AWAKENING FROM THE DRUNKEN NIGHTMARE

By Eva Mourine, Mathare

 

Photo credit: Sam Sturgis

Photo credit: Sam Sturgis

The high rate of unemployment and lack of basic services in low-income neighborhoods such as Mathare has continued to influence to a larger extent alternative modes of social and economic organization amongst youth living in Nairobi’s slums. Most informal settlements in Nairobi sets a context where nothing is actually formal, there are no official roads, no basic infrastructure, no official security means, the ever ‘‘hustling’’ youth have carved out alternative niche to navigate extreme environments.

Alcoholism and drug abuse among the youth in Mathare continues to be a big disease that is causing pain and agony in many households in Mathare, this has greatly hampered development. In the heart of Mathare valley, one would be awakened by the stench of alcohol which often sends a message of despair to many.

The smoke; billowing from the chimneys smells of burnt grass of Jamaican hem. Every crack of dawn is welcomed by the bizarre of drunk walking zombies that fight themselves through the faint light as if avoiding the sun that could smoke them alive if it light bright, many homes have gained shame which in too much intensity has proven a great crack of weak point for the future leaders who swallowed by the fate of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Alcoholic drinks are gaining popularity in informal settlements; however, what is of major concern is the additives that these drinks are laced with. Many of the local popular drinks in Nairobi slums include; changaa and busaa. “Some of these drinks  could either make you go blind since they are laced with deadly chemicals such as chloroform and ethanol,” this was description given to by one of the community health workers”.

All I can be sure of is that; the ghetto never lacks the class of living easy and dying fast. The youths have been trapped in the cycle of the ‘urge’ which spikes the nerves like a racing inferno which it desires can never be calmed by coffee or tea.

This is the routine caused by the outcome of addictiveness and love for anxiety in this valley of shanties. So often while traversing Mathare, I would ask myself questions, Is it the outrageous lusty appetite to feel high or just an imaginary stairs to cloud nine?

Although adolescence provides a challenging developmental period for young people throughout Mathare and the world, the difficulties faced by young people in developing countries are often exacerbated by poverty, limited access to education, and unstable social contexts.

Drug addiction, not only has it stormed many by an expected surprise, rather has it left every household with a calm demon to nurse. Many youths, in my settlement, Mathare have been enslaved by alcohol and drug abuse, leaving the affected parents; if lucky, nursing hopes with prayers of breaking the capture of their sons and daughters. Alcohol abuse has become inevitable for much as cheap liquor is at disposal for all young, middle and the aged residents.

In recent turn events, President Uhuru Kenyatta in reaction to the silent slogan, “we are a drinking nation” issued a directive on the destruction of all second generation alcohol. This directive has so far seen the banishing of illegal drinking dens in Mathare. This directive may be considered a knee jack reaction; however, it has created the much needed debate on building a sober citizenry that is focused in building better communities.

Alcohol abuse has had a devastating effect in Mathare. Alcohol has been abused to the extent that the consumers, whom most are the youth as well as their families, have suffered a great deal from its adverse effects. Many youths under the influence engage in hazardous behaviors’, notably crime to sustain these habits, unsafe sex, fights which they would otherwise not engage in.

Milkah Njeri, a resident of Huruma in Mathare constituency, believes that the directive by the president to declare war on illegal brews is just but the beginning, “The war against killer brews is necessary to protect the youth to enable them be part nation building,” she said.

The Mathare community has sustained efforts to help support alcohol and drug addicts by encouraging them to go to the rehabilitation centers and “mend” their lives. The community has also enhanced “the ka sober” campaign (Stay sober) to sensitize and educate communities on effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Muungano network in Mathare in efforts to ensure the youth to beat alcoholism and drug abuse, the federation has continued to engage the youth in cleanups and organising them in savings schemes which has greatly assisted them to start their own businesses and ventures. For all said and done, the slums are still fading in the languishing state of the current emergence of alcoholism addiction and other vital drug abuse.

Silence is golden but either way… languishing is paramount…

Investing in slum dwellers to tailor own solutions

By Milkah Njeri, Huruma

Data Capturing process of settlement profiles.

Data Capturing process of settlement profiles.

Born in an informal settlement and brought up in yet another informal slum in Nairobi, in itself sounds catastrophic. Having been born in Korogocho did not castigate me to a life of poverty; I had a vision to lead a normal life. Raised in a family of four girls and four boys life was not that promising but I learned to live a simple life.

In a city where half of the population lives in urban areas, one would expect pockets of slums strewn across almost every neighbourhood with high population densities. The picture is not a far cry from reality, at least in the context of Korogocho. But even if the country has seen incredible growth over the years, there is hope things can turn around.

Picture Credit-www.panoramio.com

Picture Credit-www.panoramio.com

Being a single mother I joined Muungano in 2001 in Korogocho by then I used to save five shillings daily, in 2003 I moved from Korogocho to Huruma and later joined ex-grogon saving scheme and also as an assistant secretary for ex-grogon land and housing co-operative society with no papers, not even attending a computer class I was a among ten youths in eastern region to undergo a data capturing training in using Microsoft access and excel. I later on learnt on data verification , since then I have learnt more and used these skills to train my fellow slum dwellers, all this achievement needed passion and patience.

My first baby steps first came early than I expected when I started working on the Kambi Moto slum upgrading project, seven years ago in Huruma, Nairobi. The challenges surrounding the community momentum to advocate for the re-allocation of land from the Nairobi City Council back in the day to demonstrate a community led slum upgrading concept, may have differed from other informal settlements such as Kibera, or Mathare, but seldom do we as humans of informal settlements get the feeling of hopelessness in the slum communities.

The urban poor in our great country need to be empowered, and solutions have to be designed by them. Community organization, a difficult yet key element to successful Kambi Moto slum upgrading, was successfully carried out, with communities taking mostly the lead. In places where there is collective sense of purpose and willingness to be supported, the likelihood of successful community upgrading is greater.

In April 2015, I attended workshop and learnt another way of capturing data- ONA platform. This is an SDI managed online tool, which enables communities’ key in; process; analyse; verify and generate information about informal settlements. I have passion for profiling, what I love most about data is that it talks about people’s livelihoods in informal settlements, and the interesting part altogether is that and when people begin to speak back to the data, collective actions and needs is inevitable. This information helps we, slum dwellers in stopping evictions which happens regularly in most settlements, and while using this information communities are well able to advocate for provision of services in their slums. This has really improved my skills and made me who I am today.

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit Zimbabwe to attend a data profiling and ONA platform workshop in Bulawayo city in June. In this session I was able to take other federation members from different countries through keying in data using ONA, this is because of the capacity, skills and experience I have gained through Muungano Wa Wanavijiji.

As an affiliate of Slum Dwellers International, we visited Ngozi mines, this is an informal settlement located within a dumpsite area in Bulawayo central. Together as a team we supported the Zimbabwean federation in a settlement profiling and mapping exercise with other federation members from different countries, before leaving Ngozi mines, we supported the communities living there to organise the community and formed a saving schemes and saved five dollars and fifteen rands.

To date, the group has twenty five members.

One aspect that I took home after the learning exchange to Bulawayo, in particular is that; forging partnerships with our governments is key in addressing issues of informality and slum upgrading. Civil society and private sector groups are also becoming important players in the urban arena. Slum dweller movements, such as Muungano Wa Wanavijiji effectively reach out to communities and are best assigned the roles of community organizing, facilitating dialogue, community organising-through empowerment of community savings schemes, community prioritized need identification, project identification, project management and maintenance of community facilities, which often creates a sense of collective ownership that further drives sustainability of community projects.

KEPSA 3Additionally, I could not help but notice that the private sector, through the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) is increasingly interested in working with the county governments in developing low-cost housing in various counties. Muungano recently undertook, city wide settlement profiling in six counties. Sets of information generated from the process, has continued to empower communities to have knowledge of their informal settlements, which  through prudent discussions, slum dwellers have begun engaging their local governments on the provision of basic services and infrastructure developments. In a long time counties, have finally recognized the importance of engaging all the stakeholders in planning, execution and monitoring programs for the poor.

Governments have an important role to play in respect of addressing issues of slums, particularly by creating partnerships between national and local governments, civil society and even the communities themselves to work toward an expanded and sustained program for the urban poor.

JUST A CALL

 

By Peris Saleh.

Its better knowing something than ignoring it. This is now me; I never wanted to be engaged in community activities or even wanted to be associated with community affairs neither had the slightest idea how they run. I used to just sit at home watch television and that was my daily routine come rain or sunshine just day after day.

One day as I was sited on my door step I saw many people passing, headed in the same direction, then one big woman came over to me and introduced herself as Doris Moseti, a community leader in her own right. She asked me,” Why are you sited on the door way while other youths are going to the chiefs place for a meeting” but I answered  am not interested in any meeting or knowing what people are going to do there. She asked me again “are you in any youth group” and I said no.

Doris was very kind to me that she started explaining to me the benefits of being in a youth group.”It’s good for a youth like you to involve yourself in community work through the confines of a youth group and that gives you the prospect of knowing what’s going on in the society “.

Being in a youth group helps one a lot, first by keeping you busy due to the activities they are being done in the group and also you can learn a lot of things from your fellow youth, I saw that was powerful in deed and I needed to try it out, she decided to help me to scout for a group and introduced me to it.

DSC08724The biggest thing of all she also introduced me to an Organization called MUUNGANO, a movement of the urban poor and there I have learnt a lot of things like: SAVINGS, DATA ENTRIES and now DOCUMENTATION. I really thank Doris for the empowerment she gave me and my colleagues from other informal settlements not even forgetting the federation team for accepting me to work with them.

Truly an attitude can change once, come all youth and join me in this wonderful journey of success.

Kenyan Youth Documenters First Blog Posts

INDEX

  1. “The Floating Slum” by Eva Muchiri
  2. “Potato Riots” by Asha Ali
  3. “Giving Hope to Hopeless” by Milka Njeri
  4. “Crime in Mathare” by Kate Wanjiru
  5. “A Small Heaven or Hell?” by Mary Munyiva
  6. “A Call to All Young Mothers” by Sophia Khamis

THE FLOATING SLUM

By Eva Muchiri, Mathare-Bondeni

Rains seem to have awakened a certain migratory instinct in residents of Mathare. The state of total disorder has been on full display in the past couple of months as the rains pounded the slum especially after roars of flooding with sheer ruthlessness. Just as the saying goes, rain is a blessing but too much of it in this part of the capital; the aftermath shifts the other side of the cursed coin.

The area is always brushed off its glittering shinny silver lining of iron sheet houses leaving a trail of regrets and builderness of starting a new life. These are the times the residents wish the water would flow backward only for them to have a moment to collect any little thing that would ignite their hope of living.

The recent floods were never to be under estimated as they left a memory of the first day of creation. Nothing firm was left standing, not even the Bondeni rocks that were last shaken by the El-nino back in the years. Everything was left aligned to the force of gravity. It was not the first incident, but this time the incident coincidentally left a line of hope from the well wishers from the other side of life bringing forth anything appropriate to give a kick start to the mortals of the survivor series.

The problem with this side of the country is proportional to the natural catastrophe that comes as a result of geographical sloppiness of the region. The effects of the resulting flooding not only exposed fear among the residents who often bear the brunt of such a sudden deluge. People were trapped in houses for long hours as they waited for the rain to subside. Streams and waterways were submerged in knee-deep flood waters. Young children and short people were forced to pay so as to be carried and brought to the other side. The challenges faced by the residents are lack of infrastructure, poor drainage and lack of services for the poor.

As water levels rose outside, houses, shops and recreations centers began leaking inside their premises, and also sweeping away everything not sparing the wooden bridge. Some of the resident who live near the river were left homeless after their houses were swept away by the raging water, carrying with it goats and cows of a big business man called wachira in the slum who supplies the residents with the milk. Drunkards became sober and tried their very best to reach their homes as soon as the rain subsided. A couple of residents found themselves floating on water as if they were in a Jacuzzi while a sleep, they had to be rescued by some youths and taken to nearby clinics for check up. Through the Nairobi City profile done by Muungano in the year 2013, communal recommendation of slum improvement have been made by the National Youth Service works has slowly improved drainage systems which has reduced calamities like easy passage of water in streams and waterways.

It is said that slum dwellers would rather be rained on than close their daily business or lose money. It’s never advisable for people to find shelter near water masses, due to rapid rains that cause flooding and the rivers break their banks. Poor drainage can cause a lot of harm to people when the sewer lines block because of the muddy water. The chaos that results from the residents is like wildebeests crossing the Mara river that would be comical; were it not punishing in the unusual manner. It’s very sad watching your property being swept away by the heavy rains and there is nothing that can be done to at least save anything. The Muungano federation introduced farming methods to the residents which transformed them to farmers in the land near the river bank. This has helped in the reduction of flooding cases. The farm products harvested are always sold to the villagers at a fair price compared the normal market. The farm has also been a site for agricultural studies to nearby educational centers.

POTATO RIOTS 

By Asha Ali, Machakos

Since the devolved system of county governance, Machakos has been one of the best performing counties in Kenya. However, it had its own fain share of challenges. In one morning of December 2014 as I was strolling by, in my own mental shadows walking with me, I heard some funny noises. Funny being it was both attractively curious, yet potentially harmful to my well being. Well being, meaning my current state of sanity.

Shouts, grunts, babblings, amongst other assorted rabbled noise, was what I heard from the market, with the usual haggling going on, but with a more civil-disoriented chaos. I saw, in my comical disbelief, sacks of potatoes sprawled all over the market floor, spilling their contents all over. Knowing that this must be a rejection action towards some government initiated scheme/plan which wasn’t confirmatory to the citizenry; I stood to watch the debacle, from a far distance all the same. These events usually turn out to be violent in the culminating stages of order in chaos, often witnessed during market days.

But to my shock, it wasn’t the sellers who were throwing their money away; it was the county inspectorate ‘officers’ who were actually destroying food, sustenance for mankind. All this for what: just because the said potatoes were not meant to be sold in 90kg quantity, in whatever measurements that they were meted in, by small number of retailers. The market was exclusively meant for wholesale only. This was from a by-law, enacted by the hoodlums who like to be referred to as ‘Honorable’, otherwise known as MCAs, in order to generate ‘more revenue’, by denying retailers access to the larger portion of the town market. As ludicrous as it seems, it had taken full effect, and the county council was intent on maintaining the ghastly law, even to violent endings.

In retaliation, the retailers did the natural thing that any gruntled mwanainchi did; teach the council askaris a thing or two about mixing business and its disruption. Which scholars have duly labeled it rioting, in effect made legal retaliation a necessity, considering the retailers decide NOT to use any weapons except their own hands. Maybe in their reasoning, they would be spared the usual dose of the dreaded rungus, the usual batons and the occasional pleasures of kicks and blows. One trader, Mrs. Amina Ali said, “It is unfortunate that the county government is introducing policies that are detrimental to hardworking through violence.” Well, the whole event turned out pretty docile than expected. None was actually hurt, with the chairman and two loud mouths being arrested and taken to the cooler for some ‘debriefing’. Was it a lenient path of containing civil strife, or just the basic and sudden lapse of sensible thinking for the citizenry, will never be known but that was a change in the right direction, with regards to handling civil strife in a humane way? But all ended quite amicably.

The Chairman, Mr. Isaac Mutua, and his two accomplices were arraigned in court and subsequently charged with incitement, that being a tap on the wrist, considering what was initially ‘arranged’ for them. Grateful they were, as they should have been, the whole affair taught me something.

Leniency is a trait most county governments have to embrace to if to have a peaceful and harmonious co-existence with the citizenry. The effect should recommend to the highest authority in the land. Unnecessary humiliation and injury to man is not the way to handle internal disputes and grievances. We are not back in the stone age when all was needed to quell a mob was a whack to the head and the unlawful detention of a few, and everything was back to normal. The population of today is craftier, more tenacious, and to a logic-defying extreme, more violent, if need be.

This approach will enhance human relations. The elite and the governed will have a patriotic sense of togetherness. Just like any household, all disputes are settled amicably. Through muungano wa wanavijiji , has written a petition to the county government of Machakos to come up with a standard potato  weights that will go a long way in addressing such potatoes wars.

GIVING HOPE TO HOPELESS

By Milka Njeri, Huruma

Huruma is located in northeast of Nairobi the capital of Kenya. I got an opportunity to visit a Muungano affiliated group in Huruma Kambi Moto settlement Mathare constituency.

H-town is a group of young girls and teenage mothers; it was started by two members in 2014 due to the high rate of gender based violence in the area, after mobilizing other members it was officially registered in the same year of July 2014, currently the group has fifteen registered members.

Gender based violence has been serious issue in Huruma settlement; this group is among other community based groups which is trying to address gender based violence in informal settlements.

I spoke to Nancy Njoki, a mentor and a founder member of H-town group, “As we grew up gender based violence has been a way of life among young women, but we as h-town we would like to change this belief and help reduce cases of rape and violence women.”

In a recent event, one of their members was arrested, taken to court and jailed. She is currently serving a jail term at the Langata women prison for accidentally murdering her boyfriend whom it is alleged wanted to rape her.

Through the support Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Kambi moto saving scheme the group has strengthen its savings and loaning capacity .H-town is the leading model within Huruma in curbing incidences of sexual violence against young women.

Some of the impacts demonstrated by H-town include; some members have been sponsored to attend specialized courses such as driving, home economics, mentorship among others.

The group is currently offering trainings to young girls and women and through settlement campaigns that aim at decreasing cases of social violence among the Huruma community and is a model that can be replicated to other informal settlements.

CRIME IN MATHARE

By Kate Wanjiru, Mathare

Mathare is the second largest slum in Kenya after Kibera with approximately 73.3 hectares with an estimated population of 400,000 people who live in 13 villages; its just a few minutes’ drive away from the city centre. Mathare is home to some of the toughest criminal gangs in Nairobi whereby many youths steal and engage in crime to make a living.

Mathare has been greatly affected by insecurity mainly perpetrated by the youths in  a place known as Huruma in Kiamaiko. The youths of Mathare were influenced by the youths from Huruma  who have  introduced them to access cheap guns – mostly homemade guns.

In 2000 many youths reportedly joined street gangs and they would terrorize people in the community especially in Mathare no. 10 area, this incidences became too much and the community decided to take action by demonstrating  at  a nearby police station.

Many youths have lost their lives. In one year fifty youths were killed, but it was so painful to see the police shooting because they would find the youths holding illegal assembly  eg ‘base’ and ask them to kneel down and start shooting in front of their parents and the community. This was torture because before they killed them they would beat them up.

The youths of Mathare transformed after the introduction of jobs by the government for the youths ‘kazi kwa vijana’ and through educational seminars. In my hood, Bondeni there are many youths that have transformed. I got a chance to interview Kim who told me, ‘‘I was one of worst criminals,  I used to recruit young youths and taught them how to use guns and stealing from people especially hijacking cars but thanks God because I have now changed’’. Kim is now working with nongovernmental organizations like Muungano wa Bondeni to help other youths change. Kim is working in one of the Muungano developed toilets projects and saves like other members.

A SMALL HEAVEN OR HELL?

By Mary Munyiva 

Sometimes life seems to be hopeless when someone lives in a slum. But on the other hand “A VILLAGE OF HAPPINESS“ is part of a settlement in Kahawa Soweto. Most of the people here are ever drunkard, drug addicts, and commercial sex workers among others. Marital status contract is just for the next few seconds.

This was named so because everything you want is available such as alcohol, any kind of food you need and more so sex desire.

It has deteriorated health factor in the fact that most people are infected with HIV/TB yet they transmit it day and night. Their physical appearance looks as if they are age mates of the first president of Kenya and the most challenging factor is death almost every month.

It really paid a lot of attention to the entire community whereby a parent remains a parent. Most of their income is pickpocketing especially during the night but among them there graduates  ‘Of KUPIKA CHANGA’A’ funny enough they have been surviving with ‘TWAKS’ [pig intestines] of which

We are not sure of their health degree, when they are being cooked they do produce that sound of TWA TWA TWA that’s why they were named after that. Unfortunately, it was terminated from the source company through political influence, a neighbor MCA went to the company had the conversation which was held terminated the TWAKS.. Their lives changed since they were taking alcohol without eating.

With the effort of federation members and the community as a whole, there was a group which was mobilized called ’KAA SOBER’ and also they do contributions every Sunday of twenty shillings each and after that they go back to their normal life. We were able to join efforts with stakeholders like NACADA, SWOP among others so as to have a future generation.

A CALL TO ALL YOUNG MOTHERS 

By Sophia Khamis, Machakos

Often people think success comes because of luck or exceptional talent though it might be true for some but most successful people will tell you that the reason they are there it’s through persistence and burning desire to do something extra ordinary. Well this how mine all started.

Being a young mother from slums having left college early and having no experience in anything it was quite a challenge to start something up! I was in this saving scheme in Mjini Machakos having being forced by my mum to join, I not seeing any significance in it. I can vividly recall this certain date like two years ago there were visitors in our group/chama known as Muungano wa Wanavijiji they targeted young mothers, well after some processes was one of  the lucky seven girls chosen from Machakos county, and 60 young women from 7 counties in Kenya.

We underwent trainings having a little baby “champ” it was quite a challenge but I couldn’t give up for anything because I could see it was something beneficial to me. Well I remember this one time we went through a training in Nakuru for four days after it all we were given 100/=for motorbike.

All I can do is laugh about this. It was quite a show people were mad and that is where some gave up but not for me and a few others because we had benefited and could see light in it. We started mentorship on entrepreneurship and politics, I chose entrepreneurship! It was both local and international mentorship. I remember my mentor from Australia Hanna Carlson she inspired me a lot gave me inspirational books to read! Shared life stories this made me feel so empowered as a young woman.

I took a loan from my group and started small business selling beauty products something I love doing, and today my business is my testimony.  So to all young mothers out there life isn’t going to change by knocking your heels together change starts from us! Don’t give up there is hope out there no body said its going to be easy but believe me when I say there is something for everyone you got to work for it.

Those Who Tell the Stories Rule the World

 

Youth documenter Sophia Khamis. Photo by Shaddy Mbaka, SDI Kenya

Youth documenter Sophia Khamis. Photo by Shaddy Mbaka, SDI Kenya

In a recent trip to SDI’s Kenya affiliate I was fortunate enough to meet a group of young federation members making their entry into the world of blogging. The youth came from the slums in which Muungano wa Wanavijiji organizes. Below are the highlights of their first blogs about a topic of interest to them from their settlements. I would hazard a guess that they might just be the most interesting blogs you’ve read all week. Click on the titles to read the full blog and please send comments and questions to the youth if you connect with their stories.

If those who tell the stories indeed rule the world then I can only hope these storytellers continue to make their voices heard.

In a moving piece called The Floating Slum”, Eva Muchiri from Mathare Bondeni vividly captures the devastating effects of recent flooding.

“Some of the resident who live near the river were left homeless after their houses were swept away by the raging water, carrying with it goats and cows of a big business man called Wachira in the slum who supplies the residents with the milk. Drunkards became sober and tried their very best to reach their homes as soon as the rain subsided. A couple of residents found themselves floating on water as if they were in a Jacuzzi while a sleep, they had to be rescued by some youths and taken to nearby clinics for check up.”

In Potato Wars Asha Ali from Machakos narrated the chaotic – and potentially very dangerous – scene she witnessed at marketplace in her settlement.

“… to my shock, it wasn’t the sellers who were throwing their money away; it was the county inspectorate ‘officers’ who were actually destroying food, sustenance for mankind. All this for what: just because the said potatoes were not meant to be sold in 90kg quantity, in whatever measurements that they were meted in, by small number of retailers. The market was exclusively meant for wholesale only. This was from a by-law, enacted by the hoodlums who like to be referred to as ‘Honorable’, otherwise known as MCAs, in order to generate ‘more revenue’, by denying retailers access to the larger portion of the town market. 

… Unnecessary humiliation and injury to man is not the way to handle internal disputes and grievances. We are not back in the Stone Age when all was needed to quell a mob was a whack to the head and the unlawful detention of a few… The population of today is craftier, more tenacious, and to a logic-defying extreme, more violent, if need be.” 

Mary Munyiva, a youth member from Kahawa-Soweto, conveys the settlement’s struggles with alcoholism and drug-abuse in a piece called A Small Heaven or Hell?” 

“Sometimes life seems to be hopeless when someone lives in a slum. But on the other hand “A VILLAGE OF HAPPINESS “is part of a settlement in Kahawa Soweto. Most of the people here are ever drunkard, drug addicts, and commercial sex workers among others. Marital status contract is just for the next few seconds … It has deteriorated health factors in the fact that most people are infected with HIV/TB yet they transmit it day and night. Their physical appearance looks as if they are age mates of the first president of Kenya and the most challenging factor is death almost every month.”

Sophia Khamis, a young mother from Machakos, tells her inspiring personal story in a blog called A Call to Young Mothers. 

“Being a young mother from slums having left college early and having no experience in anything it was quite a challenge to start something up! I was in this saving scheme in Mjini Machakos having being forced by my mum to join, I not seeing any significance in it … I took a loan from my group and started small business selling beauty products something I love doing, and today my business is my testimony.  So to all young mothers out there life isn’t going to change by knocking your heels together change starts from us don’t give up there is hope out there no body said its going to be easy but believe me when I say there is something for everyone you got to work for it.”

Crime in Mathare, written by Kate Wanjiru, tells the story of her slum, the second largest in Kenya. Plagued by crime, Kate explores the impact on youth.

“Mathare is home to some of the toughest criminal gangs in Nairobi whereby many youths steal and engage in crime to make a living … Many youths have lost their lives, in one year fifty youths were killed, but it was so painful to see the police shooting because they would find the youths holding illegal assembly   eg ‘base’ and ask them to kneel down and start shooting in front of their parents and the community, this was a torture because before they killed them they would beat them up. The youths of Mathare transformed after the introduction of jobs by the government for the youths ‘kazi kwa vijana’ and through educational seminars. In my hood, Bondeni there are many youths that have transformed. I got a chance to interview Kim who told me, ‘‘I was one of worst criminals. I used to recruit young youths and taught them how to use guns and stealing from people especially hijacking cars but thanks God because I have now changed.’’ Kim is now working with nongovernmental organizations like Muungano wa Bondeni  to  help other youths change. Kim is working in one of the Muungano developed toilets projects and saves like other members.”

Milka Njeri, from Huruma, writes about the challenges faced by women in her settlement.  InGiving Hope to Hopeless” she tells the moving story of H-town, a group of young girls, mothers and teenage mums.

“I spoke to Nancy Njoki, a mentor and a founder member of H-town group, “As we grew up gender based violence has been a way of life among young women, but we as h-town we would like to change this belief and help reduce cases of rape and violence women.” In a recent event, one of their members was arrested, taken to court and jailed. She is currently serving a jail term at the Langata women prison for accidentally murdering her boyfriend whom it is alleged wanted to rape her.”

RAILWAY RELOCATION-A COLLABORATIVE DEVELOPMENT APPROACH

 

The Railway Corridor in Kibera

The Railway Corridor in Kibera

 By Shadrack Mbaka

Kenya’s capital, Nairobi has some of the dense informal settlements, which often lack adequate water, sanitation, and other infrastructure or social amenities. However, despite these challenges, there is increasingly goodwill from the Kenyan Government and multilateral development partners who have been keen to improve the standards of informal settlements.

One such flagship project that specifically targets upgrading informal settlements is the Railway Relocation Action Plan, currently being implemented by the Kenya Railways and funded by the World Bank. About 10,000 families living on the railway reserve in Nairobi will eventually be relocated to a new housing scheme from September 2015. This project seeks to develop a model that seeks alternatives to forced evictions.

Continue reading

Update on the Campaign for Sanitation, Land, and Justice: Women’s Journey Continues

By Alice Sverdlik and Shadrack Mbaka

Mukuru Slums

Mukuru Slums

Women in Muungano (Kenya’s Federation of the urban poor) remain committed to a multi-pronged advocacy campaign aimed at improving sanitation, and two leaders at the helm of the campaign recently reflected on their achievements as well as next steps. Since 2013, Dorice Bosibori Moseti of Mukuru kwa Reuben and Anastasia Wairimu of Kahawa Soweto have helped spearhead the initiative, which has gathered over 15,000 signatures from women in Nairobi’s informal settlements. Via this major petition, public demonstrations, and frequent meetings with government, women have built a strong movement to secure their right to sanitation.

Access to sanitation remains a challenge to women.

Access to sanitation remains a challenge to women.

Inadequate sanitation often imposes severe burdens on women and girls, who must use unaffordable public toilets or undignified latrines while at night they may resort to ‘flying toilets’ and tins at home (kasuku). For those who utilise pit latrines, they must depend upon sanitation ‘ambulances’: young men are paid to collect human waste from the plots, but merely dump effluents in nearby trenches or rivers. After nightfall in insecure settlements, women and girls have especially acute challenges when accessing toilets. Anastasia explained that “at night, there is no security of women going out. A man can go out alone, but women cannot” so they must use plastic bags and dispose the waste in the morning. Additionally, Dorice noted that girls in Nairobi’s slums often miss school while menstruating due to inadequate toilets and their inability to access to menstrual pads.

In response, Muungano women are working closely with Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) to demand a formal enquiry into Mukuru’s inadequate sanitation. Recent surveys with over 800 households in Mukuru found that 3.6% had access to adequate bathrooms, just 7% had adequate toilets, and only 29% had adequate water provision. In addition to raising awareness of the problems resulting from slums’ meagre toilets, Anastasia and Dorice envision scaling-up the campaign across Kenyan informal settlements. This larger-scale initiative will continue empowering women and raising Muungano’s profile through creative, dedicated advocacy strategies.

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