By Nyasani Mbaka
Slum life is a reality in Kenya. In these very slums, lack of basic social amenities is almost a norm here, take for instance; Kibera, Korogocho Mukuru and Laini Saba. Lack of basic social amenities literally endanger the lives of many Slum dwellers. For over half a century we have been staring at a number of negative factors in the face, these major factors include; poverty cycle, breakout of diseases (water and air-borne diseases), prostitution and inadequate access to basic formal education.
On Wednesday 28th June 2011, one lady proved to the world that the cycle of abject poverty in Kenyan slums can be reduced to a bare minimum. Jane Weru, The Akiba Mashinani Trust Executive Director, was on this day feted by the Rockefeller foundation for her efforts and quest in supporting the urban poor to literally live in dignity. The Rockefeller foundation has been monitoring closely the innovative ways of mobilizing the local communities in various community schemes in the country, especially initiating common communal saving schemes. Jane and the Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, Kenyan Alliance team have been engaging the Slum dwellers to save their monies for a better planned future.
Weru was awarded alongside other great international figures that include founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the 42nd American President, Bill Clinton who was recognized for his philanthropic works and Sania Nishtar President of Heart life a Pakistani NGO. As part of her recognition the Rockefeller foundation granted the organization a cash grant of $ 100,000 which translates to Ksh. 9 million that will be ploughed back in assisting the urban poor live in dignity.
Jane Weru receives her Innovation award from Dr. Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation The Muungano Wa Wanavijiji national Chairman Benson Osumba lauded Jane for her consistent effort in working with the urban and vulnerable in Kenya and has exuded confidence that the Muungano wa Wanavijiji Alliance will deliver on its commitment in supporting and empowering the Slum dwellers to improve on their standards of living. Weru has spent the last 15 years engaging slum dwellers to come together for common journey “to uplift their own living”. Weru expresses concern that in urban areas there is a huge divide in the slums, whereby there are more churches than community toilets as compared to the leafy suburbs of Nairobi. “In the city slums and other congested estates that exist in the outskirts of the CBD, you need not get surprised that children sleep underneath their parents’ matrimonial bed for lack of enough space, while the unemployed and discontented youth would rather take over the neighborhood”.
Jane Weru draws her inspiration largely from young people who have the desire and will to survive, despite the challenges that they face every day. Akiba Mashinani Trust works closely with the Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is an inter-national network of organisations of the urban poor in over twenty countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America who share ideas and experiences and support one another in gaining ac-cess to adequate land, infrastructure and housing. SDI brings together poor people from urban settlements to ena-ble the rapid transfer of knowledge, experiences, solutions, and skills directly between organisations of the urban poor.
Jane is also a founding member of the Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, Kenyan Alliance that comprises three other bodies that Include Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, Muungano Support Trust and the Akiba Mashinani Trust. The federation now consists of more than 60,000 households in 400 informal settlements across the country. The Muungano Kenyan Alliance has worked tirelessly to build a movement that enables the slum dwellers empower themselves by innovating community-led solutions by providing the slum dwellers with loans as they strive to uplift their standards of living. We here at Muungano once more congratulates Jane Weru and wish her the best as we work together in realizing the potential of our members..Hongera!!