Brooke Blanchard

Brooke Blanchard (Undugu Society of Kenya): In 2004, Brooke conducted research on child labor abuses in Ecuador and worked as a physical therapist for children. In 2009 she worked as the Youth Program Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee. At the time of her fellowship Brooke was pursuing her MA in International Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. After her fellowship, Brooke wrote: “After working in the slums, I see myself as unbelievably fortunate. It was very trying at times, so I think I’m proud of getting through the most difficult aspects."

“You can’t preach water then drink wine”

14 Jun

UPDATE: Last night about 1 mile away from my apartment, two homemade gasoline bombs exploded In Nairobi’s Uhuru Park during a crowded prayer rally arranged by Kenyan church leaders opposing the new constitution (which will be voted on in a referendum August 4th ). At least 6 people were killed and around 100 were injured. The tension between the “No” and “Yes” parties has been building for some time, and with the impact of the 2007 post-election violence still reverberating throughout the country, the current escalation of violence is cause for major concern. The poor and uneducated youth living in Nairobi slums are particularly vulnerable to the political rhetoric as those in power on either side find them easily manipulable (I’ll explain the relationship between slum youth and political violence in a future entry). Tragedy: Explosion in Uhuru Park


For Quick Background on the New Constitution and Referendum:

Two Kenyans sit across the room from each other. One is a young professional woman about 20 years old. The other is a deeply religious teenage boy from the slums. They represent the opposing sides of the new constitution debate, and here in this small attic room they launch into a heated argument. Although entangled with both their personal beliefs and life experiences, their argument conveys the general opinions of both sides. Here is a portion of what I heard:

Young Woman: How can these church leaders, who call themselves Christians, spread lies to the people of Kenya?! That is not their job. They must choose between being a spiritual leader or a politician. They cannot be both. They tell people that the constitution legalizes abortion when it clearly states that abortion is only allowed if a licensed doctor believes that the mother’s life is in danger!

Young Boy: Well, if you really look at it, it is legalizing abortion. It’s saying it’s OK. Anyone could get some medical person to say they can do it.

Young Woman: NO! They just want you to think that. Listen to me, my sister died and do you know why? Because she had a bad pregnancy, it killed her. If she had been able to lose the baby she would still be alive today and she would be voting YES on the constitution. Priest don’t marry, they don’t get pregnant, they don’t have children…They don’t know what it is like.

Young Boy: That is very sad

Young Woman: Not until you lose blood (family member), will you be able to understand

Young Boy: You make a good point, but religion is what guides us every day. Without it I would not be here, I may not be alive. I could be still living on the streets. These people are standing up for what God says is right and wrong. They would not lie.

Young Woman: These priest travel to poor rural areas, telling people how they should live while at the same time they buy land and wealth for themselves. They are only afraid of their personal loss and they are using abortion and lies about government seizure of property as an excuse to become powerful political leaders. They may be stirring up violence and anger based on incorrect information. They cannot preach water then drink wine!

Young Boy: Again it is a good point. But you know what will happen don’t you? No matter what the outcome, there may be war come August….

"NO" Party

The NO party believes the new constitution will only benefit those who wrote it and not Kenyan citizens

The YES party believes that church leaders who oppose the new constitution are using religion as a political tool which will harm women and violate their human rights

Posted By Brooke Blanchard

Posted Jun 14th, 2010

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