GSN launched its first impact report “Growing Connection, Resiliency and Agency: The impact of community-led trauma-informed peacebuilding in response to violent extremism in Kenya” at the second annual Paris Peace Forum (12 November 2019).
GSN incorporates a trauma-informed peacebuilding approach to address complex and protracted violence. From 2017-2019, we implemented Kumekucha: It’s a New Dawn, a social healing program, for the prevention of Violent Extremism (VE) in areas along the coast of Kenya and in Nairobi. These areas were selected because they are local recruiting zones for al-Shabaab and suffer from various forms of instability including poverty, gang violence, and sexual and gender-based violence. The causes of VE are widely debated; while poverty, ideology, injustice, marginalization, and oppression are all cited as possible causes, none of these factors can be said to predict VE. The path to extremism is indeed complex and developing an appropriate set of interventions for the Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) can be especially challenging. Because the reasons for joining extremist groups are varied, we focus on the why and how of recruitment processes, or the relationships and social networks that lead to recruitment in particular. Our intention is to harness the power of relationships not for radicalization but for resilience against the effects of violence and for social healing.
GSN carries out research in fragile, insecure areas. With support from psychologists, a multi-disciplinary approach is taken in our program assessments. Measurement instruments are designed, utilizing behavioral and psychological scales along with questions related to socio-economic, political and conflict-related indicators. Because the trauma-informed approach to peacebuilding and prevention of violence is not well understood or tested, GSN has invested significantly in the study of the populations we serve and the outcomes of the interventions.
We have data sets from Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia looking at frequency and types of exposure to violence and other traumatic events, behavior-related wellness or resilience, behavior related to peace and conflict, attitudes related to peace and conflict and levels of mental distress and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms.
The higher the frequency of practicing one’s faith, the lower the levels of PTS symptoms.
Pre and post-intervention surveys were conducted for the evaluation of both trainings and community dialogue sessions. The surveys measure resilience through indicators related to self-care. Questions focus on community engagement and trust, attitudes related to peace and reconciliation, exposure to traumatic events and Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) symptoms.
In the post-intervention surveys, participants are interviewed about their views on the impact of the program and so far, the programs have largely achieved its objective by increasing Participant’s emotional regulation, decreasing trauma symptoms, building trust and supporting community engagement.