Archive for ‘Everyday Life’

June 7, 2012

Mobile Phones and Development

Walking around the community (Mathare) one will notice the high numbers of young with mobile phones. The most preferred handset among the youth are those with access to internet while old people want handset through which they can access Mpesa. People do not care much whether it is a Chinese or European make.

The days of using mobile phones for calling and talking purposes are long gone. This is just like when people used to work with computers for typing alone. When have reached a stage that access to mobile phone is slowly becoming ‘right’ for all.

The use of computers is quite rampant but not as high as use of mobile phones. There is need to investigate how use of mobile phones can be used to enhance service delivery to the people in informal settlement. The identification of services and needs will help software developers to come up with mobile phone applications to enhance efficiency in service delivery.

Having programmes to facilitate access to cheap phones and computers in the informal settlement can help stimulate meaningful dialogue for development. – Simon

June 6, 2012

Elections and Unresolved IDPs Issue in Mathare

As in other places in Kenya, Mathare residents are eagerly awaiting the date for the next elections with alot of anxiety. This is because Mathare constituency has been created and it has six wards. People will be expected to elect an MP and also six county assembly representatives. Possible aspirants have started emerging with promises. One notable thing about aspirants is very few women have emerged to contest in Mathare as a whole. The current atmosphere does not favour women. There is need to support and encourage possible women aspirants.

My worry is that issues related to internally displaced persons (IDPs) has not been fully resolved. Urban IDPs from Mathare area feels that they have been a forgotten lot. Families that were displaced from Kijiji cha Chewa during the height of post election violence feel neglected by the administration. Frequent transfer of chiefs and their assistants has hampered efforts to resolve their issues.

As we approach elections, these families will elect new leadership which might not be sensitive to their needs. There is need to assist these families as new challenges might emerge in coming elections and these might be a forgotten lot. But what will be the result? During the 1992 land clashes in the Rift Valley and forceful evictions of families at Muoroto in Nairobi the end result was increase in the number of street children and beggars in major urban centres. This is a situation that noboday would want to see again. – Simon

 

June 5, 2012

Senator Coons Visits Huruma, Mathare

US Senator Coons on the front row and behind him is  US Ambassador Gration both seated next to their spouses

When a United States Senator visits a community mainly in Africa it has to attract attention. This is a country where most young people would like to end if offered an opportunity. We all know how difficult it is to acquire a US Visa. On Wednesday 30th May 2012 was a very special day for Mathare residents as they played host to Senator Christopher Coons of Delware, United States of America. In Kenya we have memories of President Obama visits as a senator. Accompanying the Senator Coons was US Ambassador to Kenya to Ambassador Gration and both were with their wives. It was a special occasion since the residents had the opportunity to interact but at low level because of the tight security. As usual they were surrounded my mean looking guys. I had wanted to be taken a photo with Senator and Ambassador but it was impossible. The entourage was entertained by Jua Kali Drummers from Amref-Children in Need Project among others.

The main event was not even the short speeches but the peoples aspirations and the poured them out. It is not everyday that one has the opportunity to meet such persons as US Senator and Ambassadors. These are people with direct access to the most powerful president in the world.

So the community members shared their desire to see a peaceful election in Kenya. Peaceful election is vital to the youth and women in the slums. It is very difficult for a poor person to live in an insecure places and in an environment surrounded by corruption. A presenter requested to the US Senator and Ambassador to lobby funding to be channeled directly to grassroot groups  as opposed to big established NGOSs.

A representative from refugee community living in Mathare requested for more protection and security for those fleeing prosecution and getting it difficult to access assistance. What can US government do?

“Poverty amongst youthful population has greatly contributed to insecurity and vulnerability to youth being recruited to the Al Shabaab and Al Queida. Youth needs to be addressed urgently”- Youth representative shared. In Nairobi young people are now turning to Middle East countries as a source for employment a situation which needs to be keenly watched since nobody knows what happens and cultural influence this might have when they return from duty.

At the end of the tour, Senator Coons was presented with sandals made from Korogocho and requested to give them to the Obamas. I hope they will be warmly received.

When I was offered the opportunity to introduce the groups that were present to welcome US Senator and Ambassador, I reminded the delegation about my previous blog when Ambassador Gration was posted to Kenya. I wrote him a letter requesting him to visit not only Kibera but Mathare too. I hope this will not be his last visit to Mathare.- Simon

May 18, 2012

Community First Aid Kits

Walking through any urban informal settlement an outsider will see ‘disaster waiting happen’ scenes. Looking at small children playing cooking games with fire, women washing clothes in dirty river, haphazard crossing of Juja Road, open electric wires, possibility of being mugged in dark place,  regular fire outbreaks and people living next to big rocks. The dangers posed broken sewer and open ones are even great incase of major disease outbreak. All these are scenes one will encounter while walking in Mathare.

There have been cases of fire outbreaks which led to loss of life and this was contributed by lack of access road in the inner parts of the community; There are no emergency numbers readily available in the community that people can call for assistance. When assistance is called it takes longer than usual since most people will expect community leaders to be the person to call.

Those who gets injured through various activities both good and back have to seek assistance in far places since the health centres near the community do not operate of 24 hrs basis. This mean that if a disaster strikes at night then it is most likely that number of causalities will be very high compared with day time. Availing first aid kits in strategic points within the community can help reduce number of casualities.  While there has been investments in improving infrastructure, very little has been done to deal with disaster. Having emergency telephone/mobile number people can all and erecting first aid centre can help reduce the number of causalities.  – Simon

February 7, 2012

Womb’s for hire in matharevalley

Getting employment in Kenya informal settlements has become a very difficult and that’s why many youths involve themselves in various activities so as to sustain themselves. In mathare there are lots of illicit brew being sold in broad day light and nothing is being done by the government to control it commercial sex working has become a major gold mine in mathare especially in Huruma during the night you will find very nice ladies dressed in seductive cloths so as to attract attention of men passing by I recently interviewed one street girl in which I had to pay her one hundred shillings for a talk with me. I spent 20 minute chatting with her but what truly impressed was a story old ladies who usually come requesting them if some can volunteer at a cost to give birth to their husband.

By the way It didn’t last for twenty minute a very old lady came in driving a very nice black Mercedes Benz which was playing soft vernacular music she later parked her car outside and come in waking majestically like a queen what surprised she come straight to where I was sitting and requested the lady I was talking with to come for a minute since she was a well known street girl around, I was left wondering  on what they were planning something knocked my mind that I was about to be drugged or killed but I prayed God for my security then I took my time to listen keenly drinking my soda slowly but all my attention was set to get what the old lady telling the street girl but the only thing which I was earring was that can you accept to give my husband baby and then I will pay you huge sum of money after birth.

The lady decline the offer but later referred her to another street girl for negotiations after thirty minute she accepted offer to give birth to her at cost of one hundred and fifty thousand:-  Javin

 

February 3, 2012

Children Using Space

Creating good a conducive environment for all to enjoy is the most challenging aspect in slum like Mathare. There are always huge piles of uncollected solid waste, broken sewers, use, noise pollution, limited space for children to exercise their right to play, lack of social amenities for the youth, no social halls or club house for elderly to meet and discussion about their own issues.

Despite all these, people still live and survive against all odds. The limited space available is shared amongst different groups. Like Huruma Sports Ground host various Christian crusades but it has produced some good and international soccer players while at the same provides bulk of players for street soccer in the Kenyan team.

On the other hand Mathare river host various socioeconomic activities despite high levels of pollutions. Various youth groups have managed to reclaim riparian land along the river and started urban farming activities. The good thing abour urban farming is that the youth do not use polluted river for irrigation.

Children make use of any available space to exercise their right play not caring much danger associated. It is common to find children playing next to a garbage hip or beside the river. – Simon

January 28, 2012

Using social Media to monitor government projects in mathare

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The government of Kenya is spending millions of shillings through constituency development fund and local authority transfer fund so as to improve the condition of its citizens in both formal and non formal areas here in Kenya but now these funds as now turned to be a swimming pool of money to some members of parliaments and some councilors to get rich quickly without struggling later leading millions of Kenyans to suffer and languish in poverty. That is why Map Mathare team and the experience gained in one of Plan international Kenya projects in Kwale County (YETAM) Youths empowerment through art and media we decided to conduct the same initiative here in mathare.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                But ours was done differently due to security reasons most of CDF and latf official are very influential and powerful people in the community so we decided to hide our faces. We have hosted a webpage which will be used as tool of evidence to both community and government representative to hold leaders accountable to their selfish deeds. The auditing report was drawn from CDF website Stareheand LAFT report was drawn from community members.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   During the auditing the results were shocking since most projects stalled, incomplete and the community members were only involved in the identification stages and later kicked out during the implementation processes for more information here is our findings please visit cdfandlatifstarehe.wordpress.com

January 27, 2012

Elections and Food Insecurity

Urban farming demonstration centre in Mathare funded by European Union

Mathare depends on mainly food transported from outside. This therefore means that if a small disruption occurs then outsider traders cannot access Mathare and sell their food. It also mean that people will not have enough food for survival.

Walking down the valley, there is very little efforts being put by either the government or NGOs to invest in food security. It is common knowledge that during the last election period, traders could not access market to sell their commodities. In one of the villages-Mathare 4B and Gitathuru in 2008, people resorted to breaking houses to steal food and not electronics equipments.

I remember when peace had return after post election violence many NGOs started initiative addressing food insecurity. Currently the most visible programmes on food security in Mathare is the one being led by COOPI where by vulnerable community members are given Kshs. 1500 for food per household. This has been going on close to one year.

Given that we are nearing elections in Kenya, it will be good for various actors to invest more on ensuring that there will be enough food in the market by exploring ways of creating community based silos to store food in vulnerable communities so as to avert food crises. Currently various parts of Rift Valley such Burnt Forest have bumper harvest on maize. From previous elections in Kenya, it is common knowledge that whenever we have elections, case of food insecurity has always been reported.

There can be no free and fair elections if people are hungry. Democracy and access to food and security will always go together. In urban centres it is even worse. Investing more in urban farming and food storage facilities would help avert previous cases of food insecurity before or after elections. – Simon

January 19, 2012

Barcelona shines But Ronaldo Wins

It is five minutes past mid night or let us just call it 18t January very early in the morning and were all gathered in small video room which we have paid Ksh. 25/- to witnessed the greatest club match on on earth between Barcelona FC and Real Madrid at ‘Wembley’ video hall. Today the fee has been hiked from Ksh. 20/- to Kshs. 25 since it is a special match. The video has about 150 people crammed in ready to watch the big match. If you are an outsider you will be lying to yourself that people are there to watch the two teams or support José Mourinho or Pep Guardiola. Here it is all about Messi and Ronald. There are more people supporting English Clubs than individual players. Even Mathare United a soccer club in Kenya Premier League and which is being coached by Gabrial Njoroge who happens to be from Mathare Kosovo would not be able to attract this kind of support unless Ronaldo or Messi becomes the coach.

As the match is started people will arguing about the two players. From exchanges one realizes how people are informed about soccer and these tow players. One of the argument I picked who is rich between the two since it nearly generated into ‘war’. Who is rich among them? ” a guy shouts from Ronaldo’s corners and shouts its Ronaldo…now way Messi supporters interjects that it Messi. Another young comes with his Nokia C3 models and says that Ronaldo appears on the list of richest sportmen ahead of Messi…to prove his point, he googles and show us Forbes list showing. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2011/04/20/the-worlds-highest-paid-soccer-players/. Never mind this a 2010 list. A few Messi supporters come forward to look and confirm but some are convinced but majority no…11th minute of the game Ronald scores and the hall erupts into wild celebration. All this is happening a few minutes past mid night. To Ronaldo’s supporters the match is over and there are constant calls by Ronaldo’s supporters for the match to be ended. I wish both Ronaldo and Messi could this live too. I am sure they would love it more than playing back in Spain.

Messi’s team equalizesthrough Carles Puyol on the 49th minute of the game. One would have expected Messi supporters to celebrate but this is not the case. This is not a goal unless Messi’s scores. All this time Ronaldo’s supporters are constantly make loud noise. The match continues and a lady is busy selling coffee and hot donuts. The match only comes to life in the hall when Ronaldo or Messi are with the ball. But again between 75th – 77th minutes supporters of Messi take up the hall through shouts and whistling; and when he passes the ball to Abidal to score, Messi supporters groan with anger. According to them, Messi should have scored himself. When the match ends….The winner is not Barcelona, Pep, Jose or Real Madrid but Ronaldo  is. It is dead at night but supporters of Ronaldo are more happy than those of Messi. Am left wondering why English football is still more preferred than others? – Simon

January 18, 2012

Violence and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Mathare 3C: Violence victim at Kenyatta National Hospital

Mathare 3C is well known for brewing of chan’gaa and on several occasion for eruption of violence. On 15th January 2012 rumours had it that 16 pangas had brought into the community in readiness for the announcement from Hague. In another section of the community, small traders located opposite Moi Air Base are living in fear of possible eviction from the site. Reason? Several soldiers have been attacked by criminals hiding in the nearby slums. Small traders are waiting for possible eviction anytime from now. Traders from different ethnic background have decided to deal with criminal and they have formed a group to keep vigil and ensure no more thieve will operate in their zone.

Elsewhere women are discussing increased insecurity in the area whereby their husbands have been attacked by criminals on their way from work

In the evening of 15th January 2012; local leaders, small traders, administration and senior police officers have organized a meeting to discuss the escalating insecurity and tension in the area and also looking at the rumours about the pangas. Why did someone bring 16 pangs?

After meeting that night, violence erupted.  Five people who actively contributed and participated in the security meeting are attacked. They are left bleeding and nursing serious wounds after being attacked. Two people are admitted in intensive care unit (ICU). A few community members come forward to donate blood.

The following morning tension is high and the real reason behind the violence has been overlooked and distorted. The area MP, Hon Margaret Wanjiru appears on the scene…as usual being a politician she politicize the whole issue. The criminals who were being pursued by traders turn it into tribal war. From the above scenario it is becoming evident that gangs are emerging and insecurity is slowly creeping in. At the end of it all weapons of mass destruction to watch out as we approach elections are; rumours, politicization of issues, stones, pangas/machete, tribalism, fire and forceful eviction. –  Simon

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