As we approach the New Life Tabernacle church in Nkubu, a sweet, soothing melodious sound fills the air. We are mesmerised! The heavenly tones are weaved in such a beauty that creates an aura of peace and serendipity.
Saturday evening and the sunset has filled the sky with deep red flame, setting the clouds ablaze. Inside the church, the red and sky blue curtains drapes around the iron sheet thatched walls, illuminating our minds to a rather conversational evening.
Seated at the right corner is Pastor Anthony Maina, deeply consumed in the melody. His fingers run over the piano keys so gracefully and he closes his eyes as he feels each melody he plays. He looks up and smiles to welcome us to the pulpit that has been his way of life for the last 20 years.
Maina’s calling goes beyond the pulpit; and as he tells it all, his vision has been to see an empowered society- his voice from the pulpit not only feeds his flock scripture wise, but also transfers words of nobility that mobilises his flock to address the plight of the community.
“For me, an ideal society is where everyone is aware of what is good and what is bad. I believe that everyone is gifted to make a difference however small their actions are,” he says holding his head a little higher; depicting hope for better.
Three years ago, Maina and 80 other pastors formed the Imenti South Pastors Association (ISPA); bringing together clergymen and women from various denominations with a common goal of uplifting the society and providing support to one another.
“We realised that we needed a collective voice to speak out on issues that affects our community,” he says.
Maina now the chairperson of the ISPA says he was privileged to be part of the community actors who were trained by the Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) on how to map out gender based violence, mitigate it and work with other county structures to ensure that women and girls are better protected and able to thrive in the community.
As a religious leader, Maina is an influential member of the community and as such his opinion on social matters is held with high regard.
His order of day entails daily church summons and pastoral visits in the community. It is here that he converses against social ills such as gender based violence (GBV) and advocates for respectful relationships among men and women.
As such, CREAW’s Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu initiative in partnership with the Netherlands Embassy works to capacity build religious leaders like Maina to continuously engage in conversations on matters GBV at the pulpit and in wholesomeness to shun bad behaviors and encourage community to coexist peacefully.
“Talking about GBV is not easy. Talking about it to a population that is highly patriarchal is even harder and requires skill, patience, charm and persistence,” says the Reverend whose calm, cheerful and friendly demeanour continue to bestow community confidence in him.
During our interactions, his community oriented perspective draws us to the personality and qualities that has enabled thrive as the man of cloth for decades, carving out a niche for himself as a much trusted ear of confession, shoulder to lean on and from whose lips wise counsel can be found by hundreds of his flock in the neighborhoods.
In the community, his deeds and that of fellow clergy in the ISPA speaks loud- a Kilometer away is the Nkubu Police Station where they are currently putting up a holding cell for women.
In one of the Court Users Committee, which he is a member, he got a report about a seven months old baby who died in the police holding cells.
“It is very undignified to lose a young life in such a manner. I engaged my fellow pastors and together we visited the station to ascertain the condition. To our surprise, adults were being made to share cells with children in dilapidated condition,” he narrates, explaining that they made a resolve to raise funds to establish a standard cell with sanitary structures, beddings and child friendly cells for women at the station.
He says the CuC sittings have enlightened him on the operations of the legal systems. More so, he has been able to understand the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms through the various court training. With the knowledge, he has been helping families resolve land feuds amicably.
“Every year, we map out the immediate social needs in the community, raise funds to actualise it and give it to the community,” say the Reverend.
In 2018, the group visited Meru Women Prison and saw the need for a more women friendly space. Again the ISPA through their table banking monthly contributions, bought mattresses, sanitary towels and other personal effects. This has gone along way in improving living conditions for Women in prisons.
One of the issues that Meru Community grapples with is the disinheritance of women especially when it comes to land ownership. This the Maina, attributes to lack of awareness on the law and inheritance.
“It is unfortunate that when husbands die, their widows are disinherited and left without means to build their livelihoods- we end up with a community where women are oppressed and a generation that is hopeless. Such is a source of disharmony. We must advocate for equal share of land,” explains Maina.
and about the future?
“We are looking forward to establishing a Counselling Center to help women and children deal with psychological trauma. We want to prevent cases of femicide and other forms of GBV. Thus we are engaging like-minded organisations and government structures to support the initiative,” he says.
Writing by Christine Ogutu