By Winnie Kabintie
“Ndio kupata pads ni challenge na ni shidapia lakini chenye sisi tunahitaji zaidi ni pia njia ya kujiinua. Atleast tupate kibarua tujinunulie chakula, nguo na tulee watoto,”(Lack of sanitary towels is a big challenge for us but we would desire to have a more permanent solution to all our plight generally and be empowered just to afford basic things like food for ourselves and our children)
That was the uniform cry for help I and a team of other women led by Nairobi County Woman Rep Esther Passaris, were met with when we visited street families in Nairobi’s Majengo slum.
The visit had been a response to a feature story by TUKO; How Street Women in Kenya Deal with Periods, which has gone viral this week.
This Majengo area particularly from what I saw today is basically a community of homeless people. They have segregated themselves into what they call “base” (a kin to the court’s in our estates) and they associate and identify based on this bases. In these “bases” they actually have structure, the area they sleep in “Bedroom” and where they socialize from “Sitting room”.
The space they occupy is open air so basically, the allocations are just mental, not physical.
I honestly thought that we would be met by rowdy, intoxicated groups of men and women but i was amazed to be confronted by a community of although destitute, they know what they want, the abilities they possess and the opportunities around them and were very articulate on how the government to step in and help them.
Most of them, for instance, said they would like to be issued with Identification cards, some men mentioned that they were already in the garbage collection business but the only challenge they face is where to dispose the garbage once they have collected it.
Others decried that they used to run car wash stations but more powerful groups, who have affiliations to their local leaders took them over.
STREET BOY APPEALS TO BE REUNITED WITH FAMILY
One young boy particularly said that he would like to be reunited with his family, saying he ran away from home due to a hostile environment.
Another woman, who looked more elderly than the rest of the troop revealed that she was a heroin addict and needed help with rehabilitation so that she can breastfeed her infant.
Esther Passaris promised to liaise with relevant government agencies to oversee the Identity card issue and asked the young street boys to organise themselves in groups in order to be empowered through relevant initiatives.
She also appealed to the young men to use condoms so that they stop fathering children they can’t support.
STREET FAMILIES REHABILITATION
There are still many street families in Nairobi despite efforts to rehabilitate them and remove them from the streets. These group is allegedly behind the rampant cases of peert crimes and muggings on the streets of Nairobi.
In February, the Nairobi County Government launched an operation to flush out street families from the Central Business District and the programme was allocated Sh110 million in the 2017-2018 financial year to fund institutions caring for street families but the efforts appear to have hit a snag as their number keeps soaring.