Kennedy Odede wants voices of poor heard in global discussions on poverty

Kennedy Odede.

Shining Hope for Communities founder and the chief executive Kennedy Odede.

Photo credit: Pool

Shining Hope for Communities (Shofco) chief executive and founder Kennedy Odede has called on world leaders to recognise local actors involved in transforming communities.

Speaking during a forum dubbed 17 Room Initiative organised by The Brookings Institution and The Rockefeller Foundation, Mr Odede said local leaders should be given a chance to participate in global discussions.

Citing his appearance during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, the Shofco boss said it is inappropriate to discuss issues affecting the less fortunate in their absence.

“In Davos, I could not hear the voices of the poor. We need Davos for the poor if we are serious about solving their problems. We must value local knowledge and community-based solutions,” he said.

After attending WEF, he started a forum that the poor, especially in slum areas, can use to voice their issues.

In March 2021, he launched the World Communities Forum in Nairobi that brought together top leaders across the globe. The chief guest was Samantha Power, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

Local leaders

“We need to bring more local leaders to the table. I want to see Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being discussed in the slums. That is why we launched Global Alliance for Communities that brings together leaders across the globe who are working to better the lives of poor people especially in slums,” he said.

He added: “For us to have meaningful transformation in the communities, we need to involve local actors as partners. It is about dignity, we need to respect people who have lived the experience.”

The Global Alliance for Communities, an initiative of Shofco, is a coalition of over 150 leaders stretching across the globe, which aims to bring a community-based perspective to the global development agenda.

It was launched during the inaugural World Communities Forum in March 2021 in Mathare Slums in Nairobi.

Citing what happened during the Covid-19 outbreak, Mr Odede said local leaders should be empowered and given a chance to lead local organisations.

Take charge

 “When Covid-19 broke out, everyone went back to their homes. Covid-19 showed us that we could not decide things from New York or Washington DC. The people on the ground had to take charge and run their local organisations the best way they knew how,” he stated.

He also called for the impact of localisation in community transformation.

“Even governments should involve local actors in whatever they are doing,” he added.

Mr Odede participated in the discussion alongside Jamie Drummond, Global Strategist - Global Goals Co-Founder – ONE, John McArthur Director - Centre for Sustainable Development Senior Fellow - Global Economy and Development, and Zia Khan Senior Vice President for Innovation - The Rockefeller Foundation. He started Shofco in Kibera slums and it has now spread across Kenya.

The organisation serves 2.4 million people and offers services like free education, free health care services, GBV response and prevention, women empowerment and community Sacco.

He was recognised by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2020 and he has won global awards including the 2022 Social Innovator of the Year, East Africa Philanthropy Jury Award, 2014 People’s Choice Award for Outstanding Social Entrepreneur and Muhammed Ali Humanitarian Award among many other awards.

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