Isaac 'Kaka' Muasa
Isaac 'Kaka' Muasa
From: Mathare, Nairobi
Interview: 30 March 2016, Nairobi
Interviewer(s): Kate Lines
Original language: English
My names are Isaac Muasa, but I'm known as Kaka — Kaka means brother. As a community leader, or as the chairman of Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth group, I've been working with the young people for a long time, and that's my job — just giving them hope, and trying to see how we can empower each other.
Mathare is a very challenging area to live in, and most of the people here are poor. They don't have proper houses, they don't have jobs, there is a big number of unemployed youths. People need support. I try to bring the young people together, come up with ideas that we try, and work on the challenges that Mathare is facing. And for me that's my job, I've been doing that since I was 18, 19 years old. I think bringing people together and trying to look at the challenges that they are going through, that's the job that I now play.
When you look at the challenges, there is always a way that you can borrow the ideas from somewhere else, where you find there's other young people who have faced the same challenges. By networking and working with organisations that help young people we can get the exchange of ideas.
How did you first get involved in Muungano?
The biggest challenge that was in Mathare was waste management. And there was also the issue of proper housing and also owning land. Muungano, when they came in they wanted to involve the young people also, because after you look at the challenges that our parents are going through, if you don't support the young people who have the ideas of coming up and of improving the situation... So they came in when we were dealing with waste management, because it was the biggest challenge. So they came in, and they introduced the idea of recycling. They introduced the idea of getting our own machine so that we can add value to our job and create more opportunities for the young people. It was a grinding machine that adds value to plastic — it was grinding plastics.
They also supported sports. They came up with the mentorship programmes — they trained us as mentors. They made us realise that the community is built by everyone: the older people, the young people, and the kids. The mentorship programme involved sports, talent shows, fashion shows. The aim is to identify some of the talents that the young people have. We were lacking anyone or any organisation that can help us identify any of the talents, so that's how they came in.
When we came up with the idea of slum soccer, first of all there was the Mwamko wa Vijana. Muungano came up with Mwamko wa Vijana, so it was an initiative for the youths. For us, when we came in, we came in with the ideas of sports and identifying the targets, so they really supported us in making things happen. We used to play football. You'd go to play with other kids from other settlements, in other settlements. So Mwamko, Muungano was facilitating the transportation of exchanging of ideas, going to play with other kids. Whenever we go there we get different ideas — you come back and try to work on some of the challenges.
We started slum soccer after every settlement was, like, you need now to have your own space, football space. And Mwamko and Muungano, they wanted to improve the spaces and make sure that we occupy all the spaces and use them, in sports or anything. So because there was no space in the slums, so the idea was like, we need to occupy the space, even if it’s a road. Sometimes when the cars are not passing, we can just put a post and a post, and when the car wants to pass we can just move it. So, like in Korogocho, they didn't have space, so they went at a road and they drew a football pitch. And for us we came and built a pitch here. And now, the kids, we started our own league, we wanted to start our own league that goes on in the community. It doesn't matter how small the space is, as long as you keep the dream and the hope alive.
How have things changed over time?
I'm still working on some of the ideas that we came up with. Most of the things that I do here in Mlango Kubwa, most of the ideas we came with are the ideas when we were in Muungano. The space here it used to be a big heap of garbage — the people who were living around here, they used to throw garbage here. So for us, we were growing up here, seeing that there is dirt in our community, there was no one who was taking care of it, garbage being the biggest challenge. So first of all, we wanted to get rid of the garbage, all the garbage. So for us we were a bit clever, we used the politician who used to come and ask for votes. For us, our request was, ‘just clear the garbage, and we'll give you the votes’. And they did that. And after doing that, we now occupied the space, and we fenced it and we built our first structure. So this is the fourth structure — we've come from a very long way. It was in 1997 when we started occupying the space. And the space, it has been like a lighthouse to this community, because whenever we want to have meetings, people with disabilities whenever they want to have meetings, there a place they come — they don't pay. And the older people, if they want to meet in the community, they can just come and meet, not pay. A space that brings people together, a space that gives hope to the people in the community. Not only the young people, but everyone. Being a young person and having done all that with my friends, to see the change happening in my community is the best thing that you can give back to the society.
What are your hopes for Muungano’s next 20 years?
Muungano should continue fighting for the settlements, and also make sure that even the young people get access to own land. Because in the settlements here and in Mathare, a lot of people don't have access to land. They've been living like squatters for long, and that kind of life has a lot of challenges. They should continue and involve the young people a lot, because young people, they have ideas. If you combine the ideas together, they can turn things, they can make things work. As human beings we need to look at the challenges together and try to make things work out well. As a community leader and as a person who has been born in Mathare and brought up here, it's a difficult, a very challenging area to live in. So we need to improve the livelihood of the people here. And we need to support them, so that life can be better.
As Muungano, they say, umoja nguvu — unity is strength. If we can use our unity and fight for the rights of the people here, I think life can be better. If you have proper housing, if you have proper drainages, if you can own a land, the challenges reduce, because you'll not be paying rent and working so hard. You're just working so that you can get food. There's a lot of ways that you can use so that you improve the life, the lifestyles, of the people of Mathare.