I am working with the slum communities in a couple of projects and I have never felt so useful and so small at the same time.
Over the weekend I visited the slums of Kibera. It was such a beautiful morning and I was in high spirits actually, luminous with energy. I took a group of visitors along. It has been a while but everything was the same, except me and the minibus full of visitors. I have always known that I cant trust myself with directions but I had so many other like me friends. So when we got lost in Kibera without any effort on my part I had to step up and unleash my tremendous memory of landmarks and finally we found our way. I was amazed at how fast a group of over 25 people navigated through the narrow streets, thanks to my my resident friends who is always ready to help.
We visited one of the sanitation facilities in Kibera called 81- No idea where the name came from but I will investigate very soon. It is like an oasis in the middle of so many houses with no sight of a toilet or a water point. The facility serves thousands of people in the area with clean sanitation services- toilet, shower and water selling point.It is not without challenges; water is rare and the operator has to look for water from vendors every morning sometimes he gets none and therefore the facility remains closed and the regular users have to turn to flying toilet.
On monday, I visited Mathare slums and couldn’t help myself but compare the wide streets in Mathare with the ones in Kibera. The lives of the people living there is no different only that in Kibera every one owns a small business which is not so much the same in Mathare. A more fancy sanitation facility graces the slums with its classy design and warm colours, the interior wants a person like me want to hang around longer and admire herself in the full mirrors. The facility provides clean, hygienic sanitation services and serves close to 2,000 people. Too bad, its the only one in the area unlike the 8 facilities in Kibera.
I visited my favorite youth groups garden down at Mathare river and I have never been so surprised. Just the other day, they were flattening the land they have reclaimed to what was a garbage disposal site so that they could plant some vegetables and corn and now the corn is almost ready for harvest. Kosovo Youth Group is doing a great deal of service cleaning the river and doing something to uplift their standards. sometimes when I talk to them I feel that given a chance, they would go places but they are so unaware of the chances outsde there both interms of financing, forming successful groups and all.
Kenya has a Vision 2030 which is supposed to steer the country towards socioeconomic development and face the development challenges being faced in the country but the government does not recognize informal settlements in their plans and therefore not in the Vision 2030. Where does that leave the informal settlements whose residents are struggling with unemployment, inadequate sanitation and safe drinking water, HIV/AIDs and other social economic problems?