Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) is an initiative by young members of the community to promote social justice in Mathare. For years Mathare has been a place where much violence has been allowed to go on without any redress for the community, especially as most continue to live in fear of the consequences of standing up for their rights. These forms of structural violence include, but are not limited to, land grabbing, forced evictions, police abuse and extrajudicial killings, political impunity and other economic, social and psychological violations.
In view of this ongoing situation, a collective of young community activists in Mathare came together in 2014 to envision a centre that would promote more participatory forms of justice. Since then, as a registered community based organization, we have been involved in a number of initiatives, most notably our foundational campaign to document extrajudicial killings that resulted in the launch of our 2017 report titled: Who is Next? A Participatory Action Report Against the Normalization of Extrajudicial Killings in Mathare. This grassroots report documented over 803 Kenyans killed by the police between 2013 – 2016. We have also completed community research on the right to water, called Maji ni Uhai Maji ni Haki (Water is Life, Water is a Right): Eastlands Residents Demand Their Right To Water, disability justice in 2020, and in early 2021 launched a report on the experiences of mothers and wives whose kin had been killed by the police. This latter report is called: From Victims to Community Defenders.
We work in all wards of Mathare to fulfil our core mandates: social justice advocacy and the documentation of human rights violations. These objectives are captured in both our vision and mission which are:
Our Vision: To have a Mathare free of human rights violations
Our Mission: To promote social justice through engaged community and social movement platforms
Principles: Commitment; Solidarity; Integrity; Inclusiveness; Nonpartisan and Collective Leadership
Currently our ongoing campaigns are:
- Art for social change
- Reproductive justice
- Participatory action research (also overall coordination)
- Extrajudicial executions and police abuse of power
- Political accountability
- The Mathare Green Movement (ecological justice campaign)
- MSJC Kids Social Justice Club
- Disability justice
- Maji ni haki (water rights campaign)
We have three levels of leadership: an advisory council, the secretariat and the membership. The advisory council includes notable long-term activists who have supported us over the years, including Yash and Jill Ghai of Katiba Institute, Willy Mutunga, former chief justice of Kenya and Charles Maina of the International Justice Mission.
MSJC works within the Social Justice Centre’s Working Group (SJCWG); the SJCWG is a determined network of close to 30 grassroots centres working on human rights and social justice issues in Kenya. We also have a number of intentional international solidarity relationships, including with Papo Reto in Complexo de Mare in Rio de Janeiro
While a majority of our members are between the ages of 18-45, we work with and for all generations, genders and ethnicities in Mathare and beyond.