Mukuru Kwa Njenga is a slum in the East of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya belonging to Embakasi constituency. Under the guidance of Umande trust, the community members have come together as one to identify their problems and seek solutions to them. Attending one of the scheduled meetings, I was able to learn so much about this community.
As the Kenyan flag symbolizes Unity for our country, so does the slogan “muungano!” for the community representatives from Mukuru Kwa Njenga ward. The Slogan is a Swahili word meaning union. Their unification is demonstrated by the vehemence the members had as they stood up to introduce themselves: They began by strongly stating the slogan, then their names, where they come from and what they love and hate with regard to making Mukuru a better place.
“I love peace, transparency, security and water and abhor deceit, favoritism and hate,” says one of the community members. She summarizes the major challenges they face from day to day. Based on the meeting, what I realized was that Mukuru faces a major hurdle, water.
They face all the problems related to water, from its cleanliness; some of the members do not access clean water therefore they are sometimes forced to drink water from the sewage, availability; water is accessible only to people living in the flats and some of the villagers, affordability; the prices of water are high making it hard for people to buy the water and seek alternative sources(salty water), accessibility; the people find it hard to acquire water without harassment, quality; treated, clean water is scarce, security; the piped water sometimes is diverted before it reaches the original beneficiary and there is inadequate electricity to pump the water.
To stabilize this, firstly, they went out for mapping to establish water areas where new metres could be installed.Secondly, to get a permanent office from Nairobi Water Company so that the community members and landlords could have a designated area for getting water metres and legal connection. Revive the dormant water kiosks which are sometimes used for illegal business and to investigate on who was given the responsibility of managing them.
The representatives acknowledged not only having challenges but also achievements. They are happy that the World Bank and other non governmental organizations have come in handy to ensure water availability even though it may not be sufficient and constructing some of the water kiosks where some are finished others are under construction. Accepting that charity begins at home, they deem it fit to solve the problems at home first.
They desire to know their rights so that next time they can say ‘’NO!’’ to exploitation and discrimination to water services and disposal of garbage. This responsibility was passed on to the enlightened members, the leaders. Community members who know these rights were reported to have been ignorant to helping out if not directly affected, a behavior that must be clogged.
As we departed one of the members says, “Foundation is what matters. As the rights holders fighting for our rights starts with us.” We all agreed and ended on that high positive note as everyone left for their home.
Written by Jill Apiyo.
Written by Jill Apiyo.