PBI-Kenya celebrates Grace Papa for her work related to the right to water and ending gender-based violence

Published by Brent Patterson on

On April 3, the Peace Brigades International-Kenya Project highlighted on their Facebook page the work of Grace Papa, a WHRD Toolkit Organizer and a Community Health Worker from the Mukuru settlement in Nairobi.

“Grace has been sensitizing the community on the how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and how to practice respiratory hygiene.”

PBI-Kenya adds, “She also works with children, making them aware that they too are at risk of getting infected if they don’t frequently wash their hands and keep social distance, especially when playing or swimming.”

The Ruben Centre has explained, “[The Mukuru community] was born in Nairobi’s Industrial district approximately 35 years ago when people began to build make-shift homes near the factories they worked in. The area now has a population of over 600,000 and many families live in corrugated iron shacks measuring 10 x 10 feet.”

ActionAid has noted, “Many homes have no running water. For cooking and cleaning, women and girls collect water from taps in the street. These taps are expensive to use and for many families in Mukuru, water is a necessity they can barely afford.”

The World Health Organization says each person should have 50 to 100 litres of water per day to ensure that their most basic needs are met and that few health concerns arise. The United Nations says that the cost of water should not exceed 3 percent of household income.

In February 2018, Africa Check reported that a reloadable smart card for a water dispenser in an informal settlement in Nairobi means 20 litres of water would cost about 0.50 shillings. But given that water may only be available two to three times a week, a resident more likely needs to pay 2 shillings for a 20 litre jerrycan of water.

As such, even a basic allocation of 100 litres of water a day could cost about 10 shillings, roughly 10 percent of the income for many in the informal settlements earning less than 100 shillings (about US $1) a day. Keep in mind that an average bathtub in North America would take about 300 litres of water to fill.

PBI-Kenya works with the Social Justice Centres Working Group, a collective voice for the social justice movement, which is demanding that “the government restore the water supply to all slums and crack down on the water cartels that extort Kenyans.”

Furthermore, ActionAid has noted the relationship between access to sanitation and gender-based violence: “With no toilet facilities at home, young girls have to walk through streets of the slum to reach the nearest public toilet. Without access to basic amenities, even simple tasks like washing and managing periods are fraught with anxiety.”

The Guardian has also reported, “Private ownership of the land [in Mukuru] has precluded the building of adequate sanitation facilities, forcing female slum dwellers to walk long distances to use toilets, risking sexual violence.”

PBI-Kenya has previously noted, “Grace has been involved in creating awareness on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), particularly by monitoring and documenting SGBV cases, reporting them, and referring SGBV victims to health centers. She has also been key for her community on sexual and reproductive health matters, including family planning and HIV infection prevention and management.”

PBI-Kenya also highlights, “Human rights defenders are playing fundamental roles in ensuring that vulnerable communities have access to healthcare and information about the virus and its impacts in the absence of adequate State protections.”

The human right to water and sanitation was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2010 and the realization of that human right by States is especially critical at this time given the coronavirus pandemic. 

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