Kawangware is a home for many and most people have come to attest that. However many people do not realize that any slum has unconscious strategies called ‘dramas’ applied to achieve the power of survival. Survival for the fittest is a drama by the oppressors who hustle to manipulate and steal the energy of other under privileged. In this case, I want to share the practical insight related to Kawangware. I have gathered information which will make most of us pay attention to it and then elicit certain reaction(s) towards touching the lives of children in this big slum. In this very special way a dream will be fulfilled. The positive feelings we gain are won at the expense of the other person and this in turn will cause imbalance and drama in our interpersonal relationships.
“Let us reach out to the children. Let us do whatever we can to support their fight to rise above their pain and suffering”. – Nelson Mandela.
Can dreams sometimes turn into reality for a child living in Kawangware? What can a person living in a slum desire moving from one status of lifestyle to another? Imagine your brother or sister struggling with life not far away from you?
Kawangware slum is located on the outskirts of Nairobi, the great capital city of Kenya. It borders Kangemi to the North. It is approximately 15 km from Nairobi, Central Business District (CBD). The slum is surrounded by high end estates like Lavington, Karen and Westlands. It lies in Dagoretti constituency. The contrast between these estates and Kawangware slum is what I am going to highlight in this article. As earlier stated the slum is a home for several labourers who work in Lavington, Riara, Karen, Ngong, Westlands, Loresho, Muthaiga, Nyari and other high end estates. International schools like Rusinga and Braeburn are separated from Kawangware by a small road and a wall respectively at Congo area. On the Amboseli side boarder, Vincentian Prayer House (VPH) and Holy Cross Church & Priory are perfectly fine running spiritual operations. Pope Francis visited Kengemi slum, Kenya from 25th to 27th November 2015. Watch >>HERE<< his video. After visiting Kangemi the Pontiff mentioned that what separates the rich and poor is a strategically erected wall. This is true for Kawangware slum too.
The most ironical thing is the constant peace and harmony among the inhabitants of this slum and those staying in the surrounding high end estates.
The Kawangware slum dwellers are constantly searching for jobs in these estates. Majority of these job seekers are unprofessional and therefore look for jobs like house managers (house helps), security guards, cleaners, constructers and gardeners. On the other hand the high end estate dwellers seek for short term labour from the slum for cheap labour.
Living below 1.00 USD a day is nothing to smile about. Let’s pause for a moment and imagine! This is the typical situation for Kawangware.
Kawangware is approximately 15 km from Nairobi Central Business District (CBD). It is the second biggest slum in Kenya after Kibera. Other slums include Mathare, Kiamui, Korogocho, Mukuru and Deep sea.
Based on the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census (KPHC), the slum population was approximately 133,000 people with majority of over 65 percent children and youth. Kawangware is subdivided into areas like Gatina, Congo, 46, 56, Stage 2, Muslim, Amboseli, Coast, checkpoint among others.
Most houses are constructed from iron sheets both roofs and walls. Single rooms measuring a width of 8 feet by length of 10 feet serve as bedroom, kitchen and living room simultaneously. Partition is commonly done with curtains which are readily available from the open air markets within this slum. The same single room can accommodate six family members both day and night. At some point a house is turned into a bathroom. Other family members are asked to step out of the house to allow one to take a bath. A typical bathing scenario involves using two basins-
“One stands on one basin and while the other basin contains the bathing water which is mostly cold. After bathing the floor becomes wet and thereafter, the person who just bathed uses the remaining water to clean the floor.” A local continued explaining, “We are used to toilets outside our houses”. These toilets are pit latrines that one has to squat like a frog in order to use them when the call of nature arises.
Most people staying in Kawangware work as subordinate staff, security guards if not watchmen and women, cleaners, generally domestic workers in the neighbouring estates of Lavington, Kileleshwa, Westlands and Karen. You will always find job seekers all the way from Kawangware sitting in estate corners commonly called ‘Jobless corners’ hoping that a prospecting employer would come and pick on them for a job opportunity.
In the previous years, the security in this said slum was taunting. Today, a lot has been done to improve on security measures. However, there are some areas like Checkpoint that will be risky to move about during the late hours of the day especially from 10:00pm. Security is a personal responsibility and of course it is ideal for one to take care of his own life and property at all time.
Kawangware has poor road condition which often gets filthy when it rains. The nearby marshes and swamps are homes for mosquitoes and therefore harmful to the inhabitants. Some houses also flood and the roofs leak.
Majority of people staying in Kawangware are Christians. Very few mosques are found in the region and indication that it is a Christian based slum. However, there are many churches in at least four churches within the area of one hundred square meters. The slum has also several school and few health facilities that serve the community. Kawangware contain many different ethnic groups. There are also people from neighbouring countries like Uganda, Tanziania, DRC, Sudan and other African countries. Indians and Chinese are not common. However, whites commonly translated as ‘Wazungu’ or ‘Mzungu’ in singular are always spotted in Kawangware may be for research, may be for support or on missionary reasons.
Like any other slum Kawangware has a poor drainage system which is a great risk for human health. Most waterborne and airborne diseases could easily spread because of poor drainage and sanitation systems. The strange thing is that you will find people staying very close to the sewerage systems with some other housing structures above them. Some people establish food kiosk structures just beside the sewerage systems just to make sales in order to obtain their daily bread. Most of the food kiosks sell mandazi, chapati, beans, githeri (a mix of beans and maize), chips, fish, samosas, boiled maize and roasted maize. These foods are readily bought by the inhabitants since they are sold at an affordable price. The buyers never seem to worry about the location of the businesses.
Kawangware is subject to abject poverty with consistent shortage of water. Water is supplied occasionally to homes during specific days of the week at a fee of KSH.10 for every 20litres. In many cases there are outbreaks of waterborne diseases (Amoebiasis, cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea and Giardia) due to poor sewerage system, respiratory pneumonia, malaria and airborne disease like flu, chicken pox, mumps, measles, whooping cough, tuberculosis, common cold and diphtheria. In addition many people in Kawangware live with HIV/AIDS. You are at risk of getting bedbugs companionship from some houses.
Shopping in Kawangware
A friend of mine told me that products in Kawangware are fairly cheap. Perhaps the quality of products is cheaper. Walk into PBK, Waiyaki way and other supermarkets and compare prices with the Hub in Karen, the Carrefour at Junction mall along Ngong road and other shops within Lavington mall. Kawangware open air market attracts people from far because of the cheap products. The most common markets are Mlango kubwa is situated behind Equity bank and the Cooperative bank of Kawangware slum, and Soko mjinga markets, Most products in the market of Kawangware are second hand if not third or fourth hand.
Unity among the Kawangwareans
Many people in Kawangware are united because of their social status. They are in groups popularly known as “Chamas” through which they practice table banking and help members in times of emergency. They have a tricky inner voice that commands then to make a singular move of action especially during elections.
Vapour at the Amboseli area of Kawangware has a well-organized sport pitch for football, basketball, aerobics and gym practices. This has been in existence for over 15 years initiated by Hope world centre. World hope centre – Kenya plays a very important role that advocates for oneness among Kawangware youth and Children in a very special way of sports.
Poverty among young men and women has led to prostitution in Kawangware slum. Many ladies opt to get into drinking of cheap illicit alcohol like (chang’aa) locally distilled gin, and “Busaa” the locally fermented alcohol. Both chang’aa and busaa are sold at a minimum cost of Ksh. 20.00. This means with twenty Kenya bobs, one can easily get a drink in a club. Madiaba is the most famous busaa club in the Muslim area. Many people opt to use these clubs as meeting points to prospect for jobs and network for businesses.
Businesses and investment
As one walks within Kawangware, he or she will notice that numerous businesses are established on the streets. Majority of businessmen and women trade used items for resale. They get used or broken down items, fix them and resale to make profits. Others buy from desperate sellers at a throw away price. Others buy from sellers who might have collected dumped items but not sure on exactly what they are. Along the streets you will see open shops selling electronic items, bedding, utensils and furniture.
Hotels and accommodation.
Borabora is one the most common Bar and restaurant that also offers accommodation. People of middle class, visitors, and those with some cash walk into Borabora for a drink, meal, live bond or and for a guest room. Other places include Mayas and Oasis.
Getting to Kawangware
Accessing Kawangware is easy due to modern road infrastructure. From the Nairobi central business district (CBD), you can access the slum by boarding public means (Matatu) number 46 or 56 from terminus of railways station, Kencom, GPO stage. From there, Matatu will navigate through Serena hotel at the Community, Nairobi hospital, Yaya centre, Lavington then Kawangware. From Westlands one get to Kawangware by boarding Matatu number 48 at the Safaricom branded bus stop which goes through Waiyaki way and James Gichuru road all the way to Lavington then Kawangware Congo stage. You can as well check in from Kangemi through Maumau, from Uthiru and Karen using Ngong road.
All Sum Children Centre
Meet All Sum children Centre in Kawangware slums. It is one of the educational centres in Kawangware whose objective is to support a needy child of Kawangware slum access formal education and leave a better independent life. All-Sum children Centre was established by Mr. Victor Isaacs Mushila on 6th May 2019 in the spirit of giving back to the society. The educational Centre is located at Gatina ward of Kawangware slum in Nairobi County, Kenya.
The above named founder has been voluntarily teaching and supporting several schools (Love School Educational Centre, Skylight Primary school, and September One Academy) in Kawangware slum for over ten years. He resolved to look for a room, gather the children that loiter around and offer them charitable education services. He later invited local friends, a neighbor and individuals of relevant mindset for a meeting.
As one walks through Kawangware he or she will realize children loitering on the streets instead of going to school. The main reason for this being that some have parents who are financially incapacitated to support the learning of their children. A bunch of other innocent children have no one to give them the directive on where they should be and what they should be doing. If you successfully manage to meet their care givers they give explanation that is confusing, meaning we are better than many others.
Read our Proposal for your kind support >>HERE << “Development of All-Sum Children Centre through improving the general learning environment”
Facebook page >>>HERE<<All-Sum.
The future of Kawangware
The slum has high prospects of becoming better than it currently is. If the County government of Nairobi can channel some of the funds towards improving the infrastructure of Kawangware then this would mean that the dwellers get improved living conditions. A better Kawangware will also attract more mentors for both the youth and women who in modern day seem to be very vulnerable to influences of the society. Let’s all strive to make this slum a better place not only for the inhabitants but also for the potential people who may want to tour and get a glimpse of the real Kawangware. Feel free to contact me as your best tour guide.
Thank you for reading!