Posts tagged ‘Empowerment’

August 17, 2014

Mathare, Informal Financial Services

Mitchel, a member of women go round from Mathare

Mitchel, a member of women go round from Mathare

Not everybody is a friend of banks and especially in the informal settlements where communities’ have circumvented established financial institution and devised ways of accessing credit facilities outside government controlled channels. Informal financial services vary from shopping of credit without paying an interest, shylock and merry-go-round initiatives.
It is common to meet a group of women meeting in homes or social places within Mathare to discuss ways of sharing collected money without think of banking. But what makes this kind of arrangement better than a variety of services offered by commercial banks? Eunice Wanjiku a member of unregistered women group believes that financial institution are not good for startup initiatives found in the Mathare like selling groceries, second hand clothes or starting chang’aa a local beer businesses. She quips “can you imagine a bank giving me Kshs.5,000 to start chang’aa business?, this is impossible. My previous engagement with a financial institution nearly made me develop ulcers. I will never take a loan from a bank again. They nearly sold my house”
There are many different types of businesses which are profitable according to the locals but unfortunately one cannot get easy credit to invest from established financial institutions. Fortunately, people have developed alternative strategies of attracting credit like forming merry-go-round and table banking initiatives. These groups are formed by likeminded and people who know each other very well. Here, loans are given out of trust with little intrusion from the lending group on the exact nature of your business. Mish, a young enterprenuer consulted fellow women and is in the process of getting Kshs.10,000 which she will refund with 5% interest over a period of six months. She was frustrated by commercial banks which asked so many questions and required her to save for at least three months before she could access the loan.
Requirements to access start-up business loans suitable for slums based businesses are minimal and this has contributed to mushrooming of shylock businesses within slums. In some places, community members own more than one or two expensive electronic item such as phones of TVs which they use for accessing loans from shylocks. Here the interest is quite high with the value of your item being determinant of how much you can access. The local shylocks are very strict and merciless. Failure to pay of time your valued good is sold to friends at a throw away price.
Our financial institutions have a long way to go in understanding how informal financial transaction operate and varied opportunities which needs to be tapped. In the informal settlements, most loans are on short term basis between 1 week to six months and default rates are quite low compared with commercial banks.

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August 13, 2014

Devolving Accountability Discussion: Sauti Yetu Debates

Sauti Yetu Debate forum at Kiamaiko

Sauti Yetu Debate forum at Kiamaiko

Mathare Constituency is home to one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Nairobi and also in Kenya. When the Constituency Development Fund was making allocations for 2013/2014, it was announced that the constituency is host to more than 70,000 people who live below poverty.
Since 2013, there has been a lot of movement surrounding Women Fund, Youth Fund and Uwezo Funs plus 30% of government tender set aside to for youth and women. To access these funds, communities need to be engaged and involved. Participation by community members depends on how well informed is community will be.
For the last three years, Inunka Kenya under the banner of Sauti Debates have been organizing Community Forums in Mlango Kubwa, Hospital, Mabatini,Ngei, Huruma and Kiamaiko wards in Mathare Constituency to create awareness amongst community members and engage elected leaders in discussing priority areas. Experience from these debates has shown that five mains issues that have kept on emerging are security, education, health, environment and poor governance.

Facilitator, Tony in action at Kiamaiko Sauti Yetu Debate

Facilitator, Tony in action at Kiamaiko Sauti Yetu Debate

Observing these debates in session one will appreciate the willingness by community members to participate in these sessions. Regular leaders who have co-operated to participate in these forums are Hon. Andrew Macharia of Mlango Kubwa, Hon. Dan Mutiso Ngei, Hon. Jimmy Kinuthia while Mabatini Ward County Rep. Hon Odalo (Rafuok) has not been having an easy time with high expectations from community which sometimes has even resulted into almost physical confrontation.
It is clear from Sauti Yetu Debates that community members knows what the problem is, while leaders hide behind the policy guidelines governing management of the funds. On the other hand, it is Hon. Andrew Macharia from Mlango Kubwa has hinted in traducing bills at the Nairobi County Assembly parliament that the community would benefit from. Community members have had difficult time understanding the role of elected leaders hence leading to high expectation beyond their mandate. Sauti Yetu Debates have been able to fill in the information gap that is experienced during debate. Currently Sauti Yetu Debates is being handover to experience community based organization to continue organizing such forums in future.

February 7, 2014

Maps and Slums

mathareNairobi is home to more than 100 informal settlements with little basic social amenities of low standards. The most ‘famous’ slum in Nairobi is Kibera. This is a place with many NGOs activities than schools.

There is high presence of NGOs in Kebera plus the place being put on the world map courtesy of OpenStreet Map However the residents continue to live in usual conditions found in slums. However there is hope for Kibera unlike Mathare. If the Kibera slum upgrading is completed and the houses distributed fairly without corruption then we headed to good times. Slum Upgrading projects are better off if the development process is monitored by various stakeholders.

kibera

Looking at the informal settlement in http://www.openstreetmap.org , in Nairobi section one notice that some of the informal settlements mapped are, Mukuru, Kibera, Mathare, Baba Dogo, Korogocho among others. Amazingly, the most mapped slum in Nairobi is Mathare! Almost all schools, health facilities, disaster prone areas have been mapped in details and shared in the OpenStreetMap platform. But has this visibility translated into Mathare being a popular destination with donors compared with Kibera? And what could be impeding factors? (Next week Mathare and Kibera)- Simon

February 1, 2014

Slums and Nairobi Master Plan

I have had the opportunity of being engaged in consultative meetings regarding Nairobi Integrated Urban Master Plan (NIUPLAN) which my parents never did in 1973, this is was the last plan for Nairobi. The 1973 – 2000 master plan was developed and one of the most important issues I have noted was recognition of the urban poor, investment in provision of housing by the council and well equipped city with accessible social amenities like playing grounds and social halls.

In the meetings I have attend, lack of space and high population have been attributed to the break down in provision of services. Listening to various presenters, one easily concludes that the city has been running without master plan for 14 years while urban planning department never had experts and qualified staff to enforce some of the recommendations in the 1970 Nairobi Master Plan. During the 14 years period, Nairobi City went to the dogs. Parking spaces in some city estates were grabbed, sprawling of slums along major Nairobi river become coupled with forceful evictions, the once safe and City in the Sun paradise became Nairobbery.

Slums are not an issues. The current Nairobi master plan assumes that slums will just disappear. Listening to concerns of residents from Marurui, Thome, Kasarani and Mathare issues such as controlled development are never adhered to. In some residential areas such as Huruma, Kayole and Pangani it is common to find buildings with more than six storey without lifts.

Poor road net has greatly contributed to uncollected garbage lying in low income neighbourhoods with garbage collectors’ lorry unable to access inside these place hence continued accumulations on solid waste.

The Nairobi Master plan is a good to start in the right direction.

October 21, 2012

Mathare Elections

Time for voting

Finally Mathare people have their own constituency; Mathare. This will mean that people will elect a new Member of Parliament along with six ward assembly representatives. The two new wards that have createted are Hospital and Ngei wards. The other wards are Mlango Kubwa, Mabatini, Huruma and Kiamaiko

There is alot of political movements on the ground. People who so far come forward seeking parliamentary seat are the current councillor for Kiamaiko ward Mr. George Wanjohi, former Mathare aspirant during KANU era Mr. David Irungu, a Huruma resident Mr. Francis Mbai and the son of the current MP for Starehe Kariuki popularly known as K1.

In 2013 the people will make their choice. for now it is for the aspirant both for county assembly representatives and members of parliament to convince the electorates why they are suitable. – 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

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

March 31, 2011

Coping: Poverty in Mathare Valley

A menu from a local hotel

I am not an expert of the topic of poverty but I am an experienced expert in living with the poor and poverty for 40 years in Mathare. Looking at different projects that have been initiated in addressing poverty, very few invest in poverty according to the basic definition of what is poverty. I am student of development studies at Kampala International University and listening to my lecturer at the campus, I have come to note that many projects do not genuinely address poverty in slums.  The basic definition of poverty is a situation of lack of or limited access to basic human needs. While communities struggle to empower themselves, expert do their best to investigate best practices to address poverty.

A very good example is the innovation and creativity of vendors in Mathare, Korogocho and Kibera who started selling small amount of sugar and maize flour for shs. 5/- to Shs. 30/-. With time, the corporate sector was forced to adapt to the changing times and reality in slums after investigating the buying trends in slums. We now have Blueband Kadogo. A spot check on various menu in hotel revealed that people operate on small budgets. When it comes to water and sanitation, people will try and look for a house near toilet blocks or water points. House next to these two areas is considered to be expensive.

On the financial front most people operate on informal financial systems. Groups meet once per week to repay and take loans. No money is ever taken to the bank. This system is very popular in slums since most needs are urgent. The banking and micro-saving institutions take long to process loans. While formalizing this kind of system, people prefer where they can access their money without difficulty. – 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

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