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Kibera: Putting Marginalized Communities On The Map

This post is part of a series of reports from Global Voices’ collaboration with Map Kibera and Map Mathare that took place during the Global Voices Summit in Nairobi in July 2012.

Story by Leila Nachawati Rego

Kenya will face elections in a few months, and there is fear that electoral violence will push the country into chaos, like it happened in 2007. A political, economic, and humanitarian crisis erupted then, after Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election held on December 27. According to international observers, electoral manipulation was perpetrated, and as a result targeted ethnic violence erupted. At first, the violence was directed mainly against Kikuyu people, the community of which Kibaki is a member, followed by retaliatory violence against opposition groups supportive of Odinga.

Image courtesy Map Kibera

Community leaders Hamza Ahmeda and Tobias Omondi work on trying to prevent tribal clashes that are fueled by political parties in order to gain votes. According to Hamza Ahmeda, from the Interfaith Women of Peace, “Politicians from different parties are friends, we see them have tea together all the time. Why are we killing each other then?” She also highlights the need to work on a reconciliation process:

“Forgiveness and reconciliation can´t come unless people talk, admit what they did, and engage in real dialogue, that may be painful but necessary. It is no use to ask God for forgiveness if you haven´t asked your victims first. God will forgive you if I forgive you first”

Omondi, from the Orange Democratic Movement, works on the inclusion of disabled population in society, trying to fight a stigma that affects more than 4 million Kenyans. According to Kenyan constitution, 5 percent of government jobs have to be filled by disabled workers, but most citizens are not aware of this. “They don´t apply, sometimes they don´t have the level of education needed for the job, so we´re trying to work on that too.”

They both try to raise awareness about the importance of carefully choosing where you put your vote and making sure the party you are electing represents you and will work for your needs. “Politicians from the major parties only come to Kibera when they want our votes,” said Ahmeda. “We want to elect a leader who will listen to us, work with us. Do you see how we live? How long are we going to stay like this?”

Houses of Kibera. Image from GV Flickr by Laura Schneider

To raise awareness about these and other issues that affect the population, a group of young Kiberians started Map Kibera Trust in April 2010, with some funding from UNICEF and Hivos. Without any technological experience, they trained themselves in the use of flip-cameras and started gathering data from slums Kibera and Mathare, using Ushahidi to map them. They gathered information on water points, public latrines, medical clinics, informal schools, churches and mosques, video shops, community organizations. “We´re trying to put marginalized communities on the map,” Kefan Guito says. “If you´re not on the map you don´t exist. Kibera used to be a blank spot on the map, so why would anyone invest there if there is nothing and no one?”

Voice of Kibera, one of the Map Kibera Trust projects, is a website where the community shares information on fires, accidents and other emergencies. Users feed the platform through their mobile phones. SMS are relatively cheap in Kenya, which is why, according to the project coordinators, this is working well for information and reaction to issues that are relevant for the community.

The Kibera News Network, another Map Kibera Trust project, works on interviews with relevant community actors and storytelling to make sense of the data. They do advocacy work and try to raise awareness among the community through public screenings of their work. One of their biggest successes is the story “Water situation in Kibera,” where they exposed the water shortage that affected large parts of the slum. Many Kiberans did not have access to water and water vendors started charging very high prizes for providing water. After the screening of the movie, Nairobi city council organized a forum to discuss this problem and came up with a solution: from then on water was sold at a cheaper prize.

Other screenings include the Kimbilio forum, that aims to sensitize residents on matters concerning gender-based violence, and clean up events to bring people together and preach peace.

When asked about the Kibera News Network resources, Stephene Oduor and Joshua Ogure list them quickly: 6 flip cameras and 6 computers. “We´re thinking of partnering with media institutions, we need help if we want to continue doing this,” said Oduor. “The problem is that many people in Kibera don´t have Internet access,” added Ogure, “so an important part of our work is the video halls that we need to hire for the screenings. The screenings are our way to raise awareness, discuss and get feedback on what stories should be covered, on what is relevant for the community.”

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