More on the family, A conference with a difference ! The National Family Conference in celebration of International Family Day .

The Ministry of Labour And East African Affairs in conjunction with the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF), were the main organisers of this year’s National Family Conference to celebrate the United Nations (UN) International Family Day, a day set aside by the United Nations General Assembly about 20 years ago and observed every year on May 15. The day reflects the values the International Community attaches to the family as the basic unit of the society. I had an opportunity to attend this year’s conference as part of World Youth Alliance Africa (WYAA), which was also a partner in the event. It was held at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, during my first day of the internship on the 16th of May 2016. The conference was themed ‘National Family’ with specific regard to ‘Nurturing and Strengthening the Youth as Crucial Members of the Society’. This was the second time the conference was being held in Kenya after the first one held in 2015. The event saw close to two hundred delegates with the youth being the majority in attendance. Allow me to share with you to the most informative sessions I have ever attended on family.

DSC_0641The conference commenced with a word of prayer and a brief discussion from the delegates about the family. The delegates, coming from various professions but with a common goal of championing for and ensuring the continued existence of functional families as the backbone of societal development, diversely exchanged informative ideas about the family. Songs and dance in tandem with the day’s celebration meant boredom was not party to the event. One particular song—a beautiful acapella from South African workers—rocked the room with dance and showed life that was very characteristic of an African village and of times during the struggle for freedom.

DSC_0513The arrival of the guest of honour, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Labour And East African Affairs, Hon. Phyllis Kandie signalled the official kick-off of what would turn out to be a very lively, educative and informative sharing on the family and the role of the youth in protecting it. We, as WYAA, were privileged to be the first official speakers of the day, and Kevin Alando, a WYA  member and 2015 intern alumni, boldly read a well informed speech on behalf of WYAA about the family and the values we stand for as the World Youth Alliance. What an opportunity!

Mrs. Ann Mbugua, the Chairperson of KCPF, shared sentiments that echoed the importance of life from conception in the womb. Her emphasis was on the importance of the family as being the most important unit in the economic development of the society. She recognised that family wrangles and feuds were bad for the economy. Further, she divulged on how the passing of the Domestic Violence Act in Kenya, will be effective to the protection of the family and that it was necessary for the judiciary to encourage mediation as the first form of conflict resolution. I couldn’t agree more on that. She also highlighted the various situations she encountered in the Children’s Court in Kenya, that showed the detrimental state of the family in the country. As she concluded, Mrs. Mbugua pointed out that research had shown that majority of prisoners came from dysfunctional families, and then urged the youth to use their strength to protect the family—a noble duty to the youth, I must acknowledge.

DSC_0561When the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Labour And East African Affairs, Hon. Phyllis Kandie, on behalf of the Deputy President, who had wanted to grace the occasion but  couldn’t due to some state matters, took to the podium, she did not conflict her ideas on the family due to her competence on cultural matters. She, like the majority of earlier speakers, agreed that it is in the family, where the physical, social and psychological growth of an individual takes place. Armed with facts, she alluded to the fact that up to 35 million of the Kenyan population is composed of the youth and hence the future of the Kenyan economy and society is dependent on us the youth. The highlight of her presentation focused on the major problems we as the youth especially in Africa are facing. Key among the problems is the high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS and abortion, which must be addressed by the government in order to promote national values. She also emphasised on the need for the government to focus on youth empowerment and ensure their involvement in all development programmes. These, she intimated, can be achieved through the establishment of the youth fund, the Uwezo Fund, the review of the educational system and establishment of youth polytechnics, which would guarantee the youth the opportunity needed for their overall growth. Indeed, we the youth are key determinants of the future society.

We also got to hear the Hinduism view of the family from one of the speakers who came to grace the occasion as a representative of the Hindu Council. Another well informed speaker and key participant in the current plans in Kenya, Mr. Kimasop came up with a family policy. He gave us insights into this and the progress they had made so far and what were the next steps to be undertaken. The conference would climax with presentations from two scholars who were not only knowledgeable but also well equipped with good communication skills that ensured the delegates got engaged to the last bit.

Professor of Philosophy, Javier Aranguren  from Spain, currently a visiting professor at Strathmore University, took us many years back to the time of Aristotle the great and shared with us some of Aristotle’s sentiments on the worries of the youth which ranged  from freedom, fear, fashion and that philosophically, love among the youth would be measured in terms of pleasure during the youthful age. But as the youth age, they will have to change and each person will be able to keep the best of each age, while they reject the worst.

Dr. Stanley Mukolwe on the other hand,  with vast experience in his field of academic both locally and internationally and who works with couples and families, focused more on the role of parenting in nurturing and influencing the community. He further urged parents to develop convictions in their children otherwise a rebellious nature will result from them. By using his personal experience, he made sure to drive the message home.

DSC_0381Even though I took leave before the closing of the conference, I can ascertain that this forum was really educative for the youth. If we heed these words, we will go a long way in protecting the family as an institution which is under serious threat from other institutions of the economy. I can’t wait for the next conference. Thank you to the Ministry of Labour And East African Affairs and the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum for organising such an informative conference.  To The World Youth Alliance Africa, thank you for this opportunity and to the other partners including Program for Family Development, IJM, TANARI TRUST, KCCB, Pearls & Treasurers Trust and EAK. Thank you for standing for such a noble cause. What a conference that was!

Written by Lilian Odongo, a WYA Member and currently at the Africa Office for 2016 Batch 2 Internship.