In the early hours, when the first sun rays start to kiss the Mathare soil, a team from the international health organization medicines sans frontiers roam around mathare slums in search for victims of violence. Cases of violence have been in the rise in Mathare but there is a disgraceful trend in most of the violence cases being reported of late, the cases of child abuse. These cases are of the worst order: having children face abuse is not only illegal but inhumane, cruel, and it’s hard to comprehend such levels of indecency. To add salt to the shameful wound, the abuse cases being report indicate that parents are most likely person to abuse and to subject their children to obscene forms of violence.
The other forms of violence face by the slum dwellers are just but a norm and are often ignored, like when a woman is raped the chances of her reporting the matter to the police are none. All this is because of shame and stigma brought about by rape. Wife battering is typical and often time’s people would disregard the calls and screams of a woman who is being beaten by the husbands and saying that “they were together while falling [in love] so let them be together in fighting”. The people of mathare heal quickly: just six months after the post election violence it was witnessed the people forgot what happened, and the post election violence is a very rare topic to hear people talking about in the squares. But when the violence involves a child it leaves a scar that will last forever, a scar so big it will forever imprinted on the child’s memory when he grows up.
Take the case of woman who in the New Year’s Day severely caused bodily harm to her six year old daughter whom she accused of stealing 30 shillings from her. The child was tied arms together like a thief and then kerosene was poured to her hands and set ablaze. No one came to the aid of the child, not even the other neighbor who’s house is divided by just a thin roofing iron and could hear the child calling out for help. It took the intervention of the of the child’s teacher who was curious after the school found the girl did not attend the first week of school. The teacher decided to go to the girls home only to find the girl locked out of her home because the mother had gone to look for work as house help. With wounds that have started to decay the girl was helped by the teacher to file a report with the Police. After the woman was released just two hours after she was arrested because she is a single parent of three children, she didn’t even bother the following day and she went back to her day job care free leaving her daughter without food and more. Worse, the girl is locked out of her home so she sits outside till evening.
These are one of many cases the that Medicines sans frontier grapple with on a day to day basis After doing their rounds for about 3 hours their van is usually filled with a catalogue of rape victims, child abuse victim, outpatients – mainly those who suffer from HIV and AIDS and Tuberculosis – and these are both adults and children. The victims and patients are driven to the organizations office where they get special treatment for free. The center, also called the `blue house,’ provides free ARV drugs and handouts to the out patients while giving medical care and counseling to rape victims.
It’s a sad plight to the look at the medic’s van in Mathare, but we have to understand that all forms of violence are vices we the people of Mathare created and we just look at them as they happen, but we can stop them. That’s why awareness of any problems facing the dwellers is important, to be able to have a platform which to develop interactions and coexistence with the people of mathare and to discuss on a way to curb insecurity and protection of women and children who live in fear. The talk of neighborhood watch, building police post at every village of mathare, spreading the message of peace and getting the youth engaged in activities that will help transform their life.
Surely it’s a long journey, to convince the men who have lived in a society that believes that battering your wife is a show of manhood, or the women who believe that burning their children will instill discipline. It will be hard to drive the point home, but the target can be just to bring awareness on the youth who am sure will be vocal against violence. And for the political instigated violence based on tribal origin, Mathare slum dwellers themselves should wake up and smell the coffee, or changa for that matter, and they should understand that tribalism is the devil’s dance floor and causes rifts in the society. Our differences should not be a cause for chaos but celebration of our diversity. It all starts with the person him/herself, especially we the youth. We have to have the will and determination to create peace and maintain it for the future generations.