Monday, December 15, 2014

HRBA Meeting Narrative At Mukuru Kwa Njenga

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.     

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Trip to Kibera

Outside of the Bio-Centre
Just the other day, I was watching the news and I saw so many activities happening in Kibera. Many individuals within governmental and non-governmental organizations come to Kibera   to gain professional experience and education.. I knew there was something in this place, good or bad, and I was eager to find it out.

Born and bred in Nairobi, I had never been to Kibera making me feel ignorant to the area and what it entailed, a vice I abhor. I mean, Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi and the largest urban slum in Africa. Most of its residents live in extreme poverty, earning less than one dollar per day. I wanted to know how they survive, considering I spend two hundred shillings a day just on transport! People living with HIV/ AIDS are many, cases of assault and rape are common, there are few schools (and schools with affordable prices at that), clean water is scarce (hence diseases caused by poor hygiene are prevalent), and  the majority of residents lack access to healthcare.

After my external research, I came to the conclusion that this is the reason why so many non governmental organizations come to Kibera.Clearly,these are human beings who lack the basic necessities nobody can live without: food, clothing , shelter, healthcare and education, as summed up above.

 These are the things I read about before going to Kibera, and I wanted to see this practically. I ended up in one of the villages in Kibera called Laini Saba, and I visited the Soweto High rise Bio Centre.Since Kibera has so many self-help groups, I was intrigued by this significant aspect of the settlement. I wanted to know the various types of groups there were and the various functions they each have, especially those serving the vulnerable groups such as women, children, orphans and the disabled. I was also engrossed on the status and distribution of the basic necessities such as water, food, clothing and shelter.

I write my personal experience so as to give an imagine of Kibera to those who have not been there. I don’t know about you, but I had formed this attitude about Kibera before my visit, but it changed soon after. Beginning now, I hope to be a good ambassador to those who have never been to Kibera.
 Kibera is not heaven, but definitely not hell either. People do live here, and it is certainly habitable. As I was, you might be surprised to find there are gated communities within Kibera with the same tarmacked parking lots as those you see in posh areas.

However, outside these communities, what covers most of the environment is inorganic litter, smoke, congested housing with rusted roofing. 

But what captured my attention was the Bio Centre that I got to visit; Soweto High Rise. It is one among the many, but also one in a million. Those in charge at the Centre serve their community members with passion, their goal being to permanently settle their members in land owned by them to avoid eviction in the future. They have a team of leaders that are outstanding. This leadership is what captures my curiosity. They are accountable, transparent and service-oriented leaders, a hard quality to find in many organizations these days. Also, they have a constitution (see left), identification cards, certificate of membership (see right and below), and a Saving Scheme initiative, all seen below.

Nevertheless, like any other organization, they face many challenges. I was distressed to learn that presently, they face a threat of being shattered.  One of the outlets of the bio digester tanks faces a road that has plans to expand. The Government’s purpose of expanding the road is to upgrade Soweto The expansion is to conflict with the land the Bio Centre is located. If the outlet is tampered with, then the Bio Centre would need to close down and the effluents would pollute the environment.

Bio-Centre Safe
Sincerely speaking, I loved my visit and I look forward to going back, this time with zeal and a bit more insight to some of the problems I witnessed. This is one management we should emulate. The same that we should fight for to sustain.

 By: Jill Apiyo