This week, Amnesty International kicked off a high level research mission to Kenya to launch our first Demand Dignity campaign action. Irene Khan, Amnesty’s Secretary General, visited to two informal settlements in Nairobi – where almost two million people live in slums – asking residents to tell the Kenyan government what dignity mean to them via a free SMS service. The responses have been inspiring, take a look at a few:
For me, living with dignity means “setting principles to your ways and standard of living and be true to them.”
“Dignity is having three meals a day. Clean water. shelter. Good roads. justice for all but not for the few corrupt.”
“Dignity refers to carrying humanity with respect and honour.”
Community members from Korogocho and Kibera slums told the Amnesty delegation stories, sang songs and used street theatre performances to illustrate the human rights violations they face everyday as slum residents. Irene Khan noted:
“The development of slums in urban areas has become the iconic symbol of the forgotten, marginalized people – excluded not only from basic services like sanitation, but also from the decision making that takes place even in their own lives.”
In the settlements, children play in muddy streams which run through narrow passageways, while pathways are littered with garbage, animal and human waste. Overcrowding in Kibera – Africa’s largest slum – is a huge problem with more than 800,000 people living on 250 hectares
Many of the informal settlement residents described the insecurity associated with slum-life. In Korogocho, Irene Khan met with Mama Franco, a mother of three, who recently lost her few personal possessions in a house fire started by the paraffin lamp she uses as she has no electricity supply. Mama Franco is one of an estimated 127,000 poor Kenyans who face losing their homes in a planned river clean up program.
Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign seeks to empower people living in poverty and take their voices to the highest level of government. The voices collected in Kenya’s informal settlements through the SMS action and website will be collected and presented to the Kenya government on World Habitat Day.