Sixty percent of the women in Korogocho slums still give birth at home, only close to 30 % of the women in Kenya have attained secondary school education, close to half a million children in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, under the ages of five will succumb before they are five.
The statistics keep staring at us every day and yet people choose to sit and watch as the situations become unbearable. This being an election year, the politicians are bound to visit their constituencies promising deliverables which are never attained but for the sake of vote hunting, the communities listen and follow blindly. Some will even accept the petty cash given to them in order to attend the rallies by the political class which in most cases are usually a popularity contest.
Recently, the OAIC embarked on a capacity building programme that seeks to enhance the Just communities Programme. Trainings were conducted for the Trainers of Trainers (TOT’s) from the various constituencies in Nairobi County who will in turn train mobilizers who seek to empower their communities to stand up for their rights as clearly stipulated in chapter 4 of the constitution in the bill of rights that empowers even the weakest member of society.
Maisha bora haki yako – You are entitled to a dignified life – is the slogan that the TOT’s shall use in their various campaigns in the 8 constituencies and ensure that empowerment is all inclusive. The TOT’s were required to mobilise their constituents by educating them and empowering them to seek change and not accept the abnormal as the normal as has been the norm.
Training men seemed to be a hard sell as many would promise to attend but never showed up unlike the women and the youths who were eager to share their experiences and find solutions at the same time. Another troubling fact is that the constituents expected to be given goodies after attending the trainings that were meant to empower them to take action in order to live dignified lives.
Recently in Mathare we saw how a landslide killed 8 people. The residents of the slums were ordered to seek alternative habitats but they stayed put retorting that if they moved, other people would be allocated their houses despite the danger lurking. These are some of the challenges that the Just Communities seeks address.
The delivery of services in Nairobi is wanting despite it being the capital city of the country. For instance in a constituency like Dagorretti, water has become a luxury as most of the residents get water once a week. “We sometimes get water once a week or in two weeks. Sanitation and infrastructure as well as health conditions are bad. There are few health facilities which lack sufficient drugs and people are forced to find treatment outside the constituency,” stated Fred.
The Universal primary education is not as free as many would like to believe. The schools in some constituencies if not all are affected by the student to teacher ratio which can be best described as abnormal.
“When we visit these schools we realise that there are no books, the exercise books are also not provided for free and the teachers are not motivated to teach. The only time they teach well is during the tuition when parents have to pay for the extra tuition,’’ lamented one TOT.
“You will find that in other instances parents have resorted to taking their children to private schools which in themselves cannot cater effectively for the populations streaming in. In some of these private schools you will even find a Standard 8 drop out teaching and we wonder where we are heading as a country,” added another TOT.
Insecurity as an issue that needs to be taken seriously as it’s on the increase. Plans are in top gear to mobilise the constituents in order to talk to the relevant authorities to ensure that the dimly lit places are accessible at night by demanding that street lights are put up.
Some of the challenges that have led to insecurity are not new as unemployment of the young people has been adversely mentioned. After the training s however, the young people in some constituencies resorted to look at the available resources in their turfs and rather than sit idly, to utilise them maximally
In Kibera for example the youths who are very vocal state that they will not sit and wait to be fed but rather they will find menial jobs as they seek to empower themselves.
“We understand and we know that we have issues like insecurity, sanitation, drug abuse, water as well as unemployment in our constituency. We also understand that poor government policies have led to the increased poverty as well as corruption in Kenya. We lack skills required to compete on a level playing field with other young people also looking for jobs but we have resolved not to wait for the government to come and give us false promises,’’ stated John.
“Despite government’s many promises of improving the lives of the young people, nothing really has been done. We intend to start forming small groups which will be responsible for collecting garbage as well as join in the water vending business for a start as we think of other better ways of improving our livelihoods,’’ he added.
In Westlands constituency, many people have been mugged and some murdered at a place called Mau Mau bridge. The TOT responsible for that constituency says that they are in the process of mobilising people to demand that more police posts be erected at that place. They also intend to speak to the relevant authorities to also see to it that other issues of concerns are addressed sufficiently.
The fact that the communities are getting enlightened and questioning deals that seem like white elephants in their various constituencies, is a good sign for things to come in the near future.
In one constituency for example, the TOT says that residents are asking the relevant authorities tough questions about the devolved funds. “In my constituency which is cosmopolitan, we have different people and politics are diverse. The trouble is that when people come together to discuss issues of concern, some would think that we want to slander the name of their Member of Parliament. But lately, they have realised that the issues we are raising are important and need to be addresses as their lives are being affected everyday and by playing politics no help would be forthcoming,” stated Tom Juma.
“The residents have become receptive and they ask very many questions and demand to see the relevant authorities, contractors, and other people responsible for projects in the area. Recently money was released from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to rehabilitate a primary school and by the look of things the money was being misappropriated. One resident asked questions but he did not receive satisfactory answers and we are planning to go back to the school after the Easter celebrations,” added Mr. Juma.
Such positive reports were well received recently during the meeting of all TOT’s from the 8 constituencies at the OAIC to report on how mobilisation was taking place in their assigned areas.
In Kamukunji constituency, the state of affairs scares the faint hearted. In the slum areas getting water is a vocabulary that does not exist in their dictionary. They have to make do with the water from the Nairobi River which is contaminated as the litter everywhere does not make things easy and health problems are common phenomena in the constituency.
To add salt to injury, the available health facilities, have insufficient medical personnel, lack of sufficient medicine and even lack the capacity to accommodate the large numbers from the slums.
“Prostitution is rife here and both men and women indulge in this vice. It has become an open trade and in places like Majengo you are even welcomed on broad daylight. Sometimes people just passing by are grabbed and if their intentions were not to indulge in the vice, they are forced to part with their valuables,” narrated one TOT.
Many of those interviewed simply say that poverty is the cause for all their troubles. This constituency is also defined by the carton boxes that act as homes for many people and when it rains, it’s a situation that is difficult to write home about. Some of the permanent structures available are very small. Some could be measure up to 10 by 10 yet this is supposed to host a family with children.
The poor infrastructure makes things worse as during incidences like fires, the fire brigade cannot easily access the affected areas and thus the damage most of the times is usually massive.
In this constituency also the women face challenges that are heart-wrenching. Nancy one of the TOT’s says that issues like poverty, lack of knowledge on family planning, as well as unemployment have made women hopeless destitutes. She attests to the fact that very few women have gone to school, they remain voiceless in their homes as men fear that if they are empowered, they will ‘grow horns’.
“Their husbands deny them an opportunity to eke out a living for themselves. They cannot be allowed to start business as the husbands tell them on their faces that they married them so that they can be wives; to take care of the children and do household chores and not go looking for employment. They cannot be allowed to attend workshops or conferences as the men are scared that they might be empowered,’’ narrated Nancy.
“It’s increasingly becoming even difficult for women who have gone to school to get husbands as men are scared of empowered women. This also applies to women who have higher salaries than their men. As for the poor women who do not even have television sets at their homes, the only way they can entertain themselves is having sex when the men come at home as most of the time they are just idling around. The large number of children born in poor homes is the reason why slums continue to grow,” added Nancy.
Most of the menial jobs available include washing clothes for people and it is sad to note that these uneducated women will also not care much about taking their children to schools and thus the cycle continues. Their children also just grow up to wash other people’s clothes.
Women decide to give birth at home as the hospital fees may be unaffordable. For the few affordable hospitals, cases of segregation are rampant. Nancy says that they look at a woman who has come to deliver and judge that she can afford to pay and send her to deliver at the Pumwani hospital and since she may not be able to afford, she ends up giving birth at home instead.
In other constituencies women also complain of gender biasness when it comes to employment Ethnicity is a problem that should also be looked into carefully as you will find that many inter-marriages are breaking up because of the ethnic card that has manipulated the minds of Kenyans in the recent past.
The scarcity of water is such a big issue in most constituencies that residents have to do with water from the rivers which most of the times is usually contaminated.
The General Secretary of the OAIC Nicta Lubaale notes that it’s a high time people took charge of their lives and empower themselves rather than wait to be given handouts. He noted that he was glad that the TOT’s were able to weather some of the challenges like people expecting handouts.
“We should empower our people to stop depending on handouts from the NGO’s in order to attend forums that seek to empower them. We need to reclaim our country back from the NGO’s. The church has lost its mandate among the people and we need to reclaim our prophetic role in society for people to listen to us,’’ stated Reverend Nicta.
“The church has lost its influence in Europe, and the church in Africa need to be careful. Church leaders need to strive not to lose their prophetic role by ensuring that they understand the needs of the community to avoid a repeat of what happened in Europe,” he added.
There is a link between good governance and good life. The Reverend notes that in a report by World Bank, many women still face a myriad of challenges. For instance when their husbands die, they do not know where to turn to. Women have difficulties in raising funds to start businesses.
Pastors need data to liberate their congregants. There is no need to fear educated women. When everyone is educated, life becomes bearable. “In Makerere University, 50% of the population is women; in Jamaica 70% of the population in some of the institutions of higher learning is also women. So we cannot hide and run away from the fact that women are coming up and while the men are running to the chang’a dens, the women are running to get an education. Men need to sort themselves out,’’ stated the Reverend.
Kenya Uganda and Tanzania lose approximately 30,000 women annually during child birth.
“How come in Africa where the church is growing, the spirit that kills women when they are giving birth has a chair to sit on while in Sweden where the church is dying the spirits have no stools to sit on? Only 5 women die of child-birth related complications. Are we going to sit back and wait for the NGO’s to sort us out? The more than half a million deaths of children under the age of five in the East African countries is even worse than genocide which happened in a span of 4 years,” retorted reverend Nicta.
He says such issues can be addressed by the Christian community. The transformation of governance for effective service delivery can be achieved by putting all our efforts to reclaim the influence of the church for the good of the people.
“We all need to mobilise groups and not individuals. What if everybody mobilised everybody?’’ asked the General Secretary.
By: Fiona Imbali OAIC Communications.