"As a 17 years old powerless girl in the slums there was not much I could do. But I had a mouth so I chose to make noise" Naomi Barasa
Born in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi, Naomi Barasa was a close witness to street violence, police brutality, impunity and the overwhelming inequality of the slums. Her journey as a human rights defender has embedded her in the struggle to improve living conditions for Nairobi’s 2.5 million slum dwellers. Naomi was instrumental in the campaign that led to the passage of the Sexual Offences Act in 2006, and has acted as Campaigns Manager for the Right to Adequate Housing with Amnesty International since 2009. She has contributed to the adoption of legislation such as the Housing Bill 2011, the Evictions and Resettlement Bill and the Slum Upgrading and Prevention Policy. Reflecting her personal history, the bulk of Naomi’s work takes a grassroots approach. She focuses on access to information and capacity-building, empowering affected groups to stand up and claim their rights.
"Maybe I was destined to do it. As a child I grew up in the very slums that I am describing that are full of violence against women, full of police harassment especially against young people, domestic violence against women and girls, exclusion, marginalisation, illiteracy… it’s just a forgotten lot of human beings. As I grew up I kept wondering – why do I have to grow up like this? " Naomi Barasa
On 13 November 2018, Naomi Barasa was awarded one of the first ever Henry Brooke Awards for Human Rights Defenders, in recognition of her resilience and dedication to combating the societal structures that drive inequality. In this interview from 2012, she describes her remarkable journey as a human rights defender.
"What motivates me to do the work I do is the resilience of the suffering people and the desire to see a different world. A world that has a mathematics of justice, not of inequality. I think of my mother back in the slum, I think of my sisters back in the slum, I think of my daughters, and other mothers and daughters and sisters – there are lots of us back in the slum. It could be any of us – it could be me, it could be them. For me, my mothers and daughters and sisters are not just biological relations. And I think of how they struggle every day, every morning with a smile on their faces, despite all the difficulty." Naomi Barasa
We hear from Naomi Barasa and other human rights defenders from the Nairobi's informal settlements 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.