30th Oct marked an exceptional event for many slums women. This is the day they voice their unheard predicaments. Converged at an open field in Kibera, women from various slums represented their fellow women in large numbers.
This forum is an initiative of a humble 25 years woman- Jane Anyango Agar, who is so dedicated to create space for the slum woman in the society. Jane like many slum women left the village to look for green pasture. Her first landing was at her antie’s place in Kibera. This is not the city she had heard so much about. There was no electricity, no toilets, no water and no food. “I slept stomach emptied most of the time. The nights were cold. And days stared unpromising. Each day passed with a drop of my hope to excel in life. I felt wretched.” She recount poignantly.
Jane says village life was far much better. But she couldn’t dare return empty handed. “When you board a `dream’ bus to the city, the aim is to make money and a lot of it in the shortest time possible and assist those you left behind” says Jane, amidst chuckles There is a lot of expectation from the society too. That’s why most people prefer to suffer In silence and disconnect communication from their close families. “I dint communicate with my parents for nearly 3 years, the thought of calling just to say hello sickened me. I knew their first request would be money which had proved to be `chicken milk’ to me.” She reveals.
City life exposed more pain to Jane as she shared a one –roomed mabati house, with her aunt, uncle and four of her cousins. They we were lucky to have an extra small cube like kitchen. “Privacy in our house was costly; we had to stay out for hours to give antie time with uncle”. Reveals Jane, “Weekends were worse” she adds `` I loathed the thought of it. Both antie and uncle weren’t working. After church on Saturday, they spend whole day resting. Then, we joined other common-like children in a play ground. Some played, some acted others just sat and watched. I opted to form a group of girls my age to share and sort out our issues. Through this, I realized we had a lot in common. I loathed not weekends any more. I looked forward to our `kamukunji’ days with enthusiasm and anticipation”
Their long whining hours and days of apprehension sprout out new vigor and anticipation. “We realized that no one apart from us will come from the so called `the class ‘environs to better our life”, says Jane. To surpass in life they had to change their attitude and way of thinking. She says the greatest sin they had executed was to accept what others thought of them, that, a slum woman is illiterate and idle, indolent and messy. “Most people treat slum woman with contempt and believe they are top pick pocketers, thus treat us with the same attitude’’ laments Jane.
Jane together with her friends came out in 2004 strong and willing to voice out their voices for the slum woman. They formed POLYCOM development project. The effort and will to change slum woman was partial without converting other slum women to join the forum. They moved from slum to slum advocating change of attitude. This move left all the slum with strong forum with one voice-A slum woman should be empowered to cater for her own issues individually. All they want is information and inspiration.
The slum women of Kibera meet under a tree every Thursday. The forum is attended by women from all edges of the slum, young and old. They share latest `wamama’ news, discuss women issues and invite councilors and area leaders to give advice. They do not leave their daughters behind as they advocate for change. They have GIRLS SPEAK OUT FORUMS. This forum has helped lot of girls to say NO to negative things in their lives.
Kiamaiko slum, have an interesting one-Bunge la wamama. Theirs, is areal bunge , Where they conduct all their activities and debates `bunge style.’ Started an year ago by four women, the bunge have a astounding over a thousand members.
“Our vision is to have the biggest movement ever in Kenya. And thus talk with one voice.”Says Mumbi ,the group co-coordinator. She adds,Tumekanyangiwa siku mob sana, saa ni time yetu, tumeelevuka,eti tu-me and the rest of thousands women chorused- E-LE-VU-KA! in passionate unison.
When the chief guest stood speak, she attacked fellow women. Reasons, they urge their daughters to harden to harsh treatments from their husbands as such is culture and they indeed went through such “ mwanangu, rudi, kwa bwana, mwanamke nikuvumilia,ata mimi nilipitia hayo hayo’’(my daughter , I also went through such ugly stuff,you have to persevere)she said in mimic.
Jane is such an amazing leader. She talk passionately about her environ- –the wealthy source. As it has been nick-named. She says very few people who have interest in Kibera slums are genuine. Most have individual interest. How many movies have been shot from? She asked rhetorically. They follow us even to the IDP camps. A Germany crew invaded a camp near Eldoret, they were `kind’ enough to camp and eat with them. To add to their generosity, they paid them to be firmed. Each kid was paid sh.2000 and adults sh.3000. But they never explained that they were filming to sell them to the world. As a result, the world laughs at us. Some even think this Africa’s life style.
Locals are not angels either; they get donations in the name of changing slums. They come and dish out 200 bob to women and take of huge chunk. These handouts have changed women, men and children in the slums. It became very hard to call for ‘a pass information’ forum, the first question is not an enquiry on the agenda but a loud one on –what is the take? The IDPS had also adapted this style, to a tune of creating-`supermarkets’ IDP. These, she says are on-and off IDP. They only rush camp where they cite a lorry of goodies
Jane says her message to fellow slum women and even men is to come out in large numbers and work hard in creating change. Sadly, she says, Men and young boys are always used by politicians only when it suits them. This way no one will ever feel uncomfortable to call home. “When I revealed the cause of my non-communication to my family, they were stunned. My silence killed them softly. They needed me not my money. I felt guilty but that is past. I can only tell anyone who feel stuck to never shun parents.” she wrapped up her narration
As she recounts this my mind flashed back three years back. A sat down with a dude who had come to Stockholm through Denmark. “This is not the `ulaya’ I thought and dreamt of. I have suffered great deal. I just wish I can just gather enough guts to return home’’ he laments. By then, he was hosted by a fellow Kenyan who he claimed was getting fatigued.
This is a dilemma faced by many city and diaspora dwellers. Every one look up on to you like a honey dripping tree. This discourages many from calling home when they don’t have `M-PESA’ or `WESTERN UNION’ announcement. Another dude jokingly said, sometime you call home and the second word from hello is a question. And the question, what
is the pin number? Please give it to me before the line gets disconnected.
As Jane says, never hesitate to
let your folks know how you are. Your silence might kill them
If you would like to learn more about POLYCOM and their girls speak out forums. Contact Jane Anyango Agar on firstname.lastname@example.org address POLYCOM DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS P.O BOX 16797-00100 Nairobi.