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Celebrating MSJC activist Ma Rahma Wako – Nairobi County Human Rights Activist 2016


Rahma Wako, is a fierce human rights defender passionately involved in the rights of women and children. She started human rights work in 1986 and has never looked back. For Rahma, she was not aware that she was doing human rights work when she started; according to her she was just doing what she thought was the right thing to do. It started when she was a young girl, the prettiest among her other siblings. Her parents had arranged for her to get married at an early age. Rahma fought this decision with all her might, she wanted to go to school. It was not an easy fight.  She eventually ran away from home and attended primary school at a Christian school.  She was the only Muslim. Rahma was very determined and focused, and amidst many challenges she sat her national exams and was called to Pangani Girls high school. Sadly, this is where the education journey ended for her. She had no money to pay school fees.

She started engaging in advocating for girl child education within the Muslim community in Kiamako. It was not an easy fight. People had not fully grasped the concept of girl child education. She also started fighting female genital circumcision which was a common practice in her community. This was the hardest for her because she was fighting a people’s culture, and she did this by herself. She went from door to door speaking to men and women against this practice telling them about the dangers they pose to their children. She later joined Bunge la Wamama Mashinani, a group of local women activist that met once a week over chai (tea) to discuss rampant human rights issues in the community.

Today, Rahma Wako boasts of several achievements in the human rights field. First, she is happy that the girl child is given equal importance as the boy child and that they have equal opportunities.

Also, her fight against forced female circumcision has paid off. She remembers during her fight, she encountered a doctor who used to conduct it in her community and despite talking to her severally, the said doctor would not heed to her pleas. Rahma fought for what she believed in and the doctor ended up in Lanagata women’s prison. This practice not entirely over, but she is determined to see that no other girl goes through this experience.

In December 2015, Rahma was nominated for Mathare Heroes Award as the human rights activist of the year. This was a tough competition. She was nominated against other strong human rights defenders in the community. Luckily, she emerged the winner! She had the most votes. This was the first time she saw her efforts being recognized by the public. She was ecstatic! And she deserved it.

In 2016 she joined the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), where she continued to fight for child and women rights. She is part of the reproductive justice campaign which handles issues like rape, gender based violence, female genital circumcision and civic education on child rights and family planning. At one point she was facing a difficult time with the leaders in her community because of a rape case that resulted in two young boys from her community going to jail. They were not especially happy that it was a woman responsible for their arrest. According to them, a woman should not be involved with issues of human rights. They called her and asked her to withdraw the case, or else they would disown her. Of course she could not withdraw they case, so she called other human rights defenders from MSJC and Bunge la Mwananchi to speak to her community leaders and explain her position as an activist. That is her passion to fight for the rights of others. The human rights defenders showed up in full support of Rahma; they talked to the wazee of her community and things calmed down.

It was also in 2016 that Rahma Wako was nominated for Nairobi County Human Rights Activist of the year. She recalls that this was not easy as well. It was a very stiff competition. Other human rights defender had also been nominated. The winner had to get the majority vote, and once again Rahma Wako did it! She won! She was the Nairobi County Human rights activist of the year! This brought tears to her eyes. Tear of joy, and disbelief, and triumph. She was both humbled and super happy! Along with the award, she received a token to appreciate her.

On 24th December 2016, she held an office party to celebrate her win at our centre. All expenses were on her. Foods and drinks were in plenty. She also brought a rose flower for all who were present. It was her day. After enjoying the food she has prepared for her, everyone present gave her congratulatory messages and hugs and some of us told us how much of an inspiration she is, and we obviously love her and are very proud of her. This was very emotional for her, she was in tears most of the time. She then narrated to us her life story and her journey as a human rights defender. We have deep seated respect for Mama Rahma, which is the name we gave her, she is like a mother to us.

She also hosted the leaders from her community who wanted her to quit activism and they all celebrated her win. It was also an emotional session for Ma Rahma as she talked to the wazees. Some of them were fighting tears, they felt they were wrong and had not been fair to her. They now give her full support and are very proud of her.

After the award, Ma Rahma did not stop there. If anything it gave her moral to keep at it! She has started justice clubs in five primary schools in Kia Maiko area. That is: Valley Bridge, Ndururuno, Daima, Salama and Huruma primary schools. Using these clubs she talks to the pupils about their rights and teaches them how to be responsible citizens. On 2nd February 2017 ,partnering with Baraka medical hospital and MSJC reproductive health rights campaign , there will be an outreach on women rights and in attendance, the pupils, female teachers and parents are expected to attend.

Rahma Wako is a hero, I am glad to have met and lucky enough to have worked with.

Report by Juliet Wanjira, Coordinator Reproductive Health Rights Campaign






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MSJC Office Opening Event — 7th January 2016

MSJC office opening event was held on 7th January 2016 at MSJC office near Olympic petrol station in Mathare. The event was attended by MSJC members and partner organisations like Peace Brigade International, International Justice Mission, Bunge la Mwananchi , Bunge la Wamama, Ghetto Foundation and friends of Mathare Social Justice Centre. The event was graced by Professor Yash Pal Ghai and his wife Jill Ghai, who have are great supporters of MSJC.

The event started at 2:00pm. After registration of attendees, we sang the the First stanza of the National Anthem. After this we had welcoming remarks from Juliet wanjira, who was also moderating the event. Then the administrative coordinator Steve Kinuthia gave heartwarming remarks on the history of MSJC, the purpose of formation and the continuing growth of the centre which has been a dream come true. He gave the plans and activities of MSJC in 2017 and the role it intends to play bearing in mind that its an election year. Steve expressed his gratitude to MSJC partners and to Prof Yash and Jill for solidarity. After Steve we had Gacheke Gachihi, coordinator of MSJC who started off his remarks with wimbo wa mapambano, and like Steve he also expressed his gratitude to MSJC partners and particularly Prof Yash Pal Ghai, whom he jokingly referred to as our grandfather at MSJC.

He narrated how at one time Prof once said money and big cars will not bring any social revolution to ordinary Kenyans, in a time when all that mattered to most of his colleagues was just that. Gacheke refers to that as an incident he will never forget.

After Gacheke we had remarks from Peace Brigade International, who have been true partners and friends to the MSJC family. They sent Sabine to speak as their representative. Sabine narrated how happy they are to see MSJC  at a point where they have their own office. she remembered how two years ago we were meeting in a hotel every Saturday afternoon, at the time we would contribute money for lunch if we had it. Sabine was glad to have witnessed the growth of MSJC.

PBI surprised us all when they gave Steve an award, The Invisible Mandelas award, on behalf on MSJC. It was a happy moment! We were all pleasantly surprised.

We also had remarks remarks from representatives of partner  organisations that had attended the event. Charles gave his remarks on behalf of IJM, said they are happy to be our partner and are proud of our growth. Then we had Samuel known as MC, director of Ghetto Foundation. He was particularly happy on this day as he remembered they used to host MSJC before we got our own office; it was a beautiful thing to look back to. We are forever grateful and in solidarity with Ghetto Foundation.

We then had Rachael Mwikali who spoke on behalf of coalition for grassroots human rights defenders (CGHRD). She stressed on the importance of women empowerment and read out loud a quote on the wall of MSJC office: “There is no social revolution without the liberation of women.” Then we had Winfred Olal who spoke on behalf of Bunge la Wananchi. He led us into singing freedom songs, and celebrated the MSJC office as the office of grass root human rights defenders.

We then invited Prof Yash and Jill to give remarks on being part of MSJC and on the office opening event

After that we went outside the MSJC office for a photo session, we sang freedom songs as we prepared for Prof Yash to cut the ribbon at the entrance of the office. There was joy and songs of praise and ululations from women as the ribbon was cut. We got into the office and also had a surprise. For a long time we had been brainstorming on what we could possibly gift Professor Yash to appreciate his efforts and solidarity. We finally settled on giving him a portrait of himself, wearing a t shirt written “stop extra judicial killings.” The portrait was drawn by Mutua Ndereva, coordinator of the art against violence campaign in MSJC. He, Gacheke and Juliet handed Prof Yash the portrait amidst songs and dance. The look on his face was an indication that we had settled on the right gift! He loved it, he was happy! He gave a brief acceptance speech, his wife Jill did too, they were happy to be associated with MSJC.

After this we had thanksgiving remarks from Kennedy Chindi, who thanked everyone for making the time to attending the event. Juliet gave special thanks to PBI and thanked them by name for deep solidarity and friendship at all times.

We welcome all who want justice and dignity for all peoples of the world to feel at home in our office.

Please see some pictures below from the event.

Report by Juliet Wanjira.

MSJC Secretary and Reproductive Justice Coordinator.

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Welcome back to MSJC

The Mathare Social Justice Centre website is back online; after it was hacked and its database maliciously corrupted by third parties.

We will continue with our resolve to document, publish and advocate for social justice.


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