The Finnish Red Cross volunteers Ronja Kankare and Amanda Sigfrids travelled to Kenya to lead workshops against social stigmas. They interviewed locals and a Finnish Red Cross delegate Tiina Haapaniemi and asked them to describe different forms of discrimination in Kenya and ways of fighting against them.
Japhet Ngeno, 26
National Youth Vice Chairman, the Kenya Red Cross Society
“Different stigmas in Kenya are a big challenge. Youth have a responsibility to find a solution, for example for stigmas based on cultural background. We have a population of 40 million people and 42 tribes with different cultures. Often some communities are seen more important than others.
I have faced stigma in my childhood. I come from a quite poor family, and my childhood friends were from rich families. I was discriminated because of it. Sometimes I didn’t feel comfortable to participate in some activities as I felt that I didn’t belong there.
One way to fight against stigma is to talk about it and share information. When people are informed they know how to act. We need to educate people while they are young.”
Volunteer worker, the Kenyan Red Cross Society
“There are many different kind of stigmas in Kenya. Some examples are discrimination towards HIV positive, between the tribes and towards drug users even by their own family members. I have faced discrimination because my mother used to sell alcohol. The people in my village started to discriminate me as a daughter of alcohol dealer.
We can fight against stigma by accepting the situation how it is. For example many tribes are living in the same areas. They just need to live with others and take the situation as it is.”
Sara Wonjirum, 24
“We have a lot of stigmas in Kenya: for example stigma related to HIV or other illnesses and a stigma of poverty. The stigma of being HIV positive is something that I have also faced. Three of my family members are diagnosed with HIV. It is hard to battle against the strong stigmas but I think the workshops “Against Stigma” could help.”
Tiia Haapaniemi, 35
Country Delegate, the Finnish Red Cross
“Attitudes towards differences in Kenya are really similar as everywhere in the world. However, because of the history of Kenya, stigmas between the tribes are distinctive, for instance in Finland there is no stigmas between different tribes.
I don’t feel like I have faced discrimination in Kenya. The fact that I am different has arisen positive interest in people. Kenyans warmly welcome foreigners, or at least the Europeans. I think we can fight against stigma with our own example. And personally I can fight against stigmas by making sure that all the programs that Red Cross is arranging here are openly welcoming everyone to join in. I can also, as a Red Cross employee, support the work against stigmas for instance by producing education materials related to the topic.
About the workshop
The Against racism! training circle was developed in the Against Racism! project coordinated by the Finnish Red Cross in cooperation with the Finnish Refugee Council. For the use of Kenyan Red Cross the concept was broadened to “How to intervene against stigma”. The project aimed to empower participants to identify stigmas and have knowledge and skills to intervene in discriminative situations, such as coming election campaigning in Kenya.
Text and photos: Ronja Kankare & Amanda Sigfrids