Residents in one of Nairobi’s Largest Informal Settlements Make Plans to Address the Violations of their Rights

Mukuru, Nairobi, is one of Kenya’s largest informal settlements. It counts over 100 000 residents and is characterised by poor drainage and sewage systems, poorly designed houses built near the road reserves and drainage system, and the grabbing of land meant for development of infrastructure.  Infrastructural expansion has become a complex task due to land cartels and gangs who strongly oppose upgrading initiatives. Social amenities put up by NGOs have also been grabbed and are being managed by powerful individuals at the expense of the citizens for whom those facilities were designed. “I had a kiosk, given to me by a company, to help improve my life,” explains a disabled young man. ”But it was grabbed and never given back.  The man who took it threatened to have me arrested.”  

In September 2015, FI and ATD Fourth World released their Handbook “Making Human Rights Work For People Living in Extreme Poverty”, a practical tool that presents key elements for mobilising and empowering people and communities living in extreme poverty to advocate for policies that promote and advance their rights. Since the launch, FI has been promoting the Handbook and its rights-based approach both at the United Nations, and among its partners on the field, developing training material and workshops to ensure its implementation as widely as possible. The workshops stress hands-on action planning and the development of concrete advocacy strategies by the participants. FI coordinated the first of these workshops in Mukuru on June 29th and 30th 2016.

Community members who attended the workshop included a large number of young people, vocal and committed to seeing change in their community, and several women who contributed important detail and assured their continuing involvement and follow-up.  When asked about the main issue they were facing in Mukuru, participants chose to focus on the right to adequate housing, connected closely to security of land tenure.  Following guiding questions from the Handbook, they explained how the right to own land opens the road to bank loans, to opening small businesses, to constructing permanent homes. They noted the link between the outbreak and fast proliferation of diseases due to congested settlements, and the general insecurity that reigns as people fight for land after having been forcefully evicted. Following the discussion, workshop organisers and participants agreed that housing and settlement would be the main focus of ensuing action plans and advocacy strategies.

Solid action-plans came out of the sessions, with community leaders recognising how important it was to share information about land rights and raise awareness around the current cases of eviction and the responses from law enforcement. They listed their allies, primary and secondary advocacy targets, and started putting into place national and county-level lobbying processes. “This workshop on advocacy and human rights has made me understand how to better address human rights issues,” commented one of the participants. “Issues of forced eviction are rampant in Mukuru, and we hope the Handbook can help us address them efficiently.” Participants intend to meet and interact with concerned authorities and other relevant stakeholders in late August, through a second workshop planned in Nairobi.

FI’s next planned workshops around the Handbook on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights are set to take place in Argentina at the end of July, and in the Philippines in mid-August.