Public policy dialogue for socially-inclusive public policy making processes in Kenya: the role of the Anglican church of Kenya
Ayallo, Irene Akinyi
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Spirituality and religion are significant aspects of the lives of most Kenyans. Thus the church is one of the key anchors of identity for many Kenyans (Sabar, 2002; Gifford, 2009; Knighton, 2009). The church is generally autonomous in relation to government institutions, ethnically diverse, and financially independent. It permeates all levels of society’s social, economic, political and spiritual groups, and provides opportunities to engage with both the powerful and those with less power (Okuku, 2003). Although the church in Kenya has played a significant role in providing social services to communities, it has not developed a coherent framework for engaging in public policy and social justice issues (Lonsdale, 1978, 2009; Musalia, 2001). This has deprived it of the opportunity to enact its prophetic role: to mobilise for political and social inclusion in Kenya. This thesis investigates how the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) may facilitate public policy dialogue as a ‘bottom-to-top’ and socially inclusive approach to public policy making as part of the ACK’s prophetic role. The study uses a social justice theoretical framework to help understand the church’s role in influencing public policy on social justice issues. Using participatory action research that actively engages participants’ knowledge, experience and wisdom the research process sought to develop their critical consciousness and build their capacity to participate in decision-making on issues that affect their lives. Data for the study was collected using facilitated dialogic workshops with youth and women living with HIV, and in-depth interviews with diocesan bishops, clergy, and ordinands in the Bondo and Maseno West Anglican dioceses of Kenya. The findings of the study revealed that the presence of the Anglican Church of Kenya at all levels of society, its long history of social welfare service, as well as the credibility of its leadership and perceived independence from the state, provide the potential to mobilise marginalised groups and communities to tell their stories in order to humanise public policy. Barriers and other issues associated with the ACK’s prophetic role to mobilise for political and social inclusion in Kenya were identified, and some recommendations provided which enhanced its facilitative role. Without accepting the naturalization, legitimization and normalization of socially constructed differentiations, the thesis acknowledges that it will be difficult to eliminate socio-economic and political disparities in Kenyan society. However, public policy dialogue creates spaces to initiate intentional communication that includes the voices of all members of the community especially marginalised groups and not just the dominant voices of the privileged elite. Public policy dialogue facilitated by the ACK that encourages active participation of ordinary Kenyans ensures a ‘bottom-to-top’ and socially inclusive approach to public policy-making that centres the margins, legitimises the voices and aspirations of the poor, and exposes the church’s theology of secular power to pluralism and a postmodern world by re-evaluating its existence and public relevance rather than recourse to sectarian isolation or public dominance. A key outcome of the study was to establish on-going development programs beyond the period of the doctoral thesis research which encourage communities’ emancipation, criticism, reflexivity, and transformation.