Access to Shelter in Mathare

Having a comfortable shelter is dream to many slum dwellers. The business of accessing shelter had always been in the hands of elected leaders, village elders and local administration (sub-chief and chief) in  Mathare Valley. In Mathare village 2, it was the village elders who would identify a space and collude with elected leaders and local administration to decide who to benefit.

One of the key requirements in the 1980s was availability of funds by the beneficiary to put up the structures. Failure to put up the structure on time would lead to the re-allocation to another ‘investors’. Since most of the people in Mathare could not afford to put up the structures, the community was invaded by ‘private developers’ who were mainly outsiders.

When allocating space to build houses elected leaders, village elders and local administration never considered leaving spaces for social amenities.  One of the repercussions of not engaging community in development matters is that by 1995, community owned nursery schools in Mathare and Huruma were dished out churches that were pro-establishment.

By mid 80s, most structures were owned by absentee landlord and village elders and cronies of the local administration.  This made it very difficult for tenants to make long term plans for the community.

However with time and opening up of democratic space in 90s, it led to the formation of human rights and social movements in Mathare Valley. These groups have been instrumental in engaging the elected leaders, village elders, local administration and other government agencies about their rights.

Currently any development being initiated in Mathare Valley, the community must be engaged. This has helped control illegal evictions. – Simon


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