Magarini Parish held a graduation ceremony on April 20th, for 44 people who have completed Adult Literacy Classes. The KELC Women’s Department has been supporting literacy education in several parish and mission areas, including this group in Magarini Parish. The course is a two-year program, at the end of which the students take a government exam.
Nearly all of the graduates in Magarini Parish were women. As wives and mothers, the women have many daily tasks to maintain their household and support their husband and children. Yet they also craved education and wanted to improve their lives by learning to read and write. Although the course can be completed in 2 years, many women take several more years to complete their course, as they are pulled away from classes periodically to address other duties in their family life. They remained dedicated to their education, and although it may take 5 or more years, they have persevered and have now graduated.
The graduation ceremony was attended by local government officials, church leaders, and community members. Two students demonstrated their reading skills by reading from the bible and the church liturgy book. There were many songs and dancing, including a children’s choir who sang songs to celebrate their mothers on this special day.
Illiteracy continues to be a problem in Kenya and women are disproportionately affected. About 25% of women in Kenya are illiterate, according to the records of the Kenyan government. Many of the graduates lamented that before they undertook the literacy classes, they struggled to shop or conduct business in the market, they were nervous to travel alone, and they could not assist their children with simple homework from school. Now they feel empowered to improve their lives and the lives of their families. We thank God for the dedication and commitment of these students and we pray that all communities around Kenya will continue working toward literacy for all people.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is calling for two applicants from KELC to apply for the Young Reformers program. Applicants must be between the ages of 14 to 27. Check out the attached document for more information and all other application criteria.
In early July, Nyango and Naserian Mission held a special ceremony for young men making the transition to elders. This transitional ceremony has been held in Maasai communities for generation, but this is the first time that Christian blessings and prayers were incorporated into the ceremony. Over 500 men participated in the ceremony; together with their wives and elders of the community, over 1,200 people were in attendance.
The ceremony began before dawn with everyone gathering in the cattle corral for early morning prayers and singing. The prayers concluded with a blessing of the milk. Cattle and milk are integral parts of the Maasai lifestyle and livelihood, so blessing of milk acts as a blessing of health, sustenance, and community suc
cess. Next the men proceeded to receive blessings from community elders and greetings from the church clergy. The men processed, in a single-file line, from outside, into the cattle corral. As they crossed the threshold, the community elders anointed the right arm of each young man with a mixture of milk, oil, and honey.
The elders washed this mixture from the arm to the walking stick and tree branch held by each young man. The young men then proceeded to shake hands and receive greetings from the clergy. After all the men had processed through, then their wives followed to be blessed by the elders and the clergy. The remaining parts of the ceremony included shaving of heads, symbolizing that the men are leaving their youth behind and are starting fresh as elders. And finally, all of the men participated in a meat-eating ceremony. Each man took a couple pieces of beef and drank a fermented honey drink, each a symbol that they are now elders of their community.
After the completion of the ceremony, the men, women, and elders returned to the open field outside of the cattle corral for singing, dancing, and celebrating. They joyfully celebrated the important transition in their community to welcome new elders. We are grateful for dedicated church leaders in Nyango and Naserian Mission for their commitment to incorporating Christian blessings into this important event, and for their invitation to KELC leaders and Maasai clergy from Kenya and Tanzania. Together we have witnessed a new way forward for our church communities to merge their Christian faith and their cultural heritage. Thanks be to God!
Kisii Mission, in Western Kenya, is the latest KELC community to host a seminar to learn about women’s issues. In December, a delegation from the Women’s Department, together with their partners from Hope Foundation for African Women facilitated a 4-day workshop to discuss the topics of Gender-Based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation, Human Rights, and Economic Empowerment.
The facilitators used a new learning model called Popular Education (PE). PE engages all participants to collectively and critically examine their environment and everyday experiences, so that they can take control of their own learning and development. This style of learning requires a lot of active participation and discussion. PE is a new style of learning for many people in Kenya. The participants in the seminar received it with excitement. Each successive day more people came to the seminar, as positive word of mouth had spread through the community of the new and engaging presentations.
At the end of the seminar, participants responded that they learned about legal rights that they did not know they had, including rights concerning their health and their access to social services. Other participants shared that this seminar has inspired them to work together as a community to improve on the economic standing of the whole community, rather than letting jealousy divide them. Lastly, they learned that ordinary people can create change, even if only few resources are available. Together they can protect each other from gender-based violence and insist on their human rights, within their families and their communities.