PBI-Kenya shares the story of its collaborative work in the ‘Every Voice Matters’ report

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On March 10, the Peace Brigades International-Kenya Project posted, “In February, we launched ‘Every Voice Matters’, a publication by the Ushirikiano mwema kwa Usalama (UMKU, Better relationships for Safety/ Security) project.”

One of the chapters in the report is a contribution by PBI-Kenya, which notes:

“In early 2017, PBI Kenya invited three of the organisations we’d been working with, and known in various ways beforehand, to come together in order to develop a joint project proposal to tackle the normalisation of extrajudicial killings in Nairobi’s settlements and help improve relationships between human rights defenders, community members and police. At this point, PBI Kenya had already been working closely with Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) for several years going back to when they were a couple of Mathare-based activists just starting to formalize their social justice work to become the first justice centre.

When the four partnering organisations sat down for the first time to develop a joint proposal, little did we know about the amazing journey we were about to embark. PBI Kenya’s vision was to create a project that would combine the strength and determination of two grassroots organisations with strong community support and two international organisations with valuable networks in Kenya and abroad. Having known what each part was capable of on their own, PBI Kenya believed that by bringing together our unique approaches and expertise what we could achieve together would be so much more than what any of us could on our own.

From the concept note stage to the start of the project more than a year later in April 2018, trust and relationship building was key in order to ensure the success of this unique project. As a non-hierarchical, consensus-based organisation PBI strongly believed that collective and inclusive decision making would yield impressive results, given the different perspective and organisational cultures of each organisation. We also knew this process wouldn’t always be easy, but the results are surely worth the effort. Three years later, as we embark towards the closure of this project, we feel privileged to have been part of an incredibly rewarding project, while the topic of the work is distressing we have still managed to foster new forms of learning, new insights, new partnerships and more importantly new friendships.

Our consortium of four was a mirror reflection of a larger movement occurring in Kenya. Over the duration of the UMKU project social justice centres began popping up, growing from just one into an entire movement with thirty across the country today, and still growing! At the time we set out to develop this project in the summer of 2017, MSJC was the only social justice centre. With the establishment of the Dandora Community Justice Centre (DCJC) in late 2017/ early 2018, we decided to bring them into the project to support MSJC in case documentation. Since then, the social justice centre movement has gained local, national and international recognition and legitimacy as established (I)NGOs and the International Community now turn to the centres for first-hand information on cases and trend analysis on extrajudicial executions (EJEs). Having contributed to this growth makes us extremely proud!

Apart from PBI Kenya’s role as bridge builder, our contribution has been mainly in the areas of capacity development for human rights monitors and project staff in the areas of documentation, security management, networking and advocacy. While not envisioned in the first place, it soon became clear that psychosocial support for the human rights monitors and justice centre activists at the forefront of documentation was absolutely key. The darkest moment of the UMKU project was when we learned of the death of Carol Mwatha, a founding member of Dandora Community Justice Centre (DCJC) and human rights monitor for the UMKU project who had disappeared in early February 2018. This sent shock waves through the whole human rights community and deeply affected the morale of grassroots activists. In order to help the justice centre activists to come to terms with the loss, while at the same time developing a support system that would help them continue with the work, PBI Kenya and other NGOs carried out a number of psychosocial support workshops throughout 2018 and have incorporated this into our work since.

For the UMKU project, PBI Kenya organised two highly successful speaker tours, the first in 2018 and the second in 2019 during which we managed to have a total of 50 advocacy and networking meetings with relevant stakeholders from the international community. Having enabled grassroots defenders from MSJC and Ghetto Foundation to travel to Europe to directly engage with government, EU and UN representatives in Berlin, Brussels, London and Geneva (including this year’s UPR pre-session on Kenya), was a powerful way to considerably contribute to their increasing of their protection networks. This three-year journey has been gratifying for us at PBI Kenya, having played a role in not only shedding light on the struggles and afflictions caused by EJEs in Nairobi’s settlements in hopes of bringing about positive change, but also in revealing the dedication, resilience and strength within the settlements taking on the form of justice centres, like our two partners Ghetto Foundation and MSJC.”

The two-year UMKU project, that was being implemented by Peace Brigades International, Saferworld, Mathare Social Justice Centre and Ghetto Foundation, is set to close this month.

The full 28-page report can be read here.

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