26 Jan

Against stigmas in Kenya

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.”

Caroline, 24
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
Volunteer worker

“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

28 May

“The best thing has been the people”


Finnish Red Cross arranges every year a basic training for youth delegates. This year the training brought together 30 young people from Kenya, Argentina, Estonia, Jordan, El Salvador and from all around Finland.

For Cecilia Pensar participating in the youth delegate training was a logical step to take.

– I want to go abroad and work in another country in the future. In the training we’ve done a lot of different kinds of group works which have been really useful. First of all I’ve learned what I could do as a facilitator. I didn’t realise before, how important it is for a youth delegate to know how to arrange activities like plays and presentations. Besides that, it’s been beneficial to get to know more about myself. The group works that we’ve been doing here have given an insight on how I might react in different and new situations.


– Sauna! First I thought it was weird, like who really enjoys it. But the part when you go swimming and feel the blood running in your veins because of the change of the temperature is really relaxing, Patrick Kibe laughs when he’s been asked to describe the experience of being in Finland for the first time.

Kibe has been a volunteer in the Kenya Red Cross for seven years. He’s especially interested in the youth involvement and youth engagement and wanted to learn about youth activities in the Finnish Red Cross.

– I feel like I fit in here among these people. I’ve had amazing conversations with them and it’s been great to meet people who share the same ideas.


– I came here because I want to have an opportunity to work abroad and I wanted to learn new things about the Red Cross. It’s been great to meet people who are active in so many ways. The training has also inspired me to do more voluntary work in the Red Cross’ domestic activities, Katharina Marbach says.


Jenniffer Aguilar has been working in the Salvadorian Red Cross for almost two years.

– Salvadorian Red Cross has the same kind of challenges that Finnish Red Cross has. It has been great to talk about them and get new ideas to develop our activities in El Salvador. I also have got more motivation to help people by doing voluntary work, she tells.

It is the first time for Aguilar to be in Europe and Finland. She’s grateful that she had the possibility to participate in the training.

– It is so different in here compared to my home country where safety is for example a big issue. The nature, food and people have been amazing. I’ve enjoyed everything about the trip.


– Best thing about the course has been the people in here. I’ve enjoyed hearing about their experiences and hopes. While working as a Red Cross youth delegate I could make a change in a sustainable way, Sara Mähönen tells.


Jutta Linna has been a volunteer in the Finnish Red Cross for around one and half years. She suggests every young person to learn about the domestic activities of Red Cross before participating the youth delegate training.

– I came here to obviously learn more, but also to figure out if I’m capable of working abroad. I know, I wouldn’t be ready to go everywhere, but I’d like to participate in development projects and plan activities for young people in different countries. It’s been a really intensive course and I think participating in it is a good way to see if you’re ready to go abroad on a mission, Linna says.

Paula Pihlava