Kariobangi North is one of Nairobi’s informal settlements (slums) located approximately 15 kms from Nairobi city centre. It started as a result of the increasing population pressure for houses occasioned by the rural-urban migration in the 1980’s; it essentially grew after the adjacent Kariobangi South estate became fully occupied. A huge percentage of the dwellers are the youth of between 15-30 years, from different tribal and cultural backgrounds. Unlike the other slum, Kariobangi North is bestowed with numerous banks; learning institutions, including secretarial, accounting and computer colleges; religious institutions and various industries and markets.
Despite these, dwellers of Kariobangi North are prone to high levels of insecurities; lack of water; insufficient disposal of solid and liquid waste; lack of employment; and numerous local brews that are potentially lethal.
As a result of the above, human right violations have been on the increase and at the same time HIV prevalence rates continue to be on the rise. It is with this knowledge that Aids Law Project saw the need to visit this community and train trainees who would in turn teach the community on HIV and AIDS and Human Rights. Our objective was to empower the dwellers of this community with knowledge and relevant skills and encourage them to identify instances of abuse that call for protection and develop strategies and solutions to address and assist persons living positively.
This is the story of Kariobangi North …
The Constitution provides for the right to equality and freedom from discrimination on any ground including health status, ethnic or social origin, culture or language. It provides for the right to human dignity and the right to freedom and security of the person.
Kariobangi North dwellers may not be enjoying this right …
When I found out that I was HIV positive from the maternal clinic, I could not believe it. But after accepting that I could do nothing about it, I told my husband. He beat me up and said my child was cursed. He beat me completely and threw me out of the house. The whole plot came out to see and my husband started shouting that I am cursed and that I want to bewitch him with AIDS; that I want to kill him but I will not succeed. The entire plot knows I am HIV positive and they tease me all the time. One time I was almost thrown out of the plot by my neighbours but a lady from our ‘chama’ came to my rescue. They say I don’t belong here and I will infect the whole plot.
Then there is the right to information and the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act specifically provides that HIV education and information should be made available in schools and other learning institutions as well as in the community. But we heard differently …
In fact the community does not know what to do with HIV positive people. When my family knew I was HIV positive and pregnant, yet not married, they sent me away. But my auntie offered to stay with me because she works in a clinic and understands these things! I delivered in hospital and my child is HIV negative. Unfortunately, my family does not understand until today and they have never accepted me or my child since then. Another thing is that I have not been in a relationship because when I tell someone I am HIV positive, they go away and I never see them again, and to make matters worse they inform so many other people that I have HIV. It makes me feel bad.
Every person has a right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to healthcare services including reproductive health care. But do the dwellers of Kariobangi tap into this right?
I moved here in 2006 and got married, but not really formally. When I got pregnant the first time, I delivered here in my house. I do not think my baby had complications, just sicknesses here and there! When I got pregnant the second time, my stomach was paining a lot and when I started bleeding, I went to the clinic here and they referred me to Kenyatta Hospital. I looked for money and when I went, I was told my baby was dead because my womb was damaged and there were complications. I was also told that my first born and I were HIV positive, but now we are taking medicine. I do not think I can have another baby even if I wanted. My husband left me because according to him I was going to die together with the baby and he said he can not stay and watch us die.
Children too have rights. Among them is the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, all forms of violence, exploitative labour, etc. unfortunately, the rule in Kariobangi, at least for most, seems to be ‘every man for himself and God for us all’. We were told these stories from two 16 year olds …
I make money from fetching water for a rich man who lives around. He can pay me even 1000 shillings for fetching about six ‘mitungis’. Ordinarily one goes for 20 or 25 shillings. But it is not free-I have to give him sex. It started by touching my breasts and pubic area but now he wants sex. What do I do, he gives me more money than other works! I don’t know if I have HIV, I have never gone to test.
I live with a man, he is like my boyfriend, but he is twenty-something years old. We are both HIV positive but he says I am the one who infected him. Sometimes when he comes home late and he is drunk he beats me up and says I should leave his house the following day, but I will never go! I have a two-month old baby and I don’t have a job, who do you think will take care of this baby if I leave?
However, all is not lost. Dwellers of Kariobangi North are taking steps to create awareness on HIV in their community. All of these initiatives are formed by the youth and they take the form of drama, performing arts and games, which are targeted to bring the youth together to participate in activities that interest them while at the same time educating each other on HIV and AIDS issues as they affect them. This way the youth are kept busy, those involved get a little money out of it and thus unemployment is reduced.
There is still a lot of work to be done in Kariobangi North, but with the knowledge they acquired on Human Rights and HIV, there is hope.
What more can we say to Kariobangi North, except VIVA KARIOBANGI NORTH, VIVA!