On September 21st MSJC celebrated 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The theme of the day was “Watu wote wamezaliwa huru, hadhi na haki zao ni sawa”: all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, which is the first article of the UDHR. This event was organised in collaboration with the UN High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR). Approximately 100 people attended the event. Those who attended the event were representatives from the OHCHR, various social justice centre members (Korogocho, Guthurai, Dandora, Kayole and others), Amnesty International, Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR) and Mathare residents.
After a few opening words, Mathare Empire started the celebration in style with their Nairobi song.
A couple of documentaries explaining the importance and relevance of the UDHR were then screened. They covered the rights granted by this declaration, stressed the universality of those rights and highlighted how the UDHR has shaped the international human rights legal framework.
Anthem Republic then took the stage. His powerful spoken word performance dealt with various rampant human rights concerns in the informal settlements, such as ecological injustices and gender-based violence.
The festivities continued with some dancing by the youngest talents of Mathare: the MSJC dancers.
The first speaker was Marcella Favretto, the UN OHCHR coordinator of Kenya. She discussed how the UDHR is a universal tool and how it has shaped the progressive Constitution of Kenya. She then assured the crowd that extrajudicial killings and police violence in informal settlements are issues on the agenda of the UN.
Mama Victor, the mother of two victims of police killings, then shared her experience. Speaking on behalf of other families of victims, she described the challenges that they have to go through.
As the coordinator of Mathare Green Movement (MGM), Wyban Mwangi explained the philosophy and actions of the movement: making Mathare cleaner, greener and more beautiful through planting trees and creating public spaces.
Wilfred Olal then spoke up to represent the justice centres working group. He invited the crowd to reflect on what we were celebrating, as residents of the ghetto do not seem to benefit from those human rights if parents are questioning whether their kid will grow up to become an adult. Olal then praised human rights defenders for putting their lives at risk on a daily basis and thanked the UN OHCHR for their support to those grassroots efforts.
After that, Kepta Ombati from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, discussed how the UDHR is a powerful tool to fight structural oppression but stressed that revolutionary change must come from the oppressed. Charles Kigotho from the same organisation underlined the necessity for all levels of human rights defenders to work hand in hand.
The last speaker from Amnesty International discussed how there is no equality before the law in Nairobi, as most habitants do not understand nor feel the same pain as informal settlement residents.
After explaining how education on human rights come prior to their implementation and respect, Beverline Ongaro and Marcella Favretto from the OHCHR generously donated books to MSJC. Those books will hopefully promote knowledge and the respect of human rights as the more one knows about them, the more one can speak up about them
Those speeches were followed by musical performances by Micko Migra and Mathare Empire, and an extract from the Heart of Art’s play ‘Necessary Madness’ on political accountability.
The day ended with the inauguration of the new mural in front of MSJC’s office. The artwork is based on the Mathare Futurism philosophy: imagining possible realities then ultimately working to design a new future for Mathare.
On behalf of MSJC we want to thank you all for your solidarity and for making this day special! See pictures from this day below.