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Oral testimonies reveal sense of injustice among Kenya’s poor

A new set of testimonies vividly illustrates how poor communities in Kenya feel the rich and powerful are denying them even basic human rights.

The testimonies highlight just how close to the surface this sense of injustice lies and are particularly revealing given the ongoing violence resulting from last December’s disputed election results.

Joseph (28), from Kibagare, an urban slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, talks candidly about overcrowding, lack of sanitation and disease. He describes demoralised and unemployed youth, the constant threat of eviction and the deep divisions between rich and poor:

I feel we are actually treated as very low class people. I think the rich completely despise us…they think that we should not pass anywhere near their houses…

Another testimony comes from Nyiva, a single mother with six children living in a house she constructs from old cardboard boxes. These are frequently demolished. She says,

… all the time we are told we are on other people’s property. When I go to look for a job, I may return to find my house is still standing or I may not… We are always being given notice to move on…

The testimonies are part of a Panos London project examining the effectiveness of governments’ poverty reduction strategies (known as PRSPs), including the extent to which poor people are actively engaged in their own development. They were gathered by Kenyan organisation, Abantu for Development.

While discussions and documents on PRSPs are often technical and hard to understand for the non-specialist, these spoken accounts come straight from people coping with poverty every day, and bring their concerns to life.

As Keren Ghitis, from Panos London’s oral testimony programme says, ‘Reading these people’s accounts brings to life the human indignities that lie at the heart of poverty. They show us why effective approaches to poverty reduction matter.’

Abantu for Development, a Kenyan non-governmental organisation, is now using the testimonies to lobby for poverty reduction strategies to recognise the views of people living in poverty.

More information

For more information please contact Keren Ghitis, keren.ghitis@panos.org.uk, tel +44 (0)20 7239 7629.

Photographs of some of the interviewees are available to reproduce to accompany the testimonies. Please contact Valentina Ba├║, valentina.bau@panos.org.uk, tel +44 (0)20 7239 7609.

For more information on Abantu for Development and national activities based on the testimonies please contact Tony Ng’ang’a, governance programme officer, tony@abantu.org, mobile +254 723662299 tel +254 203870343

Notes to editors

Panos London is part of a global not-for-profit network that promotes the participation of poor and marginalised people in international development debates through media and communication projects.

The testimonies can be reproduced free of charge but please credit Panos London and send an email letting us know to info@panos.org.uk

The Kenya Living with poverty collection of testimonies can be viewed online, together with collections from Zambia and Pakistan.

The Kenyan testimonies were collected in two locations: rural Oloitokitok, close to the Tanzanian border, and Kibagare, an urban slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, bordering one of the capital’s wealthiest suburbs.

The Kenya collection of the Living with Poverty testimonies was funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

About oral testimony

Oral testimonies are vivid, personal accounts that draw on a person’s direct memories and experiences. Panos London’s oral testimonies are valued by all sorts of people and used for a variety of purposes, including teaching and student research, community and development work, journalism and creative media, and personal use.

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04/24/2008