• May 25, 2024
  • Last Update May 25, 2024 8:14 PM
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Nurturing Tomorrow: Inter-Religious Council of Kenya’s Advocacy for ECDE in Siaya County

Nurturing Tomorrow: Inter-Religious Council of Kenya’s Advocacy for ECDE in Siaya County


Friday May 3, 2024

KNA by Calvin Otieno

The inter-religious council of Kenya (IRCK) has embarked on an initiative aimed at nurturing and developing children aged 0-3 years across the country.

By recognizing the pivotal role that religious leaders play in their communities, the council is empowering them to inform and educate society about the importance of nurturing early childhood development.

The council’s recent efforts in Siaya County, spearheaded by Advocacy Strategist and Development Specialist Judith Atieno, demonstrates the power of faith-based leaders in shaping a healthier future for Kenya’s youngest generation.

IRCK’s approach centers around training religious leaders from both Christian and Muslim faiths on the significance of nurturing early childhood development.

This collaboration aims to ensure that parents, especially mothers, are equipped with the knowledge and tools to provide optimal care to their children during the crucial first three years of life.

“Religious leaders hold a deep connection with their communities and are often trusted sources of guidance,” Atieno explains.

“By educating them on good nurturing practices, we empower them to support families in making informed choices for the health of their children and development. This initiative not only benefits children but also strengthens family bonds and societal cohesion.”

Mary Anyango, a mother of two from Gem Sub-county in Siaya, is one of many who have benefitted from IRCK’s initiative. She shares how the teachings provided by her local pastor have positively impacted her family’s nurturing practices.

“Before attending sessions with my pastor, I didn’t understand how crucial exclusive breastfeeding was for my baby’s health and development,” says Anyango.

“I also learned about the importance of early stimulation for my baby, which has brought us closer as a family and helped my children thrive.”

One key aspect of IRCK’s initiative involves dispelling myths and misconceptions, such as men being reluctant to accompany their expectant wives to clinics.

By addressing these issues head-on, the council aims to ensure that both parents are actively involved in their children’s upbringing.

“It’s essential to encourage fathers to participate in prenatal and postnatal care, as well as in early nurturing practices,” Atieno explains. “By doing so, we strengthen the family unit and create a more supportive environment for children.”

A significant focus of the initiative is the advocacy of early stimulation and bonding, even while the child is still in the womb.

This practice fosters a deep emotional connection between parents and their unborn child, laying the foundation for healthy emotional and cognitive development.

Rose, a Catholic nun who has been part of IRCK’s program training religious leaders, shares a touching story about a couple she guided.

The expectant mother encouraged her baby’s father to caress her belly and talk to the baby, letting it hear his voice. Over time, the mother noticed that whenever the father returned home on his motorcycle from work, the baby would get excited and move around in the womb.

“The unborn child developed an ear for her father,” Rose recounts. “The baby could recognize the sound of his motorcycle and the time he usually arrived home. This story is a testament to the power of positive nurturing and how it creates a bond even before the child is born.”

While the initiative has been well-received in many communities within Siaya County, there are challenges to overcome, particularly in some areas where cultural beliefs may hinder progress.

Atieno acknowledges that some men, particularly in the dominantly Luo community, may remain apprehensive due to certain long-held beliefs.

Nevertheless, IRCK’s efforts are gradually changing mindsets. Through educational workshops and community dialogues, the council aims to promote understanding and acceptance of new practices that benefit both children and their families.

Despite resistance in some areas, there is a growing recognition of the importance of bridging traditional practices with contemporary child-rearing strategies. Atieno notes that the council’s efforts are showing promising results.

“Our goal is not to discard cultural traditions but to help communities adapt them in ways that promote the well-being of children,” she explains.

“By working with local religious leaders, we can bridge the gap between tradition and progress, ensuring that families benefit from modern nurturing practices while respecting their cultural heritage.”

The collaboration between IRCK and religious leaders across various faiths is paving the way for a brighter future for Kenya’s youngest citizens. As the initiative continues to expand its reach, more families will benefit from the teachings on nurturing and early childhood development.

By empowering religious leaders to share vital information and dispel myths, IRCK is fostering a community that prioritizes the health and development of its children.

This collective effort is not only changing the lives of individual families but also shaping a healthier and more harmonious society.

As Siaya County continues to embrace IRCK’s teachings, it sets an example for other regions across Kenya.

With the support of religious leaders, communities are witnessing the transformative power of nurturing practices in the lives of their children, ensuring a future of hope and opportunity for generations to come.

Courtesy; KNA

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