Juliet Wanjera is a co-founder of the Mathare Social Justice Centre and a co-ordinator the women group in the social justice movement in Nairobi, Kenya. For years, the urban settlement of Mathare has suffered various forms of structural violence, including: land grabbing, forced evictions, police abuse and extrajudicial killings, political impunity and other economic, social and psychological violations. This violence has been allowed to go on without any retribution to the community, especially as most of the community continues to live in fear of the consequences of standing up for their rights.
"What's social justice? Rights to food, rights to water, right to live, housing, health care and education" Juliet Wanjira
In order to address these issues, a collective of young community members and experienced social justice activists in Mathare came together in 2015, founding the Mathare Social Justice Centre. The MSJC’s mission is to promote social justice in Mathare by means of community engagement and the use of social movement platforms. Since 2015, the MSJC has undertaken a number of organizing activities with all cross-sections of the community and have focused on the documentation of extrajuridical killings.
"We have come together to consolidate our efforts to have one voice and we say - we want social justice!" Juliet Wanjira
"Unity. That's where our power lies" Juliet Wanjira
In just two years the MSCJ has developed from a loose group of individuals meeting on the streets and in their houses, to a well-organised and powerful voice in the public debate on issues such as extrajudicial killings in the urban settlements, land rights, gender-based rights and many more.
In 2017 just one SJC was operating in Kenya, today there are 28, each striving to promote social justice and protect human rights in their communities. The larger centres reach out to between three and five thousand community members. The fact that the movement of SJCs has been able to grow at this pace and in these conditions is remarkable. In September 2019, the first Social Justice Centre in Uganda was opened, showing the interest of grassroots activists in other countries and showing potential for expanding the concept of SJCs in the area of East Africa or further.