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Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network Exhibition

Thank you for your support to ensure the release of JJ our field mobilizer and office coordinator!

On September 15th, we sent an urgent call for solidarity because our field mobilizer and office coordinator, JJ/Kennedy Chindi, had been arrested and detained at Huruma police station for allegedly causing a disturbance when he went to inquire about the arrest and torture of some young men from Huruma car wash who had been detained illegally. 

We are happy to report that because of the solidarity we received from you all, JJ was released on the very same day! Thank you so much for your solidarity calls to the police station as well as your emails and calls to ask to inquire about JJ’s safety!

We really appreciate it all and hope to continue owrking together in love, solidarity and unity!

Pamoja!

MSJC team

 

Categories
Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network Exhibition

Urgent Solidarity Needed for MSJC’s Kennedy Chindi (JJ) detained at Huruma Police Station

Kennedy Chindi (JJ) a human rights defender with Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) was today morning arrested by Huruma Police station officers and detained at the police station allegedly for “creating disturbance.” JJ had gone to inquire about the arrest and torture of youths from Huruma Car Wash, and the police detained him for supposedly harassing them about this. JJ’s arrest is part  of the malicious  and systematic  criminalisation of  grassroots human rights defenders in Mathare that has intensified since the election outcome on  11/8/2017.

When the police responded with violence after the election results were announced,  Kennedy Chindi was involved in documenting cases of  victims of  extrajudicial killings and police brutality in Mathare with Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Kenya Human Rights commission (KHRC)

Kennedy Chindi has been detained at the Huruma police station since 11 am today (September 15th 2017), and we are seeking your solidarity for his immediate and unconditional release.

Signed
1.      Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC)

2.      Coalition for  Grassroots Human Rights Defenders (CGHRD)

3.      Bunge la Mwananchi Social movement

Categories
Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network Exhibition

Mathare-wide pre-election event for civic education, social justice and political accountability

This event organized by MSJC and its network of human rights monitors, was held on 2nd August 2017 at the CDF hall in Huruma. Twelve-year-old  Joseph Mulua and his colleague Dipsy Ng’ang’a from Huruma ward, kicked off the event with a dance-off battle as people trickled into the hall. The turn-out was quite impressive as the people of Mathare began to show up in their large numbers, both male and the female. There were close to 200 people who turned up for the event. The youth were the largest group in the hall, some of them taking a break from their NYS (National Youth Service) duties to come and participate in the forum.

MSJC’s Kinuthia Mwangi took to the stage and made opening remarks while inviting representatives from Sauti Yetu and University Mtaani to introduce themselves to the community members present. Following this, two members of University Mtaani graced the stage to educate people on the dynamics of voting and what goes on at the polling stations. They educated the community on each stage of voting through the IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) pamphlets handed to them. Questions were asked for clarity and they were answered immediately. Leaving a general mood of good voter education happening, hoping for no or few spoilt votes in the upcoming elections on August 8th.

Huruma Ward MCA Political Accountability

The first session to kick off was the debate of the Members of County Assembly, of which two aspirants for Huruma ward showed up for the forum. These were  Vincent Sisia and Alex Mburu. Upon introduction, they both mentioned the issues facing  Huruma ward: sanitation, security and crime among young men. The two aspirants appeared to both acknowledge the existence of these issues. A platform was also given to the community members to ask questions to the aspirants and mention the issues they face as Huruma ward residents. Among the key issues were insecurity, health and sanitation, youth empowerment, tribalism, water inadequacy.

Sisia, on the issue of jobs for the youth, talked of young people being given jobs to clean the community environment themselves. Alex talked of following up on youth development funds to help the youth start their businesses. He also mentioned allocating the youth bursaries to study technical courses then get jobs if he was elected to office. Jobs for garbage collection would also be made available for the youth.

The aspirants were asked by members of the audience if any of them had done anything to help the youth in Huruma before running for this position, and Sisia mentioned that he had worked with the youth on wood work and carpentry. Alex Mburu responded to this by saying he had created employment of about 200 young people from Huruma ward in his matatu sacco business. A community member stood up and asked the aspirants what the position of the adults in society is, since the aspirants seemed to only be concerned with the welfare of the youth. Sisia made it clear to the audience that he would work with everyone for the betterment of the community.

A community member present asked what plans the aspirants have for the disabled people and how they intend to fight extrajudicial killings. Sisia mentioned sourcing out for donors to consider wheelchairs for the disabled people. On extrajudicial killings, he added that he would group the young people to buy them bikes for the boda boda business, as a way to keep them out of crime. Alex assured the people of inclusiveness if elected to office. He also mentioned giving civic education to the youth on avoiding drugs, crime and availing them with opportunities to earn a living.

The aspirants were asked how they intend to include the public in their leadership, and with article 104 of the constitution being quoted on the need for leaders to be held accountable and the power of the people to be able to recall back those that do not live up to their duties as leaders. They were then asked of their consent to be held accountable to the Huruma community and the possibility to be recalled back if they failed. Both the aspirants accepted the pledge. Alex persuaded the community members to also take an individual decision each to be responsible for the betterment of the community. He said, it all starts with us.

Entertainment

A skit was showcased on stage by Hope Entertainers group, educating the community members on tribalism and the need for peace, for a better tomorrow. Danito (an up and coming local reggae musician) took the stage to perform his reggae tunes on social justice and issues confronting the community at the grass roots level. He gave an outstanding performance.

MP Debate

Present were two Mathare MP Aspirants, John Wesonga and Gacheke Gachihi. They were offered a platform to introduce themselves. Gacheke seemed to have this affiliation to music on his campaign. He started with Juliani’s Utawala song and sang it through his introduction speech. The crowd joined in and sang along to the powerful lyrics.

The first issue raised to the aspirants was accessibility of office should either of them be elected to power. Wesonga assured the people of Mathare that he will be as accessible to them as he has been for the longest time now. Gacheke also made an assurance to the community members that he will remain to be available for them, while working closely with community centers to initiate projects that will benefit the community even long after his existence in power.

The floor was opened for questions from community members to the aspirants. An elderly female member of the community asked the aspirants if they intend to maintain direct communication with the people of Mathare after elected to power, or they would cut contact and disappear for five years just like their predecessors. Another member of the community also stood up and asked how the aspirants intend to help change the mental slavery that is ignorance among the people of Mathare. This was followed by yet another question on what the roles of a Member of Parliament are.

Wesonga pointed out the need for the youth to be taught on how to think beyond and set up businesses and companies. He urged the women to use their small groups and start enterprises so that the face of Mathare would change to a community of enterprises. On communication, Wesonga guaranteed never changing his phone number. He clearly put himself as the point of contact and reference for the community’s needs, that if there be any problems he can’t solve as the MP for Mathare, he can always champion for them as a leader for his duty is to his people.

Gacheke affirmed that he won’t walk away from the community activities he had been engaging in before parliament. He looks beyond communication via phone and affirmed that he will sit down with the people of Mathare often and have discussions on real issues faced, even after the elections. Gacheke urged the people to come together and work to change their own situations without awaiting outside help as self-reliance is the key first step to true freedom and development.

On their closing remarks, both candidates championed for peaceful elections and said they would be willing to accept defeat and work together, regardless of who got elected in and who did not.

Report by Wyban and Julie

See some pictures from this event below:

Categories
EJE Campaign

We Strongly Condemn Police Post-Election Violence in Mathare, Kibra and Kisumu!

MSJC stongly condemns the police raids in Mathare, Kibra and Kisumu in places that are seen as opposition strongholds.

In Mathare we have heard of and verified the death of residents, including three children. Two of the children, both under five years, died after suffocating from police teargas. Another young dear child, Moraa Nyarangi, was killed by a supposedly stray police bullet while she was playing on her balcony with other children. We ask: what were the police doing shooting real bullets anyway?

Many others have been injured.

MSJC demands: #stopkisumukillings #stopmatharekillings #stopkibrakillings

 

 

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Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network Exhibition

Call for solidarity for victims of fire in Mabatini ward on August 1st.

On August 1st, a fire in Mabatini ward burned more than 50 households. As a result, families have nowhere to call home since, and this is crucial especially during this election period. One of our own local Mathare activists Rachael Irungu lost everything, and so we are asking for support for our sister and others who suffered. Anything will help: financial support, households items and a call to check on her will be highly appreciated. Rachael Irungu can be contacted on this number: 0720649392. Some pictures from this unfortunate fire are below.

Categories
Elections

Mathare-wide Pre-Election Debate for Social Justice and Political Accountability – August 2nd 2017

On August 2nd 2017, MSJC has organized an election and civic education forum to get Mathare residents to discuss their candidates as well as their civic rights immediately before the election process. This event for social justice and political accountability aims to entrench voting rights in the area, get various political aspirants to answer to the people as well as make residents aware of the types of human rights redress they can access through and beyond a network of human rights monitors convened by MSJC. Above all, this event works towards peace, justice, human rights and political accountability in Mathare and in the country at large. Everyone is welcome. Local political candidates should show their commitment to residents by showing up! The event will take place from 11am – 3pm  at the Huruma CDF Hall. For information contact JJ: 0714784955

See the poster here: MSJC Pre-Election Debate August 2nd

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Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network Exhibition

Report on Eastlands Grassroots Human Rights Defender’s Meeting — 13th July 2017

This meeting was organized by Mathare Social Justice Centre, aiming at bringing together grassroots human rights defenders in this election season, to ensure peace talks and strengthen the grass roots movement. The theme of this event was strengthening  and protecting the grassroots human rights defenders movement and election agenda 2017. About 60 grass root human rights defenders showed up for this event. We had defenders from Korogocho, Dandora, Kamukunji, Kariobangi, Kayole, Utalii ward, and all the six wards of Mathare.

The event started with brief prayer from Kennedy Chindi,  MSJC field coordinator. Juliet Wanjira  Coordinator of the Reproductive Justice  campaign then welcomed the human rights defenders and after introductions she gave a brief history of Mathare Social Justice Centre. Gacheke Gachihi , Coordinator  for Political Accountability and Social Justice,  then informed the defenders of the purpose and objective of the meeting. He mentioned the four wheels of building the social movement namely: community dialogues and direct action, advocacy for social justice, building of a community centre as MSJC  and participating  in elections  through alternative political leadership in the grassroots politics. This work also includes building a supportive and safe network for grassroots human rights defenders. He spent time explaining each stage and mentioned he was in the 4th wheel  of building alternative political leadership from grassroots movements,  and urged other defenders to take on that route to strengthen the movement.

The we had other human rights defenders take on the floor sharing their experiences, challenges and proposals for strengthening the grass root defenders network .First was Ruth Mumbi, a grass root human rights defender from Bunge la Wamama Mashinani, who shared her experiences and challenges as a defender. She mentioned her concern about extrajudicial executions and now as a victim she understands the pain even more, and will continue speaking against it.After highlighting the killings of her younger brother by the police her life had been threatened. Mumbi stressed on the importance of loving and caring for each other and defenders and as a community. Giving each other solidarity because we all need each other. On donor fund she suggested flexibility as it always so rigid and the people on the ground often find themselves at a loss and how to go about things wanting to comply with the donor conditions.

Next to speak was Wilfred Ola from Dandora Must change Social movement. He suggested that we map out our struggles in every different ward. It was clear there were similar struggles but there were struggles that were entirely different. For example FGM is not practiced in Dandora but it is very common in Kiamaiko. Having the dumpsite in Dandora was a violation of human rights in itself which the defenders from Dandora have to struggle with. Olal urged the defenders to always remember and be on the forefront of documenting human rights violations. Going through the 5W and H documentation Formula, he also mentioned modern ways of documenting like smartphones or voice records to have substantial evidence that can be used in court and urged everyone to most importantly maintain peace during and after this election period.

Wandera from Kariobangi and Korogocho Justice Centre thanked MSJC for having brought human rights defenders from every various place together to discuss our struggles and the future of our beloved country Kenya. He stressed on the different talents present and how we can all come together to strengthen the movement specializing with what one is best capable of. He also suggested that to strengthen grass root human right defenders we must push that KNCHR (Kenya National Coalition of Human Right Defenders) and CGHRD (Coalition for Grass root Human Rights Defenders) to pressure the acknowledgement of grassroots human rights defenders by law, and also support capacity building for defenders.

Anthony Muoki, coordinator of the extrajudicial killings campaign in MSJC , spoke on the Machozi ya Jana campaign and seriousness of the risk human rights defenders constantly find themselves in. He mentioned plans that are underway to create a solidarity safe place for fellow grass root human rights defenders.

Mama Whitney, a member of Bunge La Mwananchi and Bunge la Wamama Mashinani, raised the question of how we can support each other to rescue  the young men whose pictures are put on Facebook and then found dead days later killed by police. As a mother, she pointed out it’s an issue that bothers her a lot. Losing young men in the community that she has known.

MC Fred Ooko ( Tooth Brush), also addressed the defenders with a sms that had been sent to him by a distressed sister whose brother’s picture had been put on the Facebook page of wanted criminals. Olal proposed that a few defenders organize themselves and take the boy to the police station, if found guilty to be arrested and taken to court. Everyone agreed with this proposal and accepted it as standard procedure. He also suggested that we, the grassroots human rights defenders, organize a meeting with IPOA, to express our concern and develop a memorandum of association and how to best collaborate to fight extrajudicial executions.

Rachael Mwikali in relation to the day’s theme,  stressed the importance of having the support of the community members in every place represented in that meeting. To fight extra judicial killings, we will need the community to understand and support the standard procedure of dealing with crime. This will spread the risk and stop the criminalization of defenders as being labelled supporters of crime. While at it, Rachael urged the defenders to talk the boys out of stealing and always remind them that crime will never pay. She spoke on the importance of the unity of defenders and suggested similar regular meetings to push the movement forward. Charles of IJM also emphasized the need to involve other stakeholders to achieve the desired effect. For example religious institutions and other key stake holders must also be part of the process.

Chekai Musa, acting speaker of Bunge La Mwananchi,  thanked MSJC, for the hard work they have put in for the past two years and stressed on the importance of preaching peace during this period. It was mentioned in this meeting that they have been red signs, neighbors who have lived peacefully for the past years NOW packing to leave in anticipation for violence after elections.

Samuel Keriro, Director of Ghetto Foundation, urged grassroots human rights defenders to have the right attitude doing this job. He said he has a platform that could be used to recruit young guys as activists. They have lost brothers, friends and cousins and will always feel the pain of EJE. If shown a way of fighting it they would gladly join in. He said everyone has to take part in a changed community, even the police should be engaged with, to create a friendly relationship. Present parents were reminded to instill positive values in their children. Lastly, he invited everyone present for a peace caravan that will be taking place from Mlango kubwa to Kiamaiko. The main event will be at Austin’s ground Kiboro. Theme will be preaching peace to all and sundry, targeting the violence hotspots. MSJC members will be taking part in this event instead of our usual general meetings on Saturday.

Towards the end, Gacheke challenged Fred Ooko Tooth Brush to share songs of the struggle with the other defenders. These songs will be used in social mobilization and propagating the struggle for social justice and movement building. Gacheke also emphasized that the MSJC office can be used as a meeting place for defenders to conduct their activities, and also to come learn the freedom songs  of struggle  to together and deepen the struggle. Juliet and Kennedy concluded with Samora Machel’s words, Aluta Continua! Against extra judicial executions, police brutality, corruption and bad leadership, poverty, poor sanitation, tribalism and capitalism and for human rights! In between we had Danito cheer us up with his music! See some pictures from this day below.

 

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EJE Campaign

MSJC strongly condemns the second arrest in one week of our administrative coordinator Kinuthia Mwangi

Stephen Kinuthia Mwangi, our committed administrative coordinator, was arrested twice this week for no reason. This second arrest was done at this doorstep confirming that the police had been surveilling him for sometime. We believe that this is because of the work we have been doing at MSJC to highlight the executions and harassment of poor youth in Kenya by the police. We ask you to support us by sharing Stephen’s statement with relevant organizations, and also to advocate for ways to make Kenya safer for grassroots community activists and human rights defenders. If there are any other ways you feel we can improve the security of our members, please do get in touch with us at MSJC.

During his most recent arrest on Sunday June 25th, one police man, in reference to the Willie Kimani, told Stephen: “we knew Willy and he died for the same arrogance as yours.” We cannot let Kenya continue to be a killing field. Please do support us at this time and spread the statement below and join us in our work to keep all our communities.

MSJC

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MY SECOND ARREST THIS WEEK AND HARASSMENT BY THE POLICE

Dear all, 
 
I would like to document that I was arrested today, June 25th, morning in Donholm outside of my apartment by plain-clothed officers. They had no elaborate reason for their suspicion or need for arrest. This is the second time in five days that I have been hand-cuffed by plain-clothed officers, and the fact that this arrest was done outside my house confirms that they have been following me.
 
On Tuesday, I was arrested late at night while I was going home on a boda boda. The driver and I were detained at the Kariobangi roundabout for four hours before I was able to convince the police officers to let me go.
 
Today while arresting me, one of the officers grabbed me by the shoulder while the other one was talking over the phone and mentioned to someone over the line ”ndio, tumempata…” It seems that they were reporting my arrest to someone else. This got me really scared and I asked to be let loose with an explanation for the statement by the officer on the phone. I called Prof. Yash Ghai, whom I had just talked to, and let him know that I was being arrested. They demanded to search my belongings. I had with me a black polythene bag where I had put some shoes I had bought at Gikomba Market earlier in the morning. Although hesitant, I let them search. They demanded to take me with them to the station for a search. I refused. One of them, growing angry hand-cuffed me and pushed me forward away from the gate. The caretaker and bystanders had now started to get concerned and were watching from a distance.
 
The led me towards the road, asking about what I do for a living and why I had the ‘Machozi Ya Jana’ t-shirt on me. By this time, I had been made to remove my camouflage jacket and they had removed everything from the pockets (keys, coins, a paper I had done some notes on and two phones) . I demanded to make a phone call to an advocate or a relative and they refused. At this point, it got clear to me that they were serious and didn’t mean to abide by the provisions of Article 49 of the constitution – The Rights of an arrested person. I decided to create a scene; I grabbed a boda boda rider whom I frequently use and asked him to go to Mathare Social Justice Centre’s office and let JJ know that I have been arrested and the officers claim to be taking me to central police station. The short-tempered one dragged me by the road and pushed me in front of a moving car. Luckily I crossed back and held on to the other officer who seemed to listen to me. They made me walk while still asking whom I work with, and especially, why I think I can tell the officers what to do. They called me arrogant and let me know they can do with me as they wish. By this time my phone was constantly ringing but the officers refused to give it to me. 
 
They led me past a church, behind Greenspan estate and I refused to move any further. The officer with a temper kept pushing and trying to drag me. All the while I kept asking to make a phone call and to be notified of the place they were taking me. They made me stand and talked to me for about 20 minutes. They let me know that they knew Willy and he had died for the same arrogance as mine. That they could still carry me away in front of everybody and kill me far off, and that they did not care about my knowledge of the law. One of them even threatened to take my phones with him. At this point I let them know that I have already told Yash Ghai that I had been arrested and if they didn’t have any documented allegations against me, I had a right to be set free. They talked to each other. I was given my phone and I talked to Gacheke who was dialing. I confirmed with him the arrest and he wanted to talk to them. They declined. They let me know that they are experienced, have handled tougher people than me and could arrest me whichever way they wanted. 
 
After this, they let me go. I walked back and called both Gacheke and Yash to notify them of my release. 
 
Although I am still disturbed about the event and how to interpret the words and actions of the officers, I know that my experience is not an isolated case. The coordinators of our Illegal detention, police brutality and EJE campaign Anthony Mwoki and Muchangi Nyaga, constantly face threats and harassment from the police. Anthony was recently arrested and driven around in the boot of a police car on April 19th, see the details here, and also has an ongoing case due to the false accusation of possession of marijuana. The nature of arrest, custody and policing by the Kenya Police is a traumatising experience and has unfortunately been too normalized and condoned by society at large. How I could be arrested outside home and in broad daylight without public intervention explains both the fear of the police and the impunity of a police force that has decided to operate by instilling fear and targeting young people and Rights Defenders with malicious prosecution, torture and executions. 
 
I cannot tell what today’s events would have lead to, but it is clear to me that the police had taken their time to follow me and perhaps had other motives that were most probably prevented because I created a scene, that I mentioned Yash Ghai and that my phone was constantly being called. 
 
I believe it has been prompted by the work we do at MSJC, the case that was established against a police officer at Pangani police station officer after I video recorded her soliciting a bribe from a mother whose son had been illegally detained, and also our EJE advocacy work that recently culminated in a landmark report called: Who is Next? A Participatory Action Research Report Against the Normalization of Extrajudicial Executions in Mathare.
 
Because of this unwarranted and violent profiling I will be reporting this incident to IPOA and other relevant authorities, and ask for your help following up this situation and creating more accessible avenues for HRD’s like myself to seek protection.
 
Thank you,
Kinuthia Mwangi

 

Categories
Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network Exhibition

Report on Political Accountability Community Dialogue held in Mabatini Ward, Mathare on 3rd June 2017

The community dialogue was attended by 56 individuals from Mabatini ward, and it included 32 females and 24 males. It was organized by Mathare Social Justice Centre and had participants from the host’s human rights defenders network, as well as various youth groups in the area.

Below are the topics of discussion and how they were responded to:

  1. What are the roles of various leaders? Do you know/understand them?
    Although this was the first question, the participants were very active in the conversation. Majority of them explained that they are not aware of the roles of the Women’s Representative and the power she holds, and most of them are only aware of the Jubilee and NASA aspirants and have not yet done their research on the independent candidates.
  2. What are your immediate needs? Has any contender addressed them?
    Mama Whitney first spoke on ending extrajudicial executions around Mathare. She noted that the police have a responsibility to respect citizens and that so far there is no political aspirant who has blatantly come out to speak out on normalization of police killings.

It was then mentioned that everyone in Mathare is complaining about the Community Development Fund (CDF) projects, that on paper there are claims that certain projects have already been implemented when, however, on the ground, nothing has been done. Victor added to this by saying that some of the projects that have been implemented have actually been carried out by private individuals, such as the Chandaria Foundation, and yet the incumbent wants to take responsibility for them.

On this note, some of the participants claim to have gone for various trainings carried out by the Ward Development Fund, but that when it comes to implementation they are still blind as to where the money goes since the whole process lacks transparency.

Collins came out to admit that the youth (and everyone in Mathare) needs civic education in order to understand what to expect from the politicians according to their seats.

  1. From the previous election, have you seen any tangible changes? Are any of the projects implemented sustainably?
    At this point, the community members got a bit angry, speaking to the state of education, sanitation and health. Lillian said that she was born and raised in Mathare but the state of the constituency seems to be deteriorating by the year.

Apparently:

  • The current MP promised to build hospitals and that every ward will have a public toilet. There have been no tangible results to this end.
  • The current MP promised to have a fire brigade in Mathare. The community remembered the fires that have broken out within Mabatini with no assistance from anyone.
  • The political promise has been clean water for decades. There is currently an outbreak of cholera and the public toilets remain closed from the date they were built. The community has reverted to using ‘flying toilets’.
  • Education and promises to provide jobs by K1. This is an issue that really affects the youth. They remain unattended to and majority of the youth in Mabatini and Mathare in general remain unemployed, and not out of any choice of their own.
  • There is no single social hall in the whole of Mathare. In fact, the community dialogue took place in an open space with a tent and raw sewage running right next to us.
  1. What are you looking for in a leader?
    Akinyi stood up to state that the problem with most of the people in Mathare is that they look to people with money as being good leaders. There was a bit of an argument amongst the community, with Tony insisting that most of the people will vote for whoever gives the most money; the participants need immediate solutions as well as long term ones. Vivian closed this conversation by reiterating that people will take the money because they need to survive.

The community finalised by stating that they need to be given information on those who are vying, such as their integrity and where their money is coming from. At this point, MSJC invited them to their office for conversations on this, and informed them that they are planning a political debate in their area very soon. The community was pleased to hear this and Nickodemus said they look forward to it.

Kelvin and Jamo, however, were left stating that people need to vote individuals they believe in, and not just the political parties they represent.

The dialogue ended with MSJC urging the community to confirm their voter’s status at their registered polls, and told them to vote wisely. We advised them that we need to keep peace because we are one family, that each and every vote counts, that the people have the power to choose whom they want in office. ‘Msiuze kura zenyu (Don’t sell your vote). Choose peace,’ Julie concluded emphatically.

By Maria Mutauta

See some pictures from this successful political accountability event below.

 

Categories
Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network Exhibition

Report on Reproductive Justice Campaign Community Dialogue

On 15th April 2017, Members of Mathare Social Justice Centre did not attend the 2.00pm general meeting as is our custom. We all headed to Pirates hall located in Mlango Kubwa ward in Mathare. The reproductive justice campaign was holding a community dialogue themed Gender-Based Violence. In Mathare, men and women have experienced gender-based violence year in year out, but in most cases women and children are the victims. I felt it was important to have a discussion on this as it is something residents of Mathare have seen, heard or experienced first-hand.

In attendance were about fifty community members, all the members of MSJC, Yvonne Flammer who is a medical officer at German hospital in Baraka, Naomi Van Stapele who is among other things a researcher passionate about human rights in Mathare, Aika Matemu co-coordinator reproductive justice campaign and Biki a web developer but who on this day took beautiful pictures during the forum. Faith Nafula and Juliet Wanjira were the facilitators during the dialogue. Faith is a GBV expert and great facilitator. Juliet is the coordinator of the reproductive justice campaign.

The facilitators started the forum by getting the community members to explain GBV in their own understanding. And then we all took turns to tackle different aspects of gender-based violence.

The Kiswahili translation for this word was discussed as a way to easier communicate to the community and have a shared understanding; this is Kudhurumiwa kimwili, Kufinyiliwa kuhusu jinsi yako.

We had an interactive forum where the community members explained and gave examples of these violences. It was interesting to note that men in this community were also victims of GBV, and especially the ones who are alcoholics or happen to have no money and their partners cater for all expenses.

We discussed the different kinds of manifestations of gender-based violence. And among them are:

Emotional and physical manifestation of GBV where there was mention of examples such as releasing stress on wives and children as well as verbal abuse towards both men and women matusi na matharau.

Physical abuse where violence is used as a way to control the victim. Types of violence discussed were: Rape: people felt that is happens to both men women as well as children and the elderly. Rape was described as unwanted or forceful sex, wanting to have sex with someone who does not want to have sex with you and with no consent. Police violence and harassment: where police in Mathare often harass and abuse community members by forcing them to strip naked and run across the streets. Cat calling: there was debate on whether this is a form of abuse. A few men expressed that they do it because they feel that women like it and expect it from them as a way of validating that they are beautiful and to be admired by them. They also mentioned that it is idle men who participate in cat calling. Child defilement was discussed with an emphasis on under age sex with a minor under the age of 18 as being illegal in Kenya. Indecent assault was discussed as having unwanted physical touch or exposing yourself to the public or another person.

There were also discussions on gender roles. Traditionally it was a man’s duty to work, toil the land and provide for his family while the women were to reproduce and take care of household duties. With the evolving world, this is changing overtime. Women and men are competing for job markets even in field previously known for men. So gender roles are changing now that women are also in a position to provide. The main point however, was that no role is for particular gender; both men and women can cook, do laundry, baby sit and provide comfortably — although we are still some time away from this situation.

The facilitators mentioned statistics such as 46% of women having experienced GBV in their lives. The reasons for not intervening when witnessing a GBV assault were fear of being physically attacked, being questioned about whether you are interested in the person (in the case of domestic violence) and not wanting to interfere with domestic issues, which is very popular in this community.

We also discussed how family structures are affected by GBV, and for exampled we talked about the developmental effect on children and the future perpetration of violence by children who have experienced violence in the home. We looked at ways of mitigating gender-based violence and said we should specifically build on community dialogue and forums.

Above all, we emphasized that we should not let it happen and if it does speak out! We also decided to do more community mobilizations and to inform residents that they should report cases of GBV at the police station, MSF blue house, Mzee wa Kijiji, legal clinics and the National GBV hotline 1195. Also important are the child hotline 116 and the child counselling hotline 1190. Also we agreed that if you feel as an individual that you are violent seek help. See some pictures of this powerful event below.

By,

Julie Wanjira, Reproductive Justice Campaign Coordinator