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Nyacuru Njongo's Fundraiser:

Weaving Women Ex -Convicts Back into Kenya's Social Fabric

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Nyacuru Njongo

THE STORY:

Weaving Women Ex-Convicts Back into the Kenyan Social Fabric 1. Women Ex Convicts Empowerment Foundation (WECEF) is seeking funds to help re-integrate ex-women convicts back into the Kenyan society over a five year duration. 2. In Kenya, there are programs for pre-release of ex-convicts, but there is no re-entry assistance for previously incarcerated persons. There are no structures to support incarcerated persons to return home and be reintegrated into the society at the end of their sentence. Due to poverty and lack of means, there are no basic systems and services available to ex-offenders. Families or other people are generally hostile and incarcerated persons are widely rejected after serving their prison term and find it extremely difficult to integrate into the society. This situation often results in the majority of them getting back into a life of crime and back into prison. This is the vicious cycle that our organization seeks to break. 3. Objectives • To re-integrate ex-convicts into society to help promote peace, prevent crime and reduce poverty. • To promote an education system that integrates knowledge, academics and 'on the job' training such as apprenticeship and internship so as to prevent teenage pregnancy and increase HIV/Aids awareness. • Facilitate and improve the provision of micro-credit to the youth/ ex-offenders with particular reference to women. 4. Relevance of the Project Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) was created as an independent institution with the Commissioner for Prisons as its head under the now Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. KPS has grown gradually from a population of 6,559 inmates serving custodial sentences and a staffing level of 319 to about 17,943 uniformed posts and 661 civilian posts with a total of over 18,604. There are 89 penal institutions, two borstal institutions and a youth corrective training centre (YCTC) and inmate population of over 40,000. The existing prisons administrative structure is yet to respond to new constitutional order including devolved county units in place of the present provincial prisons commands as well as district level structures and probation and aftercare offices. KPS has partially tackled dignified living conditions and decongestion, while provision of training skills aimed at facilitating community reintegration process generally lags behind. The Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) process recommended comprehensive constitutional, legislative and institutional reforms. The resultant constitution has complete human rights including social, economic and cultural rights. However, ensuing legislative and institutional reforms are yet to be completed. The legislative and institutional prisons reforms should have a curriculum for providing training and skills vis-à-vis realization of social, economic and cultural rights. KPS are ill-equipped to facilitate acceptance of women ex-convicts into society and deal with ensuring individual and collective conflicts. According to the Kenya Prisons Service Strategic Plan 2005-2009,although the department has been carrying out technical and agricultural training, socio-spiritual guidance and counseling, the programs have not been successful due to among other things, lack of specialized professional trainers, lack of a comprehensive vocational training curriculum, lack of central coordinating office for prisoners’ vocational, academic and professional education, Inadequate funding for prisoners’ vocational, academic and professional education programs, Ineffective parole system and outdated earning scheme for the prisoners which is not in tandem with the current economic realities. The specific problems to be addressed by this project are with regard to; the lack of a comprehensive vocational training curriculum, inadequate guidance and counseling and in infringement of women ex-convicts human rights. This project targets ex-convict women. The final beneficiaries include women convicts serving the three months of their sentence, women ex-convicts, and families of ex-convicts, prison wardens and society at large Attempts at dignified conditions and Community Service Order will achieve little unless it includes broad transformation of reintegration and provision of livelihood and life skills and conflict management, especially counseling and trauma healing. The situation is even worse for female inmates since current livelihood skills offered are perceptibly male oriented therefore making reintegration challenging. Mainstreaming gender sensitive community reintegration approaches will consequently be improved. Advocacy will mainly target KPS and National Cohesion and Integration Commissions (NCIC) in line with developing responsive training curriculum, legislations and policies. The proposal focuses on improving citizen participation in local governance processes and their interaction with government institutions that are charged with the responsibility of implementing laws and policies at the local level through the expected results: 1. Result Area 1: Access to Justice for all, especially the poor and marginalized in Kenya, promoted. In line with the access to justice for the marginalized, this proposal advocates for the rights of women convicts and ex-convicts. The proposed study will be enlightening the inmates of their rights within and outside prison. This proposed project aims at raising citizens’ awareness on the administration of Justice within and outside the prison walls as it provides an opportunity of linking convicts with the life beyond the bars by not only arming them with knowledge and skills but also facilitating linkages to relevant organs through referral systems. The project also through its suggested advocacy and lobbying activities will enhance access to justice of the inmates. The project intends to take up the issue of inmates’ terms of remuneration and engage with concerned authorities and bodies. This will go a long way in ensuring that the inmates will have a substantial amount to spend once they are released and thus can step out into the world confidently knowing they can sustain themselves. The earnings which the inmates currently get are negligible. 2. Result area 2: Effective realization of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights Under this result, the project will enable women who are ex-convicts to be integrated back into society in such a manner that they are able to fully and effectively realize their economic, social and cultural rights. This will be achieved through the following actions: • Enhance citizen awareness on the rights and responsibilities envisaged in the new Constitution; • Promote the adoption of legislative and policy frameworks that guarantee the realization (respect for, promotion of and fulfillment of) all human rights; • Promote partnerships with institutions and organs that have a facilitative role in promoting human rights, such as, the media, and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights; 3. Women Ex Convicts Empowerment Foundation (WECEF) will enter into strategic partnerships based on their thematic focus. At national level WECEF will partner with Kenya Prison Services and while at local grassroots, they will partner with existing women groups and community based organizations. WECEF will link ex convict psychosocial support groups with institutions and organs that have a facilitative role in promoting human rights. 4. Women Ex Convicts Empowerment Foundation (WECEF) will have improved their capacity to advocate and lobby on key policy issues (constitutional, legal and electoral reform, trade policy, environment etc.), enhance their management, financial, advocacy, strategic planning, M&E etc. skills and improve their internal governance and accountability. 5. In order to enhance institutional involvement in governance and reforms ,the organization will work closely with line ministries and other reform institutions under the respective thematic areas. 5. Description of the project and its effectiveness The overall objective of the project is to facilitate the re-integration of women ex- convicts back into society. The project duration is five years with work plans and budgets being used as project management tools. The program will target ex convicts from Lang’ata Womens Prison. Although both court and correctional systems in Kenya can rightly lay claim to being the impetus to prison reform throughout the history of Kenya, there are hardly any concrete bridges to integrate ex prisoners back into society. In many cases, ex-convicts are stigmatized in their communities when they return from prison. This project has a two pronged approach in which, one prong focuses on contributing to the improvement of prisons vocational training curriculum while the other prong focuses on the re-integrating the ex- convict back into society. WECEF will focus to a larger extent on the well being of the ex-convict. The initial step is the provision of a three month re-integration training package (that includes life skills, financial management and psychosocial counseling) for convicts who are due for release within the next three months. This will be conducted within the prison premises. On departure from prison the project will facilitate psychosocial support group meetings for ex convicts and psychosocial support for ex convict and convict families. In addition WECEF will be involved assisting the ex convicts establish small business enterprises or link them with existing resourceful organization. The project will publicize and provide documentation on success stories of ex convicts. The project envisions that ex convicts who participated in earlier sessions of the re-integration training packages will take leadership roles in initiating psycho social support groups and will be part of the resource persons in contributing to preparation of the curriculum based on lessons learnt. The expected results of this project are: • Wholly reformed convicts are armed with knowledge and skills to enable them make a sustainable and honest living in society • Societal acceptance of women ex-convicts is improved • Ex convict women are aware of their human rights in relation to societal, economic and cultural aspects. • Increased research and documentation related to women convicts and ex-convicts • A linkage between women ex-convicts and resourceful associations is established The proposed activities will include • The project will facilitate the development of a vocational training curriculum in liaison with the prison wardens • Coordinate the re-integration training package for prisoners due for release • Advocate for the update of the earning scheme for the prisoners in tandem with the current economic realities • The project will support the establishment of small business enterprises or linkage between the ex-convicts and various associations in order to enable them realize their economic, social and cultural rights. • Research and documentation related to women convicts and ex-convicts. • Awareness creation of life in prison and thereafter ;with focus on success stories • Hygiene care for women convicts through provision of sanitary hygiene The Women Ex Convicts Empowerment Foundation (WECEF) will be the implementing partner and mostly play a coordinative role and have various stakeholders as the main partners. At the national level, the main partner will be the Kenya Prison Services to facilitate the implementation of the activities especially with regard to developing a vocational curriculum and conducting the three month re-integration training package. Professionals such as counselors will be sourced and vetted in liaison with the KPS. At community level, churches and women groups will be the implementing partners. The project will involve other stakeholders such as counselors, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), National Cohesion and Integration Commissions (NCIC) and the media who can provide technical assistance in core areas of expertise. 6. Sustainability of the Project The main assumptions are that the Prisons department will be cooperative and willing to invest in the three month re-integration training course and that the ex-convicts will be interested in formation of support groups. Involvement of the prisons officers in charge will be critical as WECEF, with time will act less as implementers and more as coordinators of the re-integration training package leaving the responsibility in the hands of the KPS. WECEF is a newly registered organization and has not had previous experiences with the Kenya Prisons, should this be a hindrance in any way, WECEF may opt to start off the project at community level and empower the women ex-convicts and include them in advocacy and lobbying for human rights of prisoners. The project will provide psychosocial support for ex-convicts and their families. Mean while consultations will be established and confidence gained with the prisons department and working relations developed. The long term sustainable impact of this project is that convicts will have a more optimistic attitude towards life as they re-enter society. Ex convicts who have previously been through the 3 month re-orientation program will be coached and mentored so that they facilitate support groups exist so as to mentor convicts scheduled to leave prison. The program will aim that ex-convict graduates from the program become resource persons for the re-integration training package. . A more detailed report with a budget breakdown will be available on request.

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