I laid low at my rural home until the year 2008, when the sexual violence and young girls made me resurface as an HRD in Nyando, where I mobilized and empowered women on issues of human rights and registered a community-based organization named Nyabende Support Programs CBO. We also affiliated ourselves with Nyando Community Justice Centre where we established ourselves as Human Rights Defenders.
My experience as a Human Rights Defender has been satisfying and especially when I get positive results after assisting survivors, led by the passion that I have for supporting vulnerable people, I have mentored many human rights defenders and I believe I will leave a great legacy behind me. In 2018, my husband and I were identified as ‘champions for change’ during the 16 days of activism for the work we do of rescuing victims of gender-based violence and sexual and gender-based violence and referring the cases to Ahero and Awasi police stations, Ahero County hospital and Gender Based Recovery Centre GBVRC.
I have faced many challenges including threats both from state and non-state actors such as the police and community members. Defilement cases that involve police, teachers or other civil servants as perpetrators, pose risks to me since their colleagues gang up against Human Rights Defenders. Family members also compromise cases and see you as an interference in their family affairs. The other challenge I get is lack of safe spaces, burn out leading to stress, which also has a ripple effect on my family members. Generally, I enjoy working as an activist, I get satisfaction when a survivor gets justice and heals from trauma. The passion that I have grows every day.
An interview with Faith Kasina
I am Faith Kasina, I monitor document and report human rights violations in Kayole. I started Human Rights Defending after the many executions by police in the year 2016 that were happening in Kayole due to the existence of the Gaza criminal gang that saw most of the young people aged between 14 and 20 either executed by the police or living in exile. Systemic extrajudicial execution is a violation by the Government of Kenya of our rights and freedoms contrary to Article 26 of the 2010 Constitution and Article 3 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR). Article 26(1) of the 2010 Constitution states that, every Kenyan citizen has the right to life and Article 25 (c) provides for the right to a fair trial in a court of law. The violations of these rights are what drove me to become an activist.
My experience has not been good. Every other time I talk to parents and I see clearly how desperate and afraid they are that maybe their 16year old son might be next in line for execution for a crime they didn’t commit. It saddens me when young people are killed in the informal settlements and I hope someday we will win the war against criminalization of poverty.
The challenges that I have faced so far are: threats from the police, too much expectation from the community, and my works is complicated by the fact that witnesses fear to come forward and some are threatened by the police.
There have been rewards because we have some cases in court and we hope that even after many years of court proceedings that justice will prevail in the end.
The communities that we advocate for sometimes do not understand the work that we do; and they perceive our work as though we fight for and support criminals. Often, they would support you when your work favours them but when your work does not favour them, they will be the first ones to alienate you.
Activism in general is not easy and I know it will never be easy. That is why we have to give it our all. You should be ready to sacrifice a lot of things, be dedicated and committed. ‘It is better to die on your feet than on your knees’.
An interview with Juliet Wanjira
My name is Juliet Wanjira I am a human rights activist in the area of Mathare, currently working with Mathare Social Justice Centre. I started doing this work after my elder brother was killed extrajudicially by the police and seeing all the human rights violations that were happening in my community, I could not just sit down and lament, I had to do something to try and change the situation. After finishing high school, I decided to join hands with other likeminded people and together we joined Mathare Social Justice Centre.
I have become susceptible to secondary depression because we are documenting the experiences of people whose loved ones have been killed, people who are full of pain and bitterness, and the most we can do is document these experiences and pass them onto organizations who can do more. We also face a lot of threats from killer cops who are well known in the community.
Some of the challenges that we are facing so far is that currently we do not have the legal capacity to take on legal issues ourselves and we have to rely on other organizations who can like IPOA and Kenyan National Commission of Human Rights. People in the community come to us for info about the progress of their cases and how we can help, but at present we are just not equipped to provide this kind of support. Another serious challenge is that, witnesses being murdered, people are afraid to come forward to help solve cases.
In our line of work, it becomes rewarding when the families of victims get justice. It is also so rewarding to see people come to our office as victims and see them turned into victors, like Mama Victor who has become the convener of the Victims and Survivors Network in the social justice centres’ working group. It is also rewarding to see how people get to understand and fight for their rights.
In the community we work in, a few people do understand that the work we do is for their benefit because they have gone through oppression or their relatives were innocently executed by the police, and they desire change. It will take time for a good number of people to understand because many people fall for the counter narratives that are put forward by the state after they have sanctioned police killings.
My general experience as an activist is that, this is a call of patriotic duty. It calls for great courage and commitment and it is also a risky venture. Like Dedan Kimaathi and Mekatilili, we are ready to trade our lives for the emancipation of our people; we have been arrested and teargassed, but this has only strengthened us and given us the spirit to keep on fighting. Like they said in Cuba, Motherland or Death, we shall win. The police think we are fighting against them, but we are fighting for us all. We are fighting for social justice.