Limited Right to Play for Mathare


Children playing with plastics

In 2010, I had the privilege of hosting the Vice President and later the President of Ford Foundation, Luis Ubiñas. The Ford Foundation is the second-largest private foundation in the United States. My mission was to show him round Mathare and also explain to him what the youth and women groups are doing to address their daily challenges.

Just after visiting the Mathare Environmental Youth Group the hosts of Staken, it was time to go through the valley to Kosovo area in Mathare Village Two. As we entered the slum, the President was shocked to see three little children playing with fire as part of their toys. He was shocked. But the shock on the President’s face has lingered on my mind ever since that time.

Today I came across children playing with old batteries, polythene and plastics and was made to ask myself why are these children exposing themselves to dangers? My mind raced back to an article which I read sometime back which stated ‘Every child has a right to their childhood – a hopeful existence free of exploitation, violence, neglect, and extreme poverty’. The little children were exercising their right to play oblivious of the dangers associated with what they were playing with. I am touched by the determination of these kinds of children who struggle everyday to make toys such as cars, houses, dolls and balls just to play and develop but their surroundings harsh.

Hand made ball from used polythene and sisal  ropes

Ball made from used polythene and sisal ropes from old sacks

Whereas right to play is recognized worldwide very little effort is being invested in providing toys and space for personal development in most slums. Most estates being developed in Kenya do not set aside space for small children for playing purposes.  The most disadvantaged amongst the children are girls as they have very little toys and options apart from dolls and cooking utensils. – Simon


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