Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

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Now that our project is complete, we have been reflecting (both formally and informally) on what we learned from our partner organisations and stakeholder agencies in Nairobi in 2018.

We believe that having the opportunity to co-create the next steps of the project with our international partners has been the most valuable activity to date, and will drastically increase the chance of successful implementation and positive impact.

Our aims

Our overall project aim was to spend time in Nairobi with our project partner (Wangu Kanja Foundation) carrying out consultations with a range of stakeholders in relation to our innovative forensic DNA evidence collection kits.

These consultations included agencies and organisations from all relevant sectors, including:

  • medical, survivor advocates and support groups,
  • human rights organisations,
  • legal advocates and the judiciary,
  • and criminal investigators.

The purpose of these consultations was to:

  1. present a prototype of our innovation,
  2. provide some training on the use of forensic DNA in sexual violence investigations,
  3. gather feedback on the kit design,
  4. discuss the next steps for integrating this approach into the criminal justice system.

A secondary aim of our project was to work with researchers at Kenyatta University to collect a sample database of DNA profiles, an important first step towards appropriate interpretation of DNA profiles in a Kenyan context.

Our outcomes

The outcomes of the project were achieved as planned and you can read these in our final report).

However, what was equally valuable was the opportunity to discuss issues of forensic capacity and see the development of forensic laboratories first hand throughout Nairobi. Although we had been having these discussions with organisations in Kenya previous to this part of the project, we were able to gather a much more nuanced understanding of the forensic infrastructure, and associated challenges, by spending time working with partner agencies in Nairobi.

There are challenges associated with implementing any new forensic innovation, and this one was no exception. During our consultations a range of appropriate issues were raised, and we are very thankful for all of the constructive and thoughtful feedback and ideas we received during the discussions.

Responses to the prototype DNA kit were overwhelmingly supportive, and it was very clear to the project team that there is a genuine need and desire to enhance access to high-quality forensic evidence to support investigations and prosecutions of sexual violence in Kenya.

Our next steps

In terms of next steps, we were successful in securing follow on funding which allowed a Kenyan lab technician to spend six weeks at the University of Leicester analysing the over 600 DNA samples collected by Kenyatta University.

We also hosted visitors from the Kenyan Directorate of Criminal Investigations, who we met  during our HIF visit to Nairobi last year. We organised a range of capacity building focused activities and field visits.

We are currently seeking appropriate funding for the manufacture of kits which can then be field tested, in collaboration with our partners in Nairobi.

Project team and stakeholders in Nairobi. Credit: University of Leicester.
Project team and stakeholders in Nairobi.. Credit: University of Leicester.
Project team and stakeholders in Nairobi.. Credit: University of Leicester.
Project team and stakeholders in Nairobi.. Credit: University of Leicester.

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