HARAMBEES IN SWEDEN: GIVING OR REAPING?
A week barely ends in Sweden before hearing a word harambee. It has become so famous that almost every weekend someone will be calling for some kind of harambee. Despite the good spirit of the word, some people in Sweden are misusing it for there own personal interests. Chipping in to help is good but not always good.
Harambee is a Kenyan “tradition” of community self-help events. It literally means working together for a common purpose. It was designed to strengthen social connections and social responsibility by the late Kenyatta. It is a process where people work together in a group, organization, or a community to plan and solve problems.
To capture the spirit and mood of harambee since its inception, we need to go back to the time of independence because that is where Kenya as a country got to the harambee thing. By that time, Kenya had so many social and economic projects it wanted to undertake. Given the inadequate resources in the Kenyan government coffers and the speed at which Kenyans wanted to move forward, there was a need to identify a driving force towards the desired economical goals. Harambee was basically the tool to achieve our targeted goals more rapidly.
The social dimension of harambee was that it brought people together as one and what is good for one is good for the other. If you could not achieve what you had set to accomplish, there were always relatives, neighbors and friends to fall back to. The economic side of it was silent just like it is today among Wakenya in Sweden.
There was a third aspect that came in the late 1980s and got worse in the years that followed. This introduced selfishness in the sense that it looked at the mileage the individual wanted to gain out of the harambee. Instead of it being used as a common tool, it became a personal tool to elevate somebody’s interests.
Questions like how many harambees do I attend, how much I give, is it my friend or just another harambee started surfacing. Previously harambees were conducted quietly; nobody knew how much had been raised and people were less concerned about the above. Nowadays, we want to know how much was raised last weekend at so and so house even if we didn’t attend or contribute.
Harambees have become personal, commercial and they have stopped being voluntary. We must re-evaluate if it is worthy to continue giving or being reaped. “Wasemavyo wahenga, dunia imepasuka msamba”.
Munala Wa Munala.
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