How did you first get involved with Muungano?
My name is Jane Wairutu. I started working with Muungano in the year 2006, as an intern. My first work with Muungano was working with the youth on a newspaper project, where we partnered with Nation Media Group, for the youth in the informal settlements to sell newspapers, and then they would also give in return corporate social responsibility – sort of sponsor a football league for the youths. Every school holiday, they'd sponsor a league, supply maybe balls and t-shirts and that kind of stuff, for it to run.
When I came back, now fully employed by Muungano, it had stopped – that programme had gone, it was over. So the second time I was engaged was about data collection in informal settlements – that was end of 2008, 2009 – and I worked with Irene Karanja, Jack Makau, and they mentored me through the process of working with communities on data collection. And to date I've been doing almost the same thing.
In 2008, we did the Mathare enumerations for water, and it was a partnership between Pamoja Trust and Nairobi Water Company to bring water in informal settlements. I was part of that enumeration of the whole 13 villages in Mathare. Then, in 2009, we did the first enumerations in Mukuru kwa Njenga, in eight villages, based on also the water project – working with Nairobi Water Company, Water Services Trust Fund, and European Union. It was also some sort of partnership, where the communities would get water kiosks and get toilets – public toilets – that they'd use, because there was an issue with the sanitation situation in Mukuru. By then it was very deplorable. Still, it’s not like it has really improved much, but it brought a difference because they got water coming into the settlement.
Then also I've worked on the railway relocation action plan project by the World Bank, Kenya Railways, and Muungano wa Wanavijiji. I supervised the team that was collecting data in Mukuru kwa Njenga and kwa Reuben, the whole Mukuru section.
We worked in Kitui doing data collection in Kitui, in Mombasa, and Malindi for the first times with the federation.
How does Muungano data collection work in practice? How has it changed over time?
We do not decide, as the professionals, to do the data collection. It has to be a need that it brought about by the federation or the communities facing a particular issue. And from my experience, what I've seen is it is either communities want to collect data because they are facing and eviction, or they want to collect data to improve their services, to lobby for services, advocate for better services, or to get security of tenure as a community. From there on, they'll approach us, and we will help them to mobilize the community. We'll do a lot of teaching them how to do sensitization. They'll sensitise the rest of the community, tell them about what is going to happen. And then after that, we tell them to select a group they think is competent enough to carry out data collection. And in competence it's not just about reading and writing, but it's also about the commitment one has with the community, the connection they have. So you might find very old women being part of the enumeration team, and you'd wonder why they are there, but they have specific roles. They'll help with the monitoring, they'll help with the carrying of stationary, they'll help with the talking with the community so that households agree to be enumerated. At times it might be difficult – one or two cases, when people don't understand why you're collecting the data. So from the beginning it should be very clear: the community leadership or team that you have selected will have done proper sensitization, so that when you go to the household level, you face as little resistance as possible.
We organize the settlements into clusters, so if you're from a particular cluster, you're the one sensitising in that area, collecting data in that area – people around there know you, if you're a resident there. But if you get somebody from outside, it will be the opposite: they'd resist their data being collected, because they'd view that person with suspicion. So the importance of also ensuring data collection is done by the people living in that settlement, and not outsiders or students or professionals. For us, we sort of play a supervisory role at the top. And the training part.
And then, at the end of every day, we would collect the forms, and there's a team from the community that checks the quality of data that has been collected when we were using the forms. And they would sign against the form and say they quality is good, and then a federation member who's supporting that community in collecting that data would also sign against the form to say the quality is right. And if they quality is wrong, it's not right, or it's poor, then it would mean that enumerator would have to go back to the same household with the supervision of the federation member to collect the right information.
I've been involved in enumerating, over 100,000 households. So far.
We'd start with inventories – the profiles used to be called inventories. It was a rough estimation of what is happening in settlements, but we would cover a large scale, because it wasn't very detailed, unlike the enumerations. It was just a settlement-based questionnaire, with estimates of population, structures, facilities. We never did the actual counts initially.
Then, we would use enumeration to get the actual data of households when we needed population, the actual structure size, and such things. But with time, we've seen it’s costly to do the enumeration, which is more accurate – it's a bit costly. So what we've done is, we've started doing profiles. We've improved on the questionnaire we used to use for settlements. So now, right now, we are doing the actual count – even though we are doing it at settlement level, we are actually counting structures and families, to give us a city-wide scale of how many people would be living in informal settlements in, let's say, Nairobi. We want to know that level of detail.
Right now our priority for enumeration is only when we have a project we want to implement that involves individual households – let's say a housing project, where you need the names of the beneficiaries, you need their contacts, you need the actual names of their children, or such kind of a thing. So with time, we've sort of changed the mode of data collection. So we are still improving, but I think it's really changed. It’s much better, it's much efficient.
Before, we'd have 80 people carrying out an enumeration of 2000 households, so it was very hard to manage such a big enumeration team on a daily basis – checking the quality, it used to be a challenge. And we'd do in 3 days, 80 people, 2000 households, and it was kind of crazy when you do the math. So with time, we've realised, use a smaller team that will understand. And when you have that close connection with the enumerators, it's easy to know their level of understanding, unlike when you have such a big group.
We've also now moved from the hard copy forms. Now, we're using the tablets. So that's an improvement from where we were to now, which makes it easier to monitor where the enumerators are, and even the kind of information that they're filling. And it’s faster.
What has working with Muungano meant to you?
It has really taught me a lot. Muungano has sort of become a family that indirectly affects my life, whether I'm working or not. Also, before, I had not gone to informal settlements. Where I was brought up, I had not gone to Mathares, Kiberas, and coming to work with Muungano, understanding how people live in the slums, understanding their issues – especially the women – for me it has really touched me. And the youth also: I also have worked with the youth for a while. And I think, if I'm to see anything happening to any slum, whether there's a federation or not, I'll be concerned to know. Whether if there was a fire, what's happening, what are the interventions, does the federation need to come in? So, it just comes up to be part of your life, somehow. Whether you're at work or not, you're still with the federation. It's part of family, over time. Even the people you work with, the ones who've passed on, when they pass on you feel also the loss, and you know how much they contributed to the cause of the federation.
How have things changed over time?
The federation has managed to really influence a lot in the country – in the movements, be a model that people have copied. And over time, I have seen it becoming... it can sort of run on its own, without so many professionals, so many interventions from outside. Over time, I think I've seen them grow into something more vibrant – so knowledgeable. Once upon a time, it was very big, but with the issues that were there earlier, let's say on evictions, once the evictions from the government stopped being such a big deal maybe the numbers have gone on decreasing.
Some of the settlements, they've gotten security of tenure, they've gotten maybe papers. So after that, now maybe they'll stop working as a federation and move on to more of a group, a savings scheme that maybe just wants to look at livelihoods. They're not so bothered about evictions so they're moving towards sustaining their livelihoods.
What are your hopes for Muungano’s next 20 years?
There are so many opportunities for Muungano, and I see it becoming a name. Before, we'd say we'd want just a thousand people talking about Muungano, but when you go into government offices, nowadays they already know about Muungano. So what I see is Muungano becoming a major partner in development issues around informal settlements, where the government institutions will come and call on Muungano. Which is happening right now, but now make it that anything that has to do with informal settlements, Muungano has to be there.
A story about exchanging ideas
There the time I started working with youth from Mukuru. I worked with a group of youth called Oasis. They were 40 thugs and also security for Mukuru kwa Reuben – thugs–stroke–security. When we went to mobilize, the chief gave us those 40 to be enumerators. And half of them were not educated, so they were illiterate, and somehow we had to incorporate them into the team of enumerators, give them roles so that we would be able to do enumerations in that area. And so we incorporated them. We had a lot of drama, where they'd fight in the field with pangas, machetes – because they were high on bhang, so at times they would fight each other. But that passed, we completed the enumerations well, we got a bigger team from the community. But what was touching for me is, they had – they still have – a very big space in Mukuru, they had a big field where they had a small hall where they'd carry out all their crazy activities. And introducing them to one of the youths I had worked with in Mathare, called Kaka. So I linked up with Kaka – Kaka is in Mlango Kubwa, they do waste collection, recycling of plastics, they had football tournaments for kids, they had a social hall where they had a screen and would charge people to watch the premier league. So I took them for an exchange to Mlango Kubwa, and once they went there and interacted with the youth, they learnt all that. And three or four years later, I went to Mukuru, and I met one of them, and he told me, ‘just come and see what we've been doing – you just disappeared, come and see’. And I found they had a very nice hall, they had a community public toilet which they were charging, they had the screen and the seats. They had replicated a lot they had seen from Mlango Kubwa, which was so touching for me. Very small acts like those exchanges can really change even the youths in what they're doing. But also, what was interesting is, I not only took them for an exchange where they do all these nice things, so they linked up with a gang from Mlango Kubwa and also started hijacking cars along Mathare Juja Road! So the exchange was very good, it touched in the positive, and also in the negative. There's a positive out of it, because somebody like Song, who's working with Pato on the school and sanitation, Song and a few others – 5 or 10 of them – reformed and are doing the right things in the community. But there's also that crazy part, that you took them for an exchange and they also exchanged ideas with other gangs!