Water and sanitation are one of the biggest challenges for people living in informal areas and all that can be done needs to be done to improve this situation. One lady making a difference is Winnie Akoth who runs the WASH project to help the people of Jangwani village. We had a few words with her and this is what she had to say.
What is the Jangwani project? A brief history please and how it works.
Jangwani Sanitation project is located in Jangwani village, at the outskirts of the informal settlements of Mathare. It comprises of a clean water kiosk and a number of ablution blocks for both men and women. This has contributed to a great improvement in the state of sanitation to the community living here.
Jangwani, being a slum had no proper sanitary services as it had been neglected by the local administration. Though the village hosts over 3,500 people, it had no proper water or sewerage services. Only an old, congested block with four toilet doors stood, almost collapsing many years after it had been built by CDF.
The residents relied on flying toilets and open defecation in the few open sites and pathways, rendering the villagers prone to a number of diseases.
Acute water scarcity was also a major problem in Jangwani. The available water was unsafe and was sold at exorbitant prices making the precious resource a commodity that most homes could not afford.
When Covid-19 cases were reported in the country, it was almost impossible for the residents of informal settlements such as Jangwani to afford the water that was so much needed in keeping with the health regulations – to constantly wash hands with soap and water.
There was dire need, and a health bomb was ticking in the village, Jangwani needed urgent help.
Are you working with private sector or only Government and NGOs?
I chair Threeset Productions and we are open to working with both Government, non-governmental, private players who are aligned to our main agenda which is helping the community. However, we are not a political or religious group and as such, we uphold the zero discrimination in all our affairs.
Are you working on this alone or do you have a team?
Though I have worked with the Three community based organization that has been promoting art since 2012, the wash program is my brainchild. It was always my dream from childhood to make an impact in Jangwani and the project made it possible. However, the group secretary Mr. Eugene Akelo was of great help in the journey.
What is your proudest moment as far as this project is concerned?
The proudest moment for me was when the water was connected. When we came to Jangwani, the children drank water from a very filthy outlet right next to an open sewer. Just knowing that I had saved the kids from contracting various water borne diseases made me tear up, I had been able to promote equal access of water to all.
What role does EABL play in the Jangwani project?
EABL foundation through Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) funded the building of the project. I would term them as the spine of the entire WASH project here since they provided financial support, and its management team was always keeping tabs to ensure the project proceeded smoothly. We are entirely grateful to EABL for making this happen.
What are the achievements of the project?
- Reduced the cases of waterborne disease. Access to safe and clean water for drinking and a hygienic ablution block has improved the health status in this community, especially amongst children.
- Improved Women’s dignity – girls and women are now safer since they have a separate and private ablution block
- Creation of employment – the community had job opportunity throughout the project period, giving them a source of livelihood at a time when Covid had rendered many people unemployed. Currently, the project has employed 4 permanent workers who are responsible for the running of the facility.
- The project has given project to other empowerment programmes such as the setting a part of a room in which children can study from coupled by mentorship sessions.
What challenges have you encountered as you work towards the success of this project?
Wow! The greatest challenge for me was convincing the community that this project was coming to help them and that it was not an excuse for me to grab their land. This was most especially needed when the project stalled due to the rise in Covid-19 cases. The excavated area was also filled with water as it rained posing a great danger to the children and community at large.
We managed to have the project continue and put in place the necessary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
How can one help?
One can help through supporting the various projects in our community. EABL was kind enough to build a library together with the ablution block. However, the library lacks other facilities such as books and seats and we would be very grateful if we could get partners to donate such in the village library.
Secondly, we have plans to start training the community members on soft skills that we hope will improve their employability. We invite good-will organizations and individuals to partner with us and empower the lives of the residents living here.
Last but not least, we are carrying out awareness on mental health and drug abuse. Many of the youths in Jangwani are using hard drugs and bhang because of depression and hopelessness and we hope that we can help them transform and become more responsible for their lives.
We look forward to hearing from as many as possible on these possible partnerships and other possible projects that will at one-step-at-a-time change the face of Jangwani and other informal settlements in Kenya.