Ways of Atheism in Africa – JAF Festival 2011, Nairobi - Kenya

On 4th June, 2011, the Jahwar Amber Humanist Fund held their first ever conference, also being the first of its kind in the history of Kenya. The theme for the event was “Philosophy, Sexuality and Atheism”, a banner that resulted to most of the conference committee members being put on media alert and remorsefully, others losing their jobs, including Mr. Boaz Adhengo, who chaired the whole process to its finish. Notably is Dr. Willy Mutunga who has been constantly quizzed of his relation to sexual activist organizations and consequently, his nomination for the position of Chief Justice halted by the Catholic Diocese, who have sued the nomination process terming it devilish and unfair.

The conference realized 67 participants, which was lesser than our 100 target. Though, at the festival dinner, the attendance exceeded into being 170 with an increased subscription into JAF membership. We gained 28 new members to total as 127. Photos from the JAF Conference: 

The conference organizing had been troubled with lack of guarantee into the finances that could best push the event into realization, but thanks to the handy support that Secular Students Alliance ensured, which has made this conference a success in the historical magnitude it deserves. We had perfect media coverage, perfect outreach and perfect program for the event, all from the continued efforts of SSA who also assisted in organizing the bits of this conference and investing a huge grant towards it.

Other supporters who were really vital to this process were the Skepchicks Foundation, through Rebecca Watson, who helped to finance our publicity and sponsor local committee meetings, a mission that was timely supported by the Atheist Alliance International. We managed to intense our regional reach into Uganda and Tanzania, thereby enabling regional travel to the conference; all these through the support of Atheist Alliance International to whom Jahwar Amber Humanist Fund has affiliated.

A number of papers were discussed, including: “Ethics without God”, “The Lesbian Economy”, “Life of the Sexual Minorities”, “Human Rights and LGBTI”, “Separation of Church and State” and in great length “Opportunities and Threats of Secular Practice in Kenya”.

In sum, the participants represented different institutions and expressed interest in having this festival continued into an annual activity. They came from: Kenya Human Rights Commission, University of Nairobi, Minority Women in Action, United States International University, Kenya Association of Humanists in Aid of Women Atheists, Gay Kenya, Artists For Recognition and Acceptance, Project Nabuur Capital, and not forgetting, JAF membership itself.

Though intended to steer student participation into grass-root mobility, the conference realized its major objective, that of ensuring an inter-social framework for dialogue and academic interaction among the humanist communities and sexual minorities in Kenya, thereby resulting to the formation of Kenya Secular Network [This will be an information service on matters of civil and human rights aimed at Atheists, Secularists and Humanists who support Civil and Human Rights and are concerned that there should be a Secular voice in this area activity].

About JAF

Jahwar Amber Fund is a registered charity organization under the Kenyan laws CAP 142 empowered to operate as a secular not-for-profit organization.  The organisation formed through the support of Secular Students Alliance, in attempt to restore and rejuvenate humanist practice in Kenya. This was after a long period of in-action by the Humanist and Ethical Union of Kenya which had created a sporadic outreach, seeing the number of competing grass-root organisations crop into existence. The dilemmas of inadequate funding and unstable leadership made the HEUK organisation hibernate. There was thus, need of a steady organisation that could guarantee financial support for secular and humanist projects in a local context. This was the origin of JAF.

The organisation operates within University walls, trying to gather the youthful membership and breed into secular practice with specific concern of sustainable humanist organisations in Kenya.

Following the results of JAF Conference 2011, the organization has been incorporated in Nairobi under the Companies Act, Cap. 499, Section 14, enabling it to have a Programs Director in paid capacity. We are therefore seeking international assistance to sustain this new professional position that would enable visuality and intense in our projects.