Family is the most natural and basic institution of society. Princess Diana once said that “family is the most important thing in the world.” It is through family that one learns the most basic life and social skills. It is also through the family that we learn of our own intrinsic human dignity and value. There is, therefore, a need to protect and preserve this bond. The United Nations observes May 15 as the International Day of the Family. The aim of this day is to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic issues affecting families. WYA Africa celebrated this day by attending a conference on the family on Friday, May 15, and by organizing a Cycle for Family on Saturday, May 16, 2015.
On May 15, 2015, the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services and the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF), in partnership with World Youth Alliance Africa among other organizations, organized the first Kenya National Family Conference in observance of the International Day of the Family. The Conference was held at the Kenya International Conference Centre (KICC) and was graced by Her Excellency, Margaret Kenyatta, the First Lady of Kenya, as the Guest of Honor. The theme was Family, Hope of the Nation.
The conference highlighted the central role the family plays in building a successful nation as well as the challenging issues that the family faces, especially in Kenya and Africa as a whole. In her speech, the First Lady emphasized that a cohesive family builds character, commitment and self-worth and that a child that grows in a loving family is likely to be a good citizen. She said “Strong family values rest on compassion, respect, peace, justice, freedom, equality and most importantly, tolerance of different opinions, ideas and affiliations.” She also emphasized the importance of supporting and treasuring the elderly members of society as sources of collective wisdom.
Concern was expressed over the notion of developed countries coercing underdeveloped and developing countries to implement certain policies that threaten or redefine the family construct as a precondition to foreign aid. Also discussed was the growing need to hold on to family values and pass them on to our children and others. This is closely tied to the empowerment of both boys and girls from young ages so that they grow up confident in knowing who they are and act responsibly in their lives. There is also an importance in growing advocacy work and the training of law makers to allow them to identify the consequences of each agreement before entering into it, thus ensuring that people’s rights are not violated in the process. Lastly, there needs to be increased research on the family and implementation of best practices in all spheres of societal socialization, thus strengthening the family construct.
On Saturday, May 16, WYA held its Cycle for Family event. This event was held in Karura Forest in Nairobi, allowing all the members in attendance to enjoy a bike ride, trail or a peaceful rest in the scenic forest. There was also a picnic lunch which allowed the members to interact before engaging in the most important part of the day: a talk based on the theme Who is the Man, an appropriate choice given the UN 2015 International Day of the Family theme was Men in Charge? Gender Equality and Children’s Rights in Contemporary Families.
The talk was aimed at discussing the role of the modern man in society and how his participation in the family could be improved. In a society rampant with absentee parents, there is a great need to increase parental involvement in the upbringing of children. A family is as strong as the bond between its members. The healthy relationship fostered between mother and father, equal in dignity, as well as the relationships between parents and children, helps children recognise the importance of self respect and respect of others. The ladies in the group got to share their ideals of who an ideal man is and got feedback from the men on how realistic these ideals were.
The discussion brought out the importance of creating a sense of equality of the sexes from a young age within the family. It is essential to empower both male and female children and therefore create a balance between the two sexes. This will lead to children who grow into respectful, responsible and productive adults who create a sustainable and balanced society.
The two events were highly successful and allowed the participants to discuss the family, threats facing the family and to generate ideas on how each person can contribute to protecting and improving the family on an individual level. The conference marked a great stride for Kenya, as for the first time, the State recognized and celebrated the importance of the family in society.