Nairobi Is Organizing- Grassroots Organizing &Public Participation for Social Change
In our collective consciousness, in our action and in action, we are constantly in the business of remodelling our counties, our country. Whether this remodelling propels us towards a positive or negative ideal depends on the degree of awareness we have on our individual and collective responsibility to bring about the change we desire. Truth is, in our action and even inaction we desire change. In our action, we are fuelled by an ideal we behold and see our contribution as being instrumental to bringing about social change.
In our inaction, we are overwhelmed because change seems too farfetched, right beyond our collective grasp. In our inaction, the focus is on the ruling class,the evil doers who take what is not theirs and do not fulfil promises made to Mwanainchi during pre-election time. In our inaction, we imagine a messiah who brings with his theology, this much-needed change.
However, all this is changing. The understanding of Nairobians is moving towards recognizing and claiming our sovereignty as provided in article 1 of the constitution. We now understand that we can exercise our sovereignty either directly or indirectly thus being the agents of change. In his thinking, Francis Bacon came up with the phenomenon of the idol of the tribe. Idol as conceived by Bacon has no religious connotation but refers a proposition that is born of fallacies and told repeatedly until accepted as truth. Tribe herein refers to a group of people with a common history or a common interest but not necessarily in the context that Kenyans define tribe as a group of people with a common language. For a long time the idol of our tribe has always been that we as citizens, we are powerless, we are unable to hold our leaders to account and we are at the receiving end of our government benevolence.
By participating and organizing, we are dismantling the idol that citizens are powerless and politicians the source of all our problems. We understand that we have role to play in nation building and the ideal for a better county/country compels us to participate and to organize. Through TISA’s community conversation the public gets a platform to communicate to the county executive challenges we facing and the executive gets a chance to communicate to us the plans they have for our respective wards and sub-Counties. However, it does not end here; the clarion call is for the government to embrace a framework for public participation. The Ministry of Devolution is in the process of validating draft public participation guidelines from which counties can draft their public participation frameworks. TISA has produced a draft public participation bill in which views that has undergone consultations with various stakeholders. A visit of 20 wards in Nairobi County, through the Community Conversation shows that Nairobians understand the essence of participation, and want a framework that outlines the modalities of public participation. Further, the greater part of Nairobians now understands the essence of grassroots organizing. People in the county have organized according to security structures and according to the pertinent challenges facing particular wards ranging from water and sanitation,education, health, markets (public private partnerships) et al depending on the needs at the grassroots level. In many neighbourhoods, there are Nyumba kumi chairpersons in place and now sectoral working groups of volunteers willing to help solve pertinent challenges in collaboration with the County government. This is the way to go. The only way to quell blatant abuse of public office and graft cases in government is by keenly observing what the officials are up to through public participation. Nairobians understand this now, and we are organizing to participate for a better County.
NB: It is in the interest of the communities we work with that we are willing to share contacts of working groups in Westlands, Kibra, Embakasi East, and Dagoretti North. If you are a civil society organization or an individual in these areas, and would like to work with a sectoral working group in any of the sub-Counties highlighted, write to us at email@example.com and we will connect you!
(The views contained herein are personal sentiments
of the author.) Rachael Gichuki, Program Associate - The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA) - firstname.lastname@example.org