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Dignity in poverty

Transformation toward dignity
Transformation toward dignity

I’ve watched with horror the conditions of living that lack dignity in Mathare slums when it rains from Boniface Mwangi’s video titled Kenya is an epic horror movie. How the houses are flooded, yet the people continue living in them because of lack of alternatives. I couldn’t finish watching the video. I have seen some comments that some of the people have options of going to the village. That may be true, but picture this, going back to the village, you need money for survival.

It has brought back memories of our life in City Carton Slum. I dreaded the rainy season. Our roof used to leak at several points. My room, (the one in the documentary- Abstaining from reality) would be flooded, so I used to put all my valuables on the bed whenever it rained.

Most people, such undignified states are the only source of dignity they have. It’s dignifying to them because at least they can get work in the cities to feed themselves and their families. No matter how small the earnings are. It doesn’t rain every day. Some days, most days it’s dry. So the houses provide shelter.

When I moved from the slum in 2007, it was because I was going to university. Our mother used to wash clothes to feed us. I remember going with her to look for hostels. We looked so rugged that one hostel run by catholic nuns refused to give me accommodation even though my sponsor was willing to pay for my educational expenses fully. Maybe the nun judged by our looks and decided that we could not afford to pay the accommodation fee. She said that I was too old for them to accommodate. I was barely 24. I later found out that they were hosting even ladies who were older than me. Luckily, I got another hostel near Nairobi Hospital, where I lived for one year and later on moved to a single roomed house in Kibera- Karanja area.

I discovered that a different life was possible again. Though the space was small, it was better than the conditions in the slums. Having lived in Buru Buru Estate, in a three bed roomed house all my childhood only for life to take us to the slum was enough humiliation. If my parents never thought of going to the village then, it was to preserve their dignity. This is just to stress my point that for some people, the slum conditions are their only source of dignity. Most don’t want to go to the village to become a burden.

Thank God my parents now live a different life in the village. It took our sacrifice and strong will to convince them to move to the village. Thanks to all my siblings. Every one of us played their part. This is to encourage people who feel that their condition is permanent, that nothing lasts forever.

Do I have a solution to the suffering of people in the slum? I try my best to do the little I can; just like the hummingbird in Prof. Wangari Maathai’s famous story. It’s more like paying it forward, because someone sacrificed to change my life. I would love to do more. I am also exploring, asking myself a lot of questions, and reflecting in the process. This is why such videos are devastating to me.

Juls’ reflections.

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