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The Mathare People’s Assembly

The Mathare Local People’s assembly was convened at the Mathare People’s Park, and brought together community members and actors from across our struggles to identify various societal issues we are facing.

The Mathare People’s park is a transformed green space that was initially a garbage site, and which now hosts the Ukombozi Library, a children’s playing space, and a community park that offers the community food and a serene environment. It has also transformed young people from drug use and crime, and offered a sustainable form of economic livelihood through activities such as animal rearing and other methods of farming.  

Our assembly was influenced by the urgency to explore an inclusive alternative model that involves the community in addressing its challenges.

For a while, various societies have seemed to confront these challenges at an organizational or an individual level. The objective of the local assembly was to transform the culture of personal alienated approaches which have proven to be ineffective. The assembly also wanted to further grassroots democracy and power to the people.

Mathare happens to be one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, and is suffering from a myriad of social problems including: widespread poverty, lack of basic commodities, crime and chronic unemployment. All of these factors also lead to other grave problems.

The assembly brought 100 participants drawn from the six wards in Mathare, including Kiamaiko, Mlango Kubwa, Mabatini, Kiamaiko, Ngei and 3C.

The participants included children, local community groups, ecological justice organizations, students and elders. Among the grassroots organizations present were the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), Ghetto Farmers, and Green Park and Mathare Community Park members.

Other participants who joined the discussions emanated from the different social movements in Nairobi.

After the introduction of the local assembly’s concept, the participants engaged in a general analysis of the Mathare society; the historical injustices and the current political and social conditions. Thereafter, the members joined the various thematic groups influenced and adopted by the assembly. These are:  

  1. The Ecological and Political Committee 
  2. The Drugs and Crime Committee 
  3. The Waste Management Committee
  4. The Water & Sanitation Committee

The thematic groups appointed a moderator and secretary, collectively examined the situation, and generated a list of possible solutions to explore. Below are the results from the committees:

Water and Sanitation Committee

 Challenges highlighted include:

  • The rationing and diversion of water in areas like Mlango Kubwa where water is diverted to Eastleigh 
  • Water-borne diseases
  • Poor healthcare infrastructure  
  • Effluent and affluent discharges: Mathare Hospital, for example, was seen to emit its waste directly into the river. Also, most of Eastleigh waste is poured directly into the river 
  • Corruption and water cartels 
  • Leaking sewers 
  • Poor waste disposal methods 
  • Poor housing, and people are constructing homes on the river.  

Proposed way forward

  • Participate in public participation sessions e.g. budget making processes 
  • Develop petitions to conduct an inquiry on water institutions in Mathare 
  • Policy development 
  • Creating awareness through community dialogues  
  • Mapping of polluters 
  • Consistent stakeholders meetings 

Waste Management Committee

 Challenges highlighted include:

  • Poor waste disposal 
  • Lack of awareness on waste management strategies  
  • Lack of collaborations and coordination between stakeholders in waste management  
  • Government lacked policies, incentives on waste management 

Proposed solutions

  • Creating waste management awareness programs 
  • Focus on existing networks to build and strengthen ecological network  
  • Establish local waste management plans and strategies 
  • Include children in waste management projects 

Drugs and Crime Commitee

Challenges highlighted include:

  • Poverty which leads to crime, drug abuse
  • Unemployment
  • Addiction 

Solutions proposed

  • Organize campaigns and seminars against drugs and crime 
  • Involvement of different stakeholders in the campaign against drugs and crime 
  • Establish local committees to fight against drugs and crime 
  • Establish learning facilities for children, like local libraries 
  • Creating of co-curriculum activities such as sports and art

Ecological and Political Committee

Challenges highlighted include:

  • Existing ecological injustices and pollution.
  • State violence including: 
    1. Harassment. 
    1. Extra-judicial executions. 
    1. Land grabbing. 
    1. High level of unemployment leading to crime  
  • Lack of political accountability. 
  • Existing gaps in policy development 

Solutions and way forward

  • Establish sustainable sources for economic activity for the youth 
  • Establish public assemblies as institutions to generate solutions for local problems  
  • Intensify political education in the parks and in community centres 

Proposed collective way forward

  1. Establish the Mathare Ecological Justice Network, involving various community parks, which will in turn aid in: 
    • Creating a sustainable base for young people through economic generating activities like farming and seed nurseries 
    • Engage more children in the parks — perhaps an adopt a tree program
    • Establish more green spaces to transform the local ecological situation and to act as spaces for community organising
    • Provide more safe spaces like art centers, community libraries and community retreat centres 
    • Curb land grabbing, encroachment and pollution of the Mathare River; #LetTheRiversFlowCampaign 
  2. Harmonise a collective ecological justice campaign by establishing ecological justice networks in the various informal settlements 
  3. Popularise local people’s assemblies as avenues to generate solutions for the peoples’ problems. Including in:  
    • Kayole. 
    • Githurai. 
    • Ngong. 
  4. Establish exchange sessions with the Indigenous People’s Assemblies and existing assemblies in Italy, Britain and Scotland. 
  5. Organise more workshops and seminars at the grassroots to discuss the creation of local people’s assemblies 
  6. Creating alternatives through bicycles lanes along Nairobi River, from Michuki Park to Ruai 
  7. Create a secretariat to follow up on the resolutions and a guide for implementation 

Report by: Wavinya Kavinya and Waringa Wahome

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Campaign Against Drugs & Crime Dada Talks GBV Campaign Women in Social Justice Centres

Women’s Football Against Gender Based Violence

Women Against Gender Based Violence is an initiative of the SGBV Campaign at Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), in collaboration with grassroots organizations’ advocating against gender based violence and drugs and crime in Mathare. Mathare is one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, with almost 300,000 inhabitants in population, the majority of whom are youth. The rate of gender based violence related cases has been growing in the post-covid period.

Kenya has undergone slow progress in realizing an end to gender based violence and inequalities. However, the process has witnessed obstacles and hurdles due to the societal differences that exist within our various communities. Most of the informal settlements in Nairobi are prone to social injustices and gender related violence, which is intricately connected to the social factors at play.

The majority of the population in Mathare lives under the constant challenge of poverty, thus making them prone to abuse and exploitation. Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) has documented and championed for social justice against sexual violence and other human rights abuses such as rape, domestic violence and defilement. Most of the violations happen from the normalization of the violence within the community, and the exposure of children and young people to the harsh environment has contributed to the increasing rates of gender based violence within Mathare.

On Thursday August 17th, 2023, the “End Gender Based Violences and Sexual Harassment Tournament” was aimed at creating a platform for interaction, exchange and advocacy against the culture of the normalization of gender based injustices. The initiative was inspired by the need to interlink social injustices to all spheres affecting women including their livelihoods and empowerment. Therefore we must prioritise the creation of safe spaces and an environment for the people. The tournament brought various individuals and organizations, which permitted a rich opportunity for robust discussions, healing and advancing to the next step towards realizing an end to gender based violence in Mathare.

The tournament targeted the young mothers who mostly got pregnant at a tender teenage period. Some of whom are referred to as MSJC teen moms. Other objectives of the tournament included the generation of mechanisms to influence policy. Gender based violence cases seem to take a longer period to be processed or acted upon. Members of the community, on the other end, fail to understand or know the what to do when faced with cases of this nature. Therefore, it was important to create awareness of the existing policies, and enable an environment to discuss the challenges in addressing these grave situations. The tournament was held at the Austin Grounds in Mathare with various teams and participants from the Mathare community. It was a collaboration of the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) and the Coalition of Grassroots Human Rights Defenders. Other centres and committees present included the Githurai Social Justice Centre, Kasarani Social Justice Centre and the Ecological Justice Movement.

MSJC teen moms is a support group comprising of young women aged between 13yrs – 19yrs in Mathare. The team’s works towards community transformation, and fighting the systemic violence against women and young girls in Mathare. They also want to find practical means of sustaining themselves through art for social justice. The group is roughly 30 teenage moms from Mathare, who are actively engaged in community initiatives.

On, Thursday, August 17th, 2023, the MSJC teenage moms support group held a match against the CGHRD young mothers in the “End Gender Based Violence & Sexual Harassment Tournament.” Recently, there has been an observable rise in the number of cases of sexual and gender based violence against teenagers aged between 15-19 years. Most of the cases are perpetrated people close to the victims. From family members to friends, and people they know. After the crude encounter with the injustice, most victims tend to isolate themselves from the community and general reality.

The tournament’s main objective was to create awareness on the
fight towards ending these kinds of violences in Mathare as a whole. It also served as a psychosocial support extension for teen moms. The tournament was well attended by the members of the community, and especially men who were the target. After the
tournament, we had an interactive dialogue on the same theme that involved different actors and members of the community. The forum’s purpose was to stir a discussion on the way forward and the next action points. It was also meant to instigate a debate and offer a platform for community assessment and deliberation on issues related to gender relations and the increased rate of gender violence.

As a guide to the action plan, the participants proposed the following:

  1. Organizing monthly football tournaments to create awareness and intensify advocacy against gender based violence.
  2. Consistent documentation and referral of gender based violences. This needs an active gender based violence desk in specific zones, and during the tournaments.
  3. Collective design of mechanisms to promote psychosocial support among victims and survivors of gender based violence.
  4. Adopt creative modes like art, sports and theatre to sensitize and advocate against gender based violence.
  5. Consistent reflection, analysis and proposal of relevant policy.
  6. The creation of a collective framework in the fight against gender based violence.
  7. A campaign on drugs and crime in Mathare and other informal settlements.

More pictures from the tournament are below:

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Campaign Against Drugs & Crime

Campaign against drugs & crime

By Waringa Wahome

Our local community forum, which was held on Friday, June 2nd, involved strategic deliberations aimed at action against drugs and crime in Mathare. It was convened by the Campaign Against Drugs and Crime of Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), and in partnership with Haki Africa. The meeting was attended by 44 people, among them youth and the elderly from the different sectors; local traders, business people, persons in recovery from drugs and crime, youth group members, community based organizations, local village elders and community members. The main objectives of the forum was to analyse and reflect on drugs and substance abuse. Above all to: (1) Identify factors that drive young people to drugs; (2) Understand the linkage between, drugs, crime and violence; (3) Examine the role that poverty plays in driving young people to drugs; (4) Evaluate and agree on what is to be done going forward. 

In April 2022, Lucy Wambui, our member and local convenor of the Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network, wrote

We can see that the government also has a role to play, they create and sustain this negative environment. When I interacted with most youths here in Mathare, I understood why the Kenyan authorities and young men in the slums play a cat and mouse game: they are like water and oil, they can never mix. According to most youths in the area, they say that instead of police officers maintaining law and order and protecting life, they make crime increase. The police are the ones who provide guns to them to go and commit crimes, and police get money from drug dens, ensuring that drugs are always sold where poor people can see them, where poor people live. At the same time, the police are arresting youths daily using fabricated charges, and some end up being disappeared and others are killed by police. This makes youths get into crime and use drugs because they have given up on life, and they don’t know who will be next in the hands of a killer cop. 

From this article, it was evident that drugs are intended to make young people in Mathare blind to the harsh realities here, and to accept the hardships caused by poverty and structural violence. In Mathare, the most thriving businesses are selling chang’aa (a locally home-distilled brew considered to be an illegal brew) and the sale of hard drugs. Communities such as Colombia, Nigeria, Kosovo, Bondeni, Mathare 3A and 3C, and Mabatini in Mathare, are mostly associated with chang’aa and/or hard drugs. These have been the most violent stricken areas in Mathare over time and in the recent skirmishes. The young people, some in their late teens, are allegedly the most involved in drugs and consequently in crime. These areas are also where most young people killed by the notorious killer cops come from.

MSJC’s membership set the scene at the meeting and introduced the campaign. The Campaign Against Drugs and Crime was birthed as an intersectional outcome of our other eight campaigns, and it aims to monitor and participate in the fight against drugs, crime, violence, extrajudicial killings and related issues. 

The community best understands the effect of drugs, crime and violence. The sale of hard drugs in Mathare exists under very unclear circumstances: sale, consumption and trafficking has been conducted in so much openness but still too much opaqueness. It seems to also thrive in extensive conditions of hopelessness, fear and violence. One attendee at the meeting, who happened to be a community leader, narrated her experience while trying to fight against hard drugs in her area, Kosovo. Her home was raided and she was consequently charged with trumped up charges in a bid to threaten her to keep silent. 

In a deeper analysis, the major effects of hard drugs include the high rates of school dropouts and early pregnancies. During the open session, most people reflected on the interconnectedness of school dropouts and early pregnancies, and the subsequent rise of crime and substance abuse.

Many people under the age of 18 are getting married, renting houses, raising “homes” and surviving through involvement in crime. Other effects that came up during the consultative forum include: poor hygiene, sexual violence that was leading to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases, insecurity, a rise in sex trafficking and prostitution. It was also apparent that children born in a family with a case of drug abuse, more often than not, follows the same parental experiences. 

It was also understood during the forum that these hard drugs do not originate from Mathare, nor are the main peddlers from Mathare. The pushers, who might be from Mathare, are in the business of sourcing for income. Other drugs, like cosmos and yellow, are alleged to have come from Mathare Mental Hospital and pharmacies that sell these drugs easily to the community.

Also, most of the aforementioned areas, like Colombia and Nigeria, have no administrative authority from chiefs, the police or the D.O or D. C., and extortion and violence forms the order of each day. Attendees noted that the recent gang fights in Mathare, which saw seven young people profiled and threatened by killer-cops on Facebook pages, were actually drug related violence disguised as ‘idle youth’ gang wars. 

Drugs have continuously unified young people, who eventually form gangs mostly utilized by politicians to achieve their interests, which in most cases are personal. These gangs are, in most cases, culprits of the different forms of violence in Mathare. Thus, in order to achieve peace and security, the attendees opined that the solution would require an advocacy campaign and an organization- based approach against drugs and violence. There is also an oversupply of drugs.

Elderly men and women in attendance had also been victims of hard drugs. Idleness and poverty were highlighted as the cross-cutting issues. The participants agreed that the community must have agency to deal with issues related to drugs and crime since the authorities seemed to be complicit in the many violent cycles of drugs and crime in Mathare. 

In conclusion, the participants agreed that unemployment is a common factor that had led young and old people in Mathare into drug use. Most of the participants reflected that the problem of extrajudicial killings had to be handled from its core, identified to be two main factors: drugs and crime. 

Young people were also advised to be considerate of the future, to reform and turn into defenders of their human right to dignity instead of succumbing to hopelessness. They also said that instead of arresting those victims of drugs, rather those who allow for the peddling and sustenance of the hard drugs business in Mathare should be detained. The people in Mathare live in destitute conditions, most have no access to food or nutrition, have no access to safe and clean drinking water, and there is no quality education; all of these issues cause the present situation.

The participants agreed to form a committee against drugs and crime, which would be coordinated under Mathare Social Justice Centre. This committee would monitor the trend of drug use and advocate against drugs, crime, violence and extrajudicial killings. 

Below is what the committee has decided to do:

 Draft a program of demands on employment and social justice 

 Organize community barazas targeted at advocacy against drugs and crime 

 Organize consistent activities that bring the Mathare community together to allow for community advocacy against drugs and crime. This includes tournaments, different forms of art, graffiti and concerts, local barazas, community cafés and focus group discussions

 Conduct consistent research, monitoring and documenting cases of drugs, crime and extrajudicial executions

 Consistent engagements with the different stakeholders on the campaign against drugs and crime

The slogan adopted during the engagement was:









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