked with different congregations to support vulnerable girls to access vocational training at congregational and community levels as well as life skills to enable them go on with life. Capacity building of religious leaders has been conducted focusing on how to reach out and support orphans and vulnerable children as well as rallying congregations to have a kitty to support such of their own especially those whose parents have passed on and were part of the faith community.
Drugs And Substance Abuse
Drugs and substance abuse has also been a key challenge facing especially adolescents, young people and men, both who are part of congregations and community level.
INERELA+ Kenya has bult the capacity of over 200 congregations to deal with the challenge who in turn have developed congregational approaches that focus on
rehabilitation and provision of life skills and economic opportunities inoder to deal with hopelessness that many face.
Currently INERELA+ Kenya is working with different congregations in Kiambiu slum, in Kayole, Korogocho, Kiamumbi (Kiambu County) among other areas to support them curb the challenge of drugs. Dialogues with community leaders and families to integrate and support individuals who are being rehabilitated is an ongoing engagement. Advocacy and county level is also ongoing to curb drugs trafficking and enforcement of the law focusing on selling of substances to minors.
Following the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, businesses and income generating activities have been disrupted. This has led to a decline in household income, loss of employment and other economic effects. As a result, access to food has been a challenge for many families in informal settlements.
INERELA+ Kenya established a feeding initiative to partner with private institutions and individual well-wishers, to provide nutritional support for her members living with HIV, orphans and people with disability with no additional support. INERELA+ Kenya has distributed non-perishable food packages to at least 50 families in the informal settlements within Makadara, Embakasi and Kasarani.