Labour day will always remind me of the visit i made to Mukuru Slums in Nairobi, the second largest slum in Kenya. I have always made trips to the slums but this was a unique one, i was interacting directly with the slum dwellers and visited their homes.
Just in between the Industrial area and South B the over 600,000 Mukuru population provides casual labour to these two estates and the industries. They live in tough conditions, from housing, the food they eat, the water the drinkl, the sanitation, and the infrastructure- they probably have no basic need as a luxury.
I was accompanying the team of photographers and high school students from Belgium who were in the country to cover renewable energy options that we working in Kenya, as part of a climate change programme for Belgian High schools. In search on Biogas plants in Mukuru Slums, we were meeting and taking a walk in the slums in the company of the team from the 'Make a better world Kenya'. GOAL had supported the contruction of 5 units of toilets and showers in the slums which some combined with a biogas digester that would be used as community cookers. The toilets also had an entreprenueral aspect in that they also had a meeting room, bathrom, and water point, all of which were sold to the people at a small fee. Sanitation is a luxury in Mukuru, so is the water which you always have to buy. But in the case where we had these toilets, i could see the change, but probably not enough for the large population.
Housing is one thing i cant describe, the picture and the story behind this will probably remain in my mind forever. Most houses were buildt either over a sewage line, power line, at the edge of the valley, or just a small space where one could lie down. I remember visiting one of the families and saw the sewage line just passing through the kitchen!
Education, of which is important to me! Only 3 government schools which have been operational since last year. The rest are private informal schools and hidden the expansivew slum area. If such schools offer more than education , yes, the time to allow young minds grow together, and for once forget what they are going through in their lives.
MABWOK has established a small education centre for early childhood and adult education for the community. They also had life skills classes for the young people and this was tranforming the population. Some of the youth who had gone through the Centre, could now easily estbalish a small business to earn them a livelihood. Early childhood education is also a way to give th young population a meal for the day, which most parents would not afford!
Source of energy- yes there was electricity from KPLC! If anyone in Mukuru ever died of power shocks or death related to power, then to blame wold be KPLC which has openly allowed illegal transmissions on the slum. I am not of the opinion that they should go disconnect, but i do feel there is need to do this in a much better way, by ensuring that they put more transformers and ensure secure transmissions in the whole region. Its painful to see how power was moving in the slums!
The HIV infected population is also one to notice in the slums. One of the toilets build by GOAL is dedicated to such a group, and helps them support their incomes. The group could openly talk about their status, the continuing stigma in the slums, and the unwillingness of the population to accept them. However, they had already done an amazing work to set up a small group where they carried out entreprenueral acitvities. It was just tears to see their dependents who were full of life and imagine what situation would be for many others who had not accepted the conditions.
Of early teenage pregancies and abortions, this could only be further supported. Seeing the kind of life the women and girls were living. A room only enough for sleeping at night, the small dark paths in between houses, and the dire need to meet your needs as a young girl made them even more vulnerable. They did it because they didnt have a choice, they needed some money to put food on the table for the day, period!
After leaving Mukuru, i cant help but to think how important it is for the governments to rethink our population living here. They need th basic needs- Food, water, education, health & sanitation services (forgot to say i didnt spot a hsopital in my 3 hours walk!) electricity, and better infrastructure.
Once of the slum dwellers, told me how the Mukuru population was counter in terms of votes and not in terms of human population that needed access to education, health facilities, proper infrastructure or even water. These things are noe only needs, but basic human rights.
The fact that the goverment has sent the local admnistration to the area show the needs to keep law and order- but i know you can never tame a hungry animal!!! Give them food to eat and better conditions and you will not need to provide security. Insecurity is caused by lack, and goverments have the power to provide and make the right decisions for the slum population.
In small ways, different groups of young people, women groups, community organizations and NGOs are doing something to help improve the conditions in Mukuru. But they can only do that much. The need the government to stand out and show their patriotism with the slum population by providing them with the basic needs.
This can only be achieved with the right political leadership- and of which we are currently lacking in this part of our nation!