Archive for February, 2011

February 27, 2011

Celebrating Slum Women and use of ICT

Handset: Cell phones

Today, I would like to join the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day while acknowledging how the introduction of mobile phones has helped hastening development among women in Kenya. I want to acknowledge the role of mobile use among women of Mathare Valley. Most women use the phone for communicating and money transfers. The use of social network is not very popular with older women. The most popular social network is Facebook especially amongst young ladies.

From Mlango Kubwa to Kiamaiko it is estimated that 1 out of 7 women have access to mobile phone. I met a group of women and when I asked them what they will choose between a mobile phone and laptop, many preferred the cell phone. The most preferred handset is Nokia while handsets from China are preferred for their affordability.

Women with access to mobile have greater chance of having more social support base and feeling safe than those without. Take a case of the lady who was nearly raped by the neighbor, she found it convenient to call for assistance and within twenty minutes she was on her way to the hospital and one later she was at the police station.

In fact the use of mobile phone has really helped bridge the digital divide that nearly hampered access to internet for sometime. Computer and access to internet was expensive beyond the reach of many slum dwellers. Given that women control social and economic life of most slums, the mobile phones have helped facilitate communication and other transaction. Mary Muthoni is a member of three merry-go-round scheme. She does not have time to attend the three meeting at once. In one of the saving scheme, she makes her contribution through the Mpesa. She now preferred saving her money in her phone as opposed to the bank since it is less cumbersome. This has helped her save time and money.

The illiteracy among women has not deterred them from the use of mobile phone. The handsets are easy to use as opposed to computers which require training on basic skills plus expensive infrastructure for the initial set up.

Maybe the next step will be to ‘train’ people on the use of Twitter and YouTube even though corrupt, dictatorial and authoritarian African states have became allergic to the social network.

The theme for 2011  is Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.

The event will be celebrated in Nairobi at Huruma Grounds and is being co-ordinated by Amref-Kenya and White Ribbon. Reality Tested Youth Programme will mobilize women and young ladies from Mathare, Huruma and other parts of the Nairobi County. The event will be used to promote safe motherhood. – Simon

February 25, 2011

Broken sewers in Mathare

Tags: ,
February 25, 2011

No playgrounds in Mathare slum

Tags: ,
February 25, 2011

Danger of road accidents in Mathare

Tags: ,
February 19, 2011

Eviction: Life Goes On

Children playing with water, broken pipe

Jane Waithera has been a resident of Njagwani for the last five years and now his life about to end. She will be attending court hearing together with other residents to pursue justice against an eviction notice issued by the National Youth Service. When I visited Jane together with her two daughters it was quite allover an indication of both sadness and abandonment. A place that had 5000 residents now has about 1000 people who live in fear of possible being bulldozed at night. Small children are the most affected as they are lonely.

Water is the biggest problem in the area. The broken pipes run close to the open drainage thus exposing residents to possibility of disease outbreak. There are no shops operating for fear of being attacked and minimal customer. Tomorrow I will visit the area at night so that I can see for myself how people are coping.

Jane believes that having Prof. Yash on their side, they stand a chance of winning the case. Where do 5000 people go? That was her last words to me before disappearing to fetch water for her family. – Simon

February 19, 2011

Life on the Edge of Justice

Hezron outside his house at Njagwani, NYS

Hezron Akinga Agwanda, 32 a father of four has been on the trail of eviction one after the other. He first came face to face with the reality of being evicted in 2002 after the death of his grandfather. The grandfather entrusted him with three rooms in Mathare North, Quarry slums. The slums are located off Outer Ring Road.

Today I joined him for a walk through the Mathare North so that I can understand his predicament. Our journey started at Ruaraka Police Post and Mathare North’s Chief’s Offices where has been reporting his cases. The first time he reported a case involving him and the tenant who had refused to pay the rent. In process, his tenants conspired with the village elders and the ownership of his structures changed hands. This happened after the village elders decided to register all the houses so that they can pursue legal ownership of the land. It is in the process of registration that Hezron lost his house to an outsider since he could not afford to pay Kshs. 30,000/-. Those who paid the fee, managed to be issued by allotment letters by the village elders.

The ‘Outsider’ land then started demanding rent from Hezron who refused to paid rent. Hezron has been more report to the police more than 10 times about the harassment including physical injuries he has been subjected to by goons hired by the new owner. Hezron has also previously reported the matter after a death threat delivered through phone and the matter is still under investigation.

The case became hot and finally the security chairman of Quarry slum decided that all tenant vacate the houses while they seek a permanent solution. Unfortunately the houses were later demolished and Hezron was threatened with arrest by the chief. The new ‘owner’ of his houses is claimed to be working in the office of the vice president wants to erect stone building.

With nowhere to go, Hezron decided to move to move to Jangwani as it is one of the cheapest place to live within Mathare. House rent is between 300/- to 700/-. Currently he is faced with possibility of being evicted again. The residents through the assistance of Kituo cha Sheria and Prof. Yash Pal Ghai have lodged a petition in court challenging the eviction notice. The case is slated for Monday 27/2/2011.

Hezron is fighting for justice to have a shelter not caring if it is in the slums or not. But he is fighting a tough battle and today I joined him in trying to establish the facts on the ground.  Hezron sometimes feels like he is fighting a loosing battle as the new owner is ‘powerful’ working in the office of the vice president.

At this time I turn to Kofi Annan for inspiration and direction on why I have to fight for justice: “….lack of respect for human rights and dignity is the fundamental reason why the peace of the world is so precarious, and why prosperity is so unequally shared”: On June 19, 2006, Kofi Annan the then UN Secretary General during a Human Rights Council in Geneva said. Simon

February 19, 2011

Working in Mathare Valley

Young Girls at Seminar in Mathare

While all slums have similar characters and challenges others will always require a deeper understanding of the area, its people and culture. I have met very many development workers who have worked in Kibera, Korogocho, Mukuru area but when they come to Mathare Valley they are forced to change their strategy.

I am proud and I like my community (Mathare Valley) very much. People are very friendly and receptive to all kind of projects. Part of the reason could be that people are always willing to volunteer in empowering their own community.

Right from youth groups to women groups, you will find people willing to learn something new to benefit the community. At Jonsaga Hotel, a week hardly passes without a seminar or workshop being held for the residents of Mathare Valley. This illustrates how committed people are to address their challenges.

The success and community participation in any project initiated in Mathare Valley will always depend on how it is introduced, respecting community structures both formal and non-formal, understanding people’s cultural background. The best case study in Mathare Valley is that of the stalled Mathare 4A Upgrading Project. The intention was good but it was more driven by the well designed as opposed to keeping the community engaged and informed about each and every process.

Ensuring that the community is engaged is critical and focusing all their attention and energies towards their challenge. Sometimes giving people allowances and lunches distract people’s level of participation and the process no longer becomes sustainable.- Sim

February 18, 2011

Waste Management

Waste field in Mathare North

Waste management has a become major problem in Mathare north and its environs. In the past Nairobi city council had the capacity and machinery to handle waste but due to curruption, proper waste management policies and proper resource management things are falling apart because waste is being dumped every were.

Ateku, project manager for a progressive development organization (CBO), says that in the year 1996 up to the 1999 they were handling a capacity of two to four tonnes of solid waste per day, but due to rapid population growth in the urban areas they are now handling a capacity 10 to 15 tonnes of waste per day. But due to ignorance from Nairobi city council and the Government who failed to assist them to secure funds and suitable places to dump, nowadays waste is being littered every where which in return has made mathare and its environ untidy and filthy both for children and grown ups living around.

George Wambua, children rights activist, says that most CBO’s working within mathare lack machinery in terms of tools, man power, vehicles which will help them transport waste to the government designated area which is about 40 kilometer from mathare north. In return it has led to a wider spread of waste being dumped everywhere and the talk of the day is that there is wider spread of cholera and asthma being transmitted to young children who have got no proper playing grounds, hence they end up playing with garbage leading to early death cases.

Our request to the Goverment, National and International NGO’S is that” waste is money ”if managed well. Most of the youths living within mathare north are idle and jobless, which in return has wider spread of crime and death of young people between the age of 12 to 18 years. Please help equip the local CBO’S around mathare north with machines so that they can improve their working standard and the environment.

– Javin

February 17, 2011

School In Need


Upendo Education Centre

In the year 2004 Yuvenalis Nyaingero had a vision and mission of improving the living standard of the young children through education so that they can become self reliant leaders of tomorrow. Since then Nyaingero started an initiative called upendo educational center being one of the project under AIC (African Inland Church) Upend mathare north area three.

Mr. Nyaigero says that due to poverty, rapid population growth, HIV& AIDS, post election violence, unwanted pregnancies,displaced children,orphans,gender base violence, inadequate space of admission in government primary school, this what forced him to start an initiative of giving young hopeless and street children education in a small ghetto of mathare north.

The institution only survive with church contribution, school fee  which is being paid able parent, and offering which is not enough to sustain to pay teacher and later develop the institution from its current state.

Here are some of the problems facing Upendo Education Centre

  • Toilets:-Upendo Education Center has got only one toilet which is being used both by community living around who some of them are sick, drunkered some of the children have contracted disease in their private parts.
  • Water:-the institution has got no point teacher relies on water which is being transported by cartels at a price of thirty shilling per jerrican.
  • Teachers:-with more than one hundred and fifty children upendo educational center has got only six teachers.
  • Medical facilities
  • Infrastructure:-The church works as class for than one hundred and fifty children their is no partition to separate them if you are out side you may think that their seminar going on the church.
  • Food -Due to poverty half of the children in Upendo Educational Center come to school every day hungry, teacher have to look for other means so that they can assist hungry pupils since they can no read or concentrate on hungry stomach
  • Lack of proper playing ground
  • Security its very poor
  • Lack of Staff room
  • Reading and writing materials, Library


Toilet at the center

Any person willing to help improve the living standard street children, orphans, displaced children of Upendo Educational Center you are allowed to do so because they are the future leaders of tomorrow.

– Javin

February 16, 2011

Youth Livelihoods

The current situation being addressed by the community

The high level of unemployment, crime, school dropout and poverty in Mathare Valley; youths have been forced to organize themselves for self determination.

The poor delivery of basic services in Mathare Valley has led to the formation of self help groups and community based organizations in Mathare Valley. These groups have been forced to self organize so as to address their challenges since the government has been overwhelmed. For example, there are more than ten groups which have been formed to address unclean environment. The groups collect garbage from people’s houses and in return they are paid by the residents. The local City Council of Nairobi staff from the cleansing department cannot be able to cope. On a daily basis groups deposit garbage in designated areas in the hope that the City Council of Nairobi contracted lorries will ferry the garbage to dumping site.

The delay in the collection has resulted into some unemployed youths initiating sorting of garbage initiatives. Youth are mainly interested in plastics, metal and bottles. Groups can easily sell the sorted waste. Groups engaging in rearing of pigs and cattle also benefit from the organic (food) waste as it is put aside and sold for those undertaking livestock rearing.

Addressing environmental issues has been entry point through which people in Mathare Valley have been organized and engaged in introducing gender, inequality, sports and HIV/AIDS. Mathare Youth Sports Association is an example of a successful group which has tried addressing garbage problem but with little success. It is important for small organic initiative be supported since they are more sustainable and have people’s support. – Simon

%d bloggers like this: