On May 31,2019, Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) awarded three Ogiek youth for writing impressive folktales on Ogiek socio-cultural connection with nature.
The trio Ms Winnie Lesingo.Ms Judy Chepkoech and Ms Naomi Chelang’at won the writing competition run in April,2019 and were awarded certificates and cash prizes. They were among the 11 contestants who submitted their entries in Ogiek language. The contest targeted youth of 18-35 years.
The winner, Ms Lesingo had submitted a poem contextualizing how the Ogiek valued their food, language and oral communication being part of their way of living.
Ms Chepkoech, the 1st Runners Up, used an analogy of a nuclear family in narrating how the Ogiek performed weddings, initiation and funeral.
While Ms Naom Chelang’at, the 2nd Runners Up described the importance of honey in dowry engagements during the ancient days when the Ogiek still lived in the forest.
A panel of custodians of Ogiek language reviewed the entries on the basis of the appropriateness of the folktales, use of language, sentence construction, creativity and innovativeness.
Mr Francis Lesingo, the lead panelist observed with concern the ineptness with which the youth presented Ogiek indicating poor mastery of the language thus risking continuity of the community’s culture. However, the exercise has proved there is light at the end of the tunnel and as such there is a necessity to regularly undertake such initiatives.
Part of OPDP’s mission is to preserve Ogiek’s identity through documentation, songs and protection of the remaining relics thus the contest was initiated to encourage the youth to be pro-active in safeguarding Ogiek from extinction.
While awarding the winners Mr Christopher Kipkones, Chairman to OPDP’s Board urged them to continue documenting the language in different forms easily accessible to the Ogiek.
“The Ogiek youth now look up to and you have the responsibility of leading the way and guiding them on how they can document various aspects of our culture,” said Mr Kipkones.
Speaking at the same event, Mr Daniel Kobei, Executive Director of OPDP said, the youth are the key pillars to preserving the Ogiek language and culture and can commercialize documentation of the language to earn an income. New technologies such as podcasts and YouTube channels to preserve Ogiek language electronically.
Indigenous communities across the world highly value their languages and scholars have heavily invested in studying these languages due to their distinctiveness and interconnectedness in protecting natural resources, said Mr Kobei.
“The Ogiek youth need to know that they can eke a living out of mastering the Ogiek language. There are so many researchers who are studying the Ogiek and their culture and want the people who are learned but also know well the Ogiek language,” he noted.
He added that: “Learning Ogiek language is an investment that Ogiek youth need to seriously take into consideration.”
By engaging the youth in protecting Ogiek, OPDP is contributing to the United Nations efforts of nurturing unique cultures that are key to global development.
In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, based on a recommendation by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Hence,2019 is observed as the year purposed to raise global attention on the critical risks confronting indigenous languages and its significance for sustainable development, reconciliation, good governance and peace building.
The celebrations steered by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) seek to promote access to and promotion of indigenous languages and to a concrete improvement in the lives of indigenous peoples by strengthening the capacities of indigenous language speakers and relevant indigenous peoples’ organizations.