January 27, 2012
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
February 27, 2011
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
January 31, 2011
The community needs more information on issues such as gender based violence
I was holding my phone wondering whether to redeem my Safaricom bonga points or ask for credit through the 131 system. As I was pondering what to do, Jane called. Jane (real name withheld) was violently attacked by her neighbour of four years who has on several occasion threatened to rape. Jane has on three occasion reported the matter to the village elders. Today – 30/1/2011 she called seeking assistance as the neighbour attempted to rape her but she managed to fight back and in the process sustained serious physical injuries. After listening to her case for three minutes, it dawned on me that she was using her credit to call and also she is traumatized and nursing some physical injuries. I disconnected her and redeemed 15 minutes from my Safaricom bonga points. I called her back and assured her to use all my community connections and contacts to help.
Immediately called the MSF France (Blue House) team for medical assistance in the process, I found myself calling more than 10 people in and three organization which included the local community policing chairman. After all these, I called her not to tamper with evidence of attack as it will be part of the evidence she informed me that, the neighbours had decided to rush her to a private clinic as she was serious bleeding. When we finished our conversation, I called a grass root human rights defender (HRD), Beatrice Caroli who responded with speed. She managed to link up with Jane at the private clinic to offered counselling and moral support. Beatrice later took Jane to the nearby police station. At the police station Jane recorded a statement and she was issued with OB number and told to return the following for tomorrow for P3 forms.
I was left wondering what will happen to her when she returns to her house while the rapist is still next door? This is when the law becomes a challenge; the rapist has to be subjected to due process of the law while tonight Jane will sleep waiting for justice. How long will it take? Jane like many other single women in Mathare live under constant and real threat of violence. -Simon