Kenya is only at the beginning of their fight against COVID-19, but the impact on millions of ordinary citizens is already extraordinary. Kenyans are worried about the government’s response: there are no border quarantine provisions, not enough ICU beds, and national Coronavirus hotlines don’t work. The virus poses incredible risk to those living in Nairobi’s densely populated urban settlements, where access to water, soap, and sanitation is unreliable and social distancing is next to impossible. Inhabitants of urban settlements who cannot work from home face the reality that a day away from work means a day without food on the table.
Learn about the impact of COVID-19 in Kenya and the role that women and other grassroots human rights defenders across Social Justice Centres in Kenya are playing to support their communities. Millions living in informal settlements depend on them for access to water, sanitation, and healthcare provisions, as the government sits on its hands. We will also discuss the impact of lockdown on police violence, court suspensions, and the wellbeing of human rights defenders.
We hear from three human rights defenders from the city’s informal settlements, each of whom are involved in protecting the fundamental rights of their neighbours through social justice centres and women human rights defenders networks.
Susi Bascon is the Director of Peace Brigades International (PBI) UK Section, an organisation that provides tailored support and protection to over 1,000 human rights defenders around the world. Susi completed an MBA and an MSc in Development Studies and worked in the private sector for several years, before moving into the voluntary sector. She worked as an international observer for PBI in Mexico and began leading the PBI UK office in 1998. Jointly with late patron Sir Henry Brooke, she launched the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk in 2010, a network of high profile pro bono lawyers interested in supporting HRDs at risk. Susi also led PBI UK’s campaign for the nomination of the global community of human rights defenders for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
Editar Adhiambo Ochieng is a feminist activist who defends women's rights around the world. She fights sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) by creating awareness within the government, advocating for the recognition of SGBV as a national disaster and for the implementation of appropriate policies. Being a SGBV survivor at 16 years also inspired her HRD work, which she started when she was 21 years old. As the founder of Feminist for Peace, Rights and Justice Centre she brought survivors together to work together to save the Kibera community from different forms of violence. The Centre supports the community in Kibera in understanding their rights and accessing justice. Editar is an authentic, courageous and transformational leader. As a proud and radical intersectional feminist, she doesn’t apologize for challenging power dynamics and patriarchal systems that oppresses women systematically.
Gacheke Gachihi is a social justice and human rights defender. Over the last fifteen years he has been involved in community organizing in Kenya, helping to build a grassroots social movement. He is a member of Bunge la Mwananchi (the Peoples Parliament) which is an organic grassroots based social movement. He participated in its formative stages, and is the coordinator for the Mathare Social Justice Center, a community based registered organization in Mathare that conducts campaigns on political accountability and social justice and documents cases of extra-judicial killings and police brutality in low-income areas of East lands of Nairobi.
Naomi Barasa is a consultant in strategic campaigning, researcher, and trainer. She is an accomplished community organizer and feminist. Naomi is an award winning human rights defender. For over two decades she has led successful global, regional, national and local campaigns on mainly economic, social & cultural rights as well ascending extrajudicial killings under various organizations with the latest being Amnesty International. In 2018 she received a human rights global award: Sir Henry Brooke Award for human rights defenders. Naomi won a National Silver Jubilee Community Organizer award in 2019. She was named the 7th bravest woman in the world in a 2011 global survey by Marie Claire Magazine. She has over 33 years’ experience in human rights, gender, community organizing, research, training and strategic planning.