Beldine in Kenya makes sure the politicians do their job
Previously, politicians would make promises about building roads or a better school, talking as if it were their money. “We just thanked them humbly,” says change maker Beldine Olonde in Migori, western Kenya. She and others in the village thought that these were gifts from the politicians personally. She had no idea that it was actually tax money they were throwing around and that there were rules for its use.
Tax money is not politicians’ money!
Beldine Olonde is passionate about change and justice. She wants to see tax money being used where it can do the most good.
“I thought it was the politicians’ money. That was crazy. I didn’t know how the taxation system worked, or about my rights,” she says.
Today, things are different. Through Diakonia’s partner organization Clarion, Beldine has not only learned how the taxation system works and what the law says – she has also gained the courage and strength to hold those in power accountable.
Demands that public funds be used for the right things
“I go to their office. I don’t care that they’re people of high status. I knock on the door and tell them that they’re managing our tax money and I demand to know what it’s being used for. So they no longer dare to trick people.”
This is how local democracy is created and corruption is stopped.
“It’s not always as easy as it sounds,” says Beldine. “Those who are powerful and have money want more money. They don’t change their ways so easily. So you have to be persistent. But we’ve come a long way now. We’re known in the community and no-one dares to openly misappropriate funds any more, which they did before.”
Many ask for help
Beldine comes from a poor family. She was able to attend school for just eight years – her family could not afford any more education. But thanks to Clarion’s courses, she now has an important role in her community.
“Previously, almost no-one knew who I was. My husband thought I could only cook food and look after children. I was extremely shy. Now, things are completely different.”
The neighbours now come to ask Beldine for advice and assistance. They know she has knowledge and the courage to say what she thinks and stand up against others.
“I’m respected. Even my husband has started to respect me, and when they call me to come to meetings, he lets me go.”
Stubbornness bears fruit
Beldine’s stubbornness and strength have led to several tangible results. These include getting a high-ranking local dignitary removed from office.
“He was corrupt. We managed to prove it and today, he lives like we do – as a poor farmer,” she says.
Beldine cannot stop talking about the significance Clarion has had for her and the village.
“I’ve learned so much. They made me start thinking. I couldn’t believe it was true that I, an adult, was not aware of my rights – that there was so much of importance that I had no idea about. Before I came into contact with Clarion, I just nodded at everything, accepted it and tried to be happy.
That feels like a long time ago now.” Beldine radiates self-confidence and decisiveness. And before we part, she raises her voice and says in an authoritative tone:
“If money has been set aside for poor people, then poor people must benefit from it. It’s as simple as that.”