HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN THE URBAN INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS
When one enters the informal settlements of Nairobi in other words known as slums or ghettos, you will note a great difference as compared to other upmarket estates. Poor road networks, no lighting, broken sewerage, lack of toilets and the list goes on and on; the governance system is not in place or does not seem to work. The authority seem to have neglected their duties and are only visible during political campaigns when the elections are looming.
The police work in total disregard of the law where they arrest, assault and even go to an extent of killing the suspects where in most cases the deaths are not investigated in a bid to bring justice to the affected families.
It is in this terrains that the grassroots human rights defenders and community based organizations work to help bridge the gap and address the social injustices at the community level. They work on a voluntary basis and put their lives in the line with little or no resources facing imminent threats from right, left and centre in their quest to find justice for the many victims who faces the different kinds of violations. Many GHRDs have been killed in unclear
circumstances, others have faced enforced disappearance while in other instances they drown in depression resulting to heavy consumption of alcohol and other substances for lack of psychosocial support. Most GHRDs languish in poverty thus making them vulnerable to the risks unlike their counterparts in the NGOs who live lavish life driving big cars in big offices in uptown Nairobi.
GHRDs are the first responders to any violations incidents in the community sometimes forcing them to use their own resources to help the victims. Some of the common violations in the urban informal settlements are:
- Police brutality which includes extrajudicial killings, harassment, torture, extortion, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearance, profiling of young men, illegal detention among others.
- Sexual gender based violence i.e. rape, defilement, domestic violence, assault etc.
- Denial of access to quality and basic services by the state i.e. food, water, education, health, social security e.g in Mabatini Ward in Mathare constituency there is no single public school or a public health facility despite the ward having a high population.
The work is so intense and overwhelming to the grassroots defenders despite the passion and the drive to bring positive transformation and rule of law. The establishment of social justice centres movement has at least helped in addressing the challenges but still there is a long way to go. There is need for more collaborations with key partners to address the issues of grassroots human rights defenders well-being especially self care and psycho-social support.
GF grassroots human rights defenders during a hiking activity in Ngong Hills