Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

Attempted Rape by a Neighbour

Poster on rape

The community needs more information on issues such as gender based violence

I was holding my phone wondering whether to redeem my Safaricom bonga points or ask for credit through the 131 system. As I was pondering what to do, Jane called. Jane (real name withheld) was violently attacked by her neighbour of four years who has on several occasion threatened to rape. Jane has on three occasion reported the matter to the village elders.   Today – 30/1/2011 she called seeking assistance as the neighbour attempted to rape her but she managed to fight back and in the process sustained serious physical injuries. After listening to her case for three minutes, it dawned on me that she was using her credit to call and also she is traumatized and nursing some physical injuries. I disconnected her and redeemed 15 minutes from my Safaricom bonga points. I called her back and assured her to use all my community connections and contacts to help.

Immediately called the MSF France (Blue House) team for medical assistance in the process, I found myself calling more than 10 people in and three organization which included the local community policing chairman. After all these, I called her not to tamper with evidence of attack as it will be part of the evidence she informed me that, the neighbours had decided to rush her to a private clinic as she was serious bleeding. When we finished our conversation, I called a grass root human rights defender (HRD), Beatrice Caroli who responded with speed. She managed to link up with Jane at the private clinic to offered counselling and moral support. Beatrice later took Jane to the nearby police station. At the police station Jane recorded a statement and she was issued with OB number and told to return the following for tomorrow for P3 forms.

I was left wondering what will happen to her when she returns to her house while the rapist is still next door? This is when the law becomes a challenge; the rapist has to be subjected to due process of the law while tonight Jane will sleep waiting for justice. How long will it take? Jane like many other single women in Mathare live under constant and real threat of violence. -Simon

January 29, 2011

Made on the Streets

Elijah's Group

The boys have lived on the streets of Eastleigh for than 15 years

For the past 16 years Elijah has managed to live in the streets of Eastleigh and earned respect among his peers. He is usually in the company of 17 other boys apart from his wife Kajanie (Jane), 17 yrs, who is currently recuperating after giving birth to a baby boy. Elijah has three other brothers on the team.

The group of 17 usually holds elections every year to elect the chairman and speaker. In the last 7 years Elijah has been the chairman unopposed. He is considering retiring from the post now that he is a father. Another powerful position is that of the ‘Speaker’. The speaker must have a mobile phone apart from being easily accessible by the group members. He is trusted with the groups secrets and he’s also the first contact with the visitors.

During this interview I was first directed to the speaker by a group member Magoti (Knees). After explaining the mission, I was then referred to the group’s chairman who granted me the permission to conduct the interview.


Elijah has lived on the streets of Eastleigh

When you look at the group of boys, one will not realize how organized the boys are despite wearing dirty clothes and torn shoes while others are high sniffing glue.

Most of the group members sleep along the streets of Eastleigh while a few boys have rented a house in Mathare. They refer those who have rented houses as wadossy (the rich).

The boys seek their living out of sorting garbage in the houses nearby and some work as porters for people alighting from the bus with heavy luggage. Those who sleep along the streets also provide ‘security’ to women who own grocery kiosk.

Elijah is respected because every evening he ensures that everybody eats through sharing what each has earned during the day. Failure to share with those who are sick can lead to expulsion or “ex-communication” which means that you are not protected from other boys in case of attack.

The brotherhood level is very high and one is touched by how they respect the group leadership and appreciate living by the group’s code of conduct. Elijah is skeptical of any visitors who comes to the group since little is done to improve their condition by the NGOs working in the children sector. He says that some of the social workers who he has come across are impatient to learn what it really means to live on the street. He claims that he has adapted to this life and feels comfortable. According to Elijah, the most difficult part of their life is accessing housing, washroom, circumcision, medical, baptism and national identity cards.- Simon

Spokeman of the group

Chege, is the speaker of the group

January 28, 2011

Gangs in Huruma

Vision Youth Group


This is a story of one of our fallen friend who was killed by thugs a few days ago. Many youths in our area have turned to mugging people with knives and ending with killing them due to lack of jobs and education. So we, as the youth of Huruma, came together and decided that we form security group whereby we go for operations, that is we search for thugs.

We established a youth group called VISION YOUTH GROUP, situated in Huruma, Madoya village, which aim is to rehabilitate the thugs. We have seen some massive change. Some of our members were thugs themselves and now they have gotten used to the activities that the group runs, that is garbage collection, security, carwash, water vending, rabbit rearing, urban farming, poultry keeping and also acrobatics.

Our future plans is to get the upcoming youths, who engage in drug abuse which are often leading them to killing their neigbours, brothers and other family members, involved in the groups activities. As a group we face financial problems and lack of help from the police to get the thugs which carry small arms off the streets. Our group – Vision Youth Group – has made a great achievement in enabeling the residents to live peacefully without fear of being mugged. We also wish to tell our visitors not to be scared when coming to Huruma because we will provide you with security.



January 28, 2011

Growing Up In Mathare

Happy Children

From left: Peter-preacher, Maina-farmer, Simon-Community Development and Emmanuel-working in USA

As a young boy growing up in Mathare I always wondered why parents came to Mathare in late 60s and decided to settle there. As small boys we would go to river Gitathuru for swimming, near Utalii Hotel. This is where we acquired our aquatic skills. I also learnt one or two tricks about golf at Muthaiga but through watching golfers. I used to visit the dam near the golf course for ‘illegal’ fishing sessions and I would have the rare opportunity of watching our current president playing golf but then he was a minister for health. These are wonderful memories I still carry along. Reflecting back my childhood experience and now that I am a grown up man, I am made to understand and appreciate the warmth and the ready to help attitude that existed within Mathare Valley. While the affluent neighbourhoods will respond quickly to a member of his country club, in Mathare we help our immediate neighbours.  Today I will take you through 8 reasons why it was ‘comfortable’ then to live in Mathare based on available social amenities and leadership;

  1. Housing: The houses then ranged from between 150/-  to  200/-. It was very much affordable. The houses were constructed with soil and small stones
  2. Employment: Most of our parents worked in Pangani and Parklands as artisan or house helps
  3. Security: People knew each other by name. A new person in the area was closely monitored by the village elders. At some point one was asked to state their reason of moving into the new location. The valley was also surrounded by Muthaiga and Pangani police stations and not forgetting the Mathare Chief’s Camp
  4. Education: School was highly valued. There were community nursery schools and every parent made sure that their children were enrolled. Those very needy were assisted by the World Vision through Redeemed Gospel Church led Bishop. Arthur Kitonga.
  5. Youth Development activities:  The late Father Grol and Father John Slinger (still alive) were instrumental in helping youth nurture their sporting skills such boxing, soccer and arts.
  6. Accessibility: From Mathare people could easily reach town, industrial area and the majority who were from Central province could alight from Muthaiga to Mathare Valley easily
  7. Leadership: The local leaders then were very strict, gender insensitive and also ‘dictatorial’ when it came to development.  Nobody would question their decision. Women never participate in the decision making organs of the community.
  8. Fire outbreaks: It was very easy to putout fires. The houses were well arranged and roads wide enough for Lorries and big trucks to pass.

When chief would summon community for the barazas, all shops and bars were required to close or  one will be arrested. Failure to attend the meetings also attracted the wrath of local leaders and the chiefs. I remember there was a woman who butted a man and she was expelled from village 2 to village 1. Not taking into account the man had battered the woman for several years. We have come from far in Mathare.- Simon

January 28, 2011

Spread the Word

She loves computer

Rachael wants be an ICT enterprenuer

Mathare slum is the second largest slum in the Africa and over half a million population of men, women and children live there. Have you have you ever asked yourself what kind of community driven project exists in Mathare? A communication based project known as Slum TV which was formed by a group of youths assisted by Lucas Pisch and Sam Hopkins from United Kingdom to offer an opportunity for people in Mathare Slums to can express and their views through documenting their day to daily lives activities. The project motto is Slumming it in the World Back Street.

The Slum TV project consist of twenty member both boys and girls. Every Friday they hold their meetings to discuss different issues that affect people living in the slums. After group discussion, the team document and edit the footage.  This is conducted twice a month in the community.  After screening the movies in the community views are collected to asses’ success of each shootage depending on the comments and views received from the community members. Later the footage is compiled into DVDs and distributed for free.


Vinick is a community based journalist and also a footballer

Youth are trained of shooting and editing skills for free by some of the pioneers of the project. They are trained on editing, documenting short movies, producing movies and sound trainings. For further information, visit www.slum –tv .org.  – Vinick Kemuma

January 27, 2011

Hope for the Future

The future professionals

Preparing for a better future through studies

All societies are positive of what their children will be in future. Today I was touched by a discussion I had with 35 children from Kiamaiko. We were discussing a community clean up exercise to be carried out at the end of February in the nearby community. As we were discussing what was required such garbage trucks, spades, shovels, rakes and the rest, the discussion digressed into what we don’t have in our community. I was shocked to find that children were influenced to choose careers that will help empower their communities; Below is a response from six children what that want to be in future;


Mwangi, 11: wants to be a teacher in future

James Mwangi, 11 yrs:

He wants to be a teacher. James has been greatly influence by her class teacher who is kind and always ready to assist. The teacher also takes time to know how he is fairing at home more than his mother. He believes that being a teacher will make him be like the teacher.


Kenrich Avoga, 13yrs: He loves cars especially white ones. His dream is to drive a big truck full of goods from Kenya to Rwanda.

Godfrey Nderitu, 13 yrs: He has never taken a ride on a ship and he also loves being in the ocean. His dream is to work in a big ship like Titanic as he has watched the movie. He wants to be a coxswain.


Kenrich Avonga, 13 yrs, wants to be a truck driver

Rachael Wanjiru, 15 yrs: Rachael loves computer. She wants one day to own a computer company. She wants to be a computer engineer.

Wants to be a lawyer

Clementina 14yrs, wants to be a lawyers to fight injustices in slums

Clementina, 14 yrs: She wants to be a lawyer because there are so many injustices in her community and those suffer most are women and children especially girls. Clementina believes its all through being a lawyer that she will be able to protect women and children.

Issa Ismail, 15 yrs: Issa is not happy with the way houses have been constructed in slums. There are no playing grounds for small children. He believes that he will design good estate that children into account.

After looking what these children and who they want to be, I was forced to ask myself, ‘how do I contribute in helping these kind of children to achieve their dream? – Simon

January 26, 2011

German: Foreign Language

Teacher and German language

Mr. Ndeti is a volunteer German language teacher at Ongoza Njia Community Development Centre, Kiamaiko

It is mid morning and six young girls are being taught how to speak German. The class has been going for the last two months. From the look of things, Mr. Abubakari Ndeti has really done a good job as a teacher. Every morning at 9.30 am he teaches German language for free at Ongoza Njia Community Development Centre. The centre was started with funding from the French Embassy in Nairobi. The aim of the centre is to mobilize local resources through partnership with member associations  in Mathare and Huruma to social injustices.

Mr. ABubakari has been speaking fluent German for the last 10 years a skill he acquired from a German friend he met through arts and cultural programme. He has always felt guilty that he is not doing anything to help his community. Teaching German and speaking German gives him a lot of joy.

Apart from German, he can speak Kiswahili, English, Kamba and Kikuyi fluently. When we met at the centre he expressed a desire to be included in the community project as a volunteer and German teacher.

He has a desire to mobilize all kinds of resources that are not being utilized due to lack of employment in slums to improve the community way of life. He asks ‘why deny others your skills and you are not using it for development?’ The current number of student is 15 but sometimes only five attend.


Teacher using a whiteboard to teach students German Language

The students wants to learn German so that they can be able to learn more about the German culture, technology and establish friendship with other youths from German. Vivian got motivated to learn after watch a German TV programme on how to use simple tools. She was frustrated that she could not hear what they were saying even though they were translating. The Ongoza Njia Development Centre is planning to visit the Goethe Institute in Nairobi to seek partnership as many youths have expressed a wish to learn the language.- Simon

January 25, 2011

The Real Mathare

The Hidden people

Inside these houses, people are warm and caring

The big talk about improving housing in Mathare Valley is quite different with the actual situation on the ground. Many projects have been formulated and conceived with sole purpose of ensuring housing as a human rights is recognized and appreciated. Walking through Mathare Valley, one will be touched by over crowding, poverty and sorry state of the toilet and water points.  But what about the people?

I really like the beauty hidden by the houses. Inside these houses one will be met by smiles, joy and laughter beyond expectation. This is a place where people are ready to share with strangers whatever little they have despite poverty.

One will be amazed by determination and ambition of the youths. While the older people have resigned, the younger generation of our people are optimistic. The opportimism stems from the fact that every day people are ready and eager to face daily challenges despite being denied basic needs due to previously bad leadership.

Next time you visit Mathare, share your experience with the world about the people, food, smiles and above all, the beauty. – Simon

January 24, 2011

Prayer of a Slum Dweller

Our Mayor at City Hall,

your Worship is your other title.

May development reach all the slums,

as is it in City Centre and Lavington,

for we pay taxes,

just like other Kenyans.

Lead us not into uncollected garbage situation,

but provide us with garbage trucks on time,

as it in Karen and Runda.

For there might be disease outbreaks

For the resources,

the power,

and the honour,

are all yours

Until 2012.

— Simon

January 23, 2011

Religion in Mathare

Religion, the binding of people to a particular belief and consciousness: it is vital to every human being not only to believe in God as a creator and religion’s Mr. 15 percent man (prophets) but the belief in a higher power above us, to believe that human being were created for a particular reason and purpose. Religion in Mathare is something that is clearly evident. There are streams of churches which give spiritual fulfillment to the dwellers here.

All you need to set up a church in Mathare is a small twenty by twenty room, six benches, a bible and a little spiritual inspiration and Walla! Not forgetting the important offerings sack because it is what boosts the preacher’s morale, fills his stomach, puts his children to school and fills his cell phone with airtime. Preachers taking the offering would rather call it a `blessing’ which sounds fair enough because the money is not stolen, it’s willingly given out, giving a clear indication that Churches are businesses in this side of the tracks. Many would argue that the offering is what made the churches in Kenya not to endorse the newly promulgated constitution; the constitution states that churches in Kenya will be subjected to taxation of the tithe and offerings.

Mathare is predominantly Christian. I am not sure if Christianity was initially preferential or it was forced down to people by missionaries who made Christianity a basis of formal education. Mathare has churches spread out from Mlango Kubwa to Mabatini, Kosovo to Moradi [all villages in Mathare]. There is a wide range of churches in all denominations from African traditional churches like the Legio Maria, Roho Fuweny, Jopolo and Dini ya Musambwa, to the religions which were brought by the European missionaries such as Protestant, Catholic, Anglican and the Salvation army, all different but with one common agenda. On any given Sunday, the Faithfulls of mathare would colorfully dress to attend church. This is mostly popular with children, married couples, and older folks. Teenagers and young men seldom go to church, it’s not the `in thing’ I suppose.


In mathare there is a new kid on the block. The world’s most fastest growing religion has not left Mathare slums out of the action. It’s the talk of the town and its one of its kind here in Mathare: I am talking about the newly opened masjid ul nur mosque in Mathare area 4B. The first day I heard the call to prayer from the new mosque, I, just like all Mathare residents was amused because Islam is very rare in this side of Nairobi. Islam is a religion in which the followers believe in the ideals taught by the prophet Muhammad and the teaching of the holy book The Quran. The 4B mosque was built by peasants who migrated from the North Eastern part of the country to their newfound home of Mathare in search of education, employment and a new life.

Due to strict Islamic teachings Islam could not thrive in Mathare in the earlier years because of sanitation conditions and social restrictions set in the Islamic code of conduct. In the 80’s and 90’s when there was an increase of people moving into the slum, this was not in line with the planning of the city, people were crammed in to an small area without toilets and sanitation centers. That’s where the infamous technique of the `flying toilet’ was discovered. As the name suggests, it is the act of doing your business in paper bag and taking your best swing. This, together with the fact that changa is brewed and sold here, this is at loggerheads with a conservative Islam religion. In the long run, this would leave the poor Muslims as non-practicing-muslims, and they may sometimes lose their religion. The fact that Islam is a new religion in the slum is something that should teach us tolerance and not religious violence. It is also such a shame that religion has not been used as a tool to maintain the peace in Mathare because is a powerful element in a person’s life.

– Jeff

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