Christine Mwelu

Christine Mwelu


From: Viwandani, Mukuru, Nairobi

Interview date & place: 21 March 2016, Nairobi

Interviewed by: Kate Lines

Original language: English

My names are Christine Mwelu Mutuku. I come from Viwandani, in the informal settlements, and I belong to federation Muungano in Kenya.

Doing federation data collection

I'm one among the people who are doing data collection. We did data collection in Mukuru Kayaba. We reached 8 villages ad in those 8 villages, before we started taking the data collection, we offered training to the community members whereby we told them how to collect the data, how to talk with the community people and we also talked to the authority, that is the chief, in that area and he gave us permission as Muungano federation members and we took the data.

Then from the training we went to the field whereby we were taking the structures. We wanted to know how many structures are in that area, how many people living in that area, what kind of services are offered in that area. We were taking GPS—that is water kiosk, where there is a toilet, where there is sewer line, where there is power line, what kind of electricity are these people using, are they using legal or illegal electricity. This is the kind of information we were trying to collect in that ground. And those people were so interested. They wanted to know, why is Muungano people operating in their area? Are they planning to destroy their structures, are the planning those people to be chased from that area? But we gave them a good information—that Muungano Wa Wanavijiji is there to stand with them, to take their information to the county government to know the people who are living in that place, so that we can have a good communication with our government.

We  met with different kinds of people ... What type of people? There are learned people and there are those who are not learned people. And they are people who were somehow stable and others who were not stable. Others in schools and others not in schools. Some with small businesses others who are looking for jobs.

What we found in that data is, those people are so many living in a small place and the structures that people are using they are very dangerous because it is made of iron sheet and wood. And they live in a risky area because fire can come anytime and their properties are destroyed and they are not paid by anyone.

Those people they are living in land which has no title deed. And that is why their life is at risk, because at any time they can be sent away, they have nowhere to go. That was one big challenge. Another challenge is the services that they have in that place. There is not enough toilets, no water—they use kasuku [flying toilets] for short call and long call. They share one room—a whole family in that one room—and it is really stressful. A mother, a father, children and if a relative or if a friend come they are just using that one house. It was a big challenge even those people to have money to educate their children. It was a really big challenge, because they are stable financially. They are not even able to get enough food for their stomach. Even the clothing, they are not able to maintain good standard of wearing—sometimes they are supported by good samaritan, by NGOs—of which it is a big challenge.

Some of the challenges as we were collecting the data—we ourselves the data collectors—is we encountered many people are so drunkard in that area, they don’t want to respond to our questions. When you try to ask them questions they don’t want to answer, they think that we are coming with a bad motive. In that area to be sick is very easy because of sewer lines are so open. Everything is so dirty in that place. Even to eat the food in that place, it is a big challenge.

For us to overcome the challenge, it was for us to take everything easy, so that we can come to the standard of this people. We also come from the slums and we came to their standards. We told them there is a better future if you can start groups and start saving, then after the savings, after a long time of saving you can get your money, you can buy a land somewhere, you can do something to change your life. Although it was so challenging we really took time and we reached those people with a good information: after saving, you will live a better life.

Those people are so interested to know more about Muungano. They saw people who love them and people who want to take care of them. So it is good when we are provided with the best services, we will reach those people, we will try to maintain those groups. We will bring many to Muungano and many will learn more and better things from Muungano. Muungano is something that has changed lives of many.

How did you first get involved in/with Muungano?

I have been in Muungano for two years and a half, and I have learnt many things in Muungano. I came in Muungano not knowing my rights. There some things I have learnt in Muungano. There is advocacy when you stand and stand your ground and know the laws of your country, I have learnt from Muungano.

I came to Muungano through one challenge—where we are living it was supposed to be demolished. But people told me about Muungano, I take a step, I came to Muungano, we told them what we are going through. Muungano stood with us, the place was not demolished. Then from there I created that interest and I have reached many people telling them about Muungano, the better things in Muungano—because I have seen them, they have motivated me. I have done about sanitation, I have empowered women to know their rights to have the projects of sanitation. Women to come together, women to be motivated in building Muungano.

What are your hopes for Muungano’s next 20 years?

For me, I want Muungano to cooperate with the government. Because the people who are living in the informal settlement, we need land. And we cannot make it alone. We have to come together. We have to combine our ideas. We have to talk with our government and give them our issues—that we want land. A land with a tittle deed whereby we can built permanent houses—this one will change our lives, our families, even our country. We love this programme known as Muungano