By Joseph Maina
Mr Amos Kiharo sits at the helm of an organization that has been actively championing road safety across the country. Youths Association for Road Safety (YAROSA), of which he is the Director, has been engaged in sensitization programs across the country, aimed at fostering a culture of responsible and safe use of roads.
“We are targeting every road user in ever y county,” Kinaro told Safari Njema. “We do this through trainings held in workshops and seminars.”
The organization has partnered with driving schools in various counties across Kenya, in an effort to facilitate proper training and acquisition of licenses among drivers and boda boda riders. YAROSA, through its programs, helps trainees acquire vital skills that can be put to use in the day- to-day lie of a driver or motorcycle rider.
The skills acquired include first aid and knowledge of simple mechanics of the vehicle. At the end of the training, graduands are issued with a certificate of participation. YAROSA kicked off its operations formally in 2018, taking over from another organization that was also concerned with road safety awareness.
“The Youths Association for Road Safety came into operation last year, when we rebranded the Abiria Tugutuke Foundation,” Kinaro told this writer. Kinaro, himself an insurance professional, came up with the two road safety initiatives in response to the spiraling cases of road carnage, which he noticed were taking a toll on victims and their families. He observed this while serving in the insurance industry.
“I had observed that most of the claims were due to recklessness. And as a result, a lot of people would get hospitalized, while others became disabled and even worse.” Key points in the trainings provided include sensitizing bodaboda riders to obey traffic rules, which include wearing protective gear by both the rider and pillion passenger.
“We have also been urging bodaboda riders to avoid riding their motorcycles while under the influence of alcohol.” During the trainings, bodaboda crews are encouraged to invest their monies wisely, by avoiding the temptations that come with fast earnings. Among the solutions that Kinaro and his team strongly advocate, is for bodaboda riders to form and join savings and credit cooperative societies, which would help facilitate their financial development while discouraging reckless spending.
In its outreach programs, the YAROSA organizes seminars and workshops in various localities across the country, where they are able to reach out to various road users. A typical workshop could accommodate up to 1000 people.
“In the near future, we hope to reach up to 60,000 bodaboda riders,” Kinaro said, while expressing optimism over the growing acceptance of their mission among road users and other stakeholders.
He however cited several challenges that had beset his nascent organization over the years. Among his greatest challenges is political interference. He lamented that some politicians have a habit of muscling their way into the road safety campaign, mostly for political mileage.
As an instance, he cites the populist move by some politicians to dish out road licenses to youths in their localities. We had one experience where we were running one program with 500 youths in attendance. A politician had an intention of giving driving licenses to those people, especially bodabodas, and when he realized that we had already penetrated and we had a crowd, he was not happy.
“So he looked for means and ways to ensure that we didn’t operate in his region. We were forced to move. He wanted to issue the licenses through his own preferred driving school so as to get mileage.” In addition to meddling by politicians, the organization has to contend with lack of venues to convene their workshops and seminars.
As Kinaro stated, YAROSA, being largely a volunteer program, is often hit with the challenge exorbitant rates imposed by owners of halls and other spaces. “Getting a venue for our meetings and workshops is a challenge because some of the venues are overcharged,” Kinaro said.
But with all said and done, Kinaro is optimistic of a fruitful future ahead, buoyed by past successes and by the rising optimism among the stakeholders and the general public with whom he interacts. He hopes to bring on board more political goodwill as well as the support of well wishers and the general public in furthering YAROSA’s agenda.