I was born in Mathare and it was not easy growing up here. At times we don’t have the necessities, the basic needs, like water and housing. My childhood was not so nice because sometimes in this village there is fighting between the landlord and tenants, so the landlord shuts your house and you have to sleep outside.

It is hard to be a woman in Mathare because the culture here is always about men and there are many violations committed against women and girls. Men are everything. When you are a girl child, it is always about the boy child. You will not be employed if your husband does not sign your work. If you are a single woman, there is no one to sign for you so you will not get employment.

I became a human rights defender because in my marriage, there was a lot of violence and battering. I came together with women in a similar situation under the Pan African Women group and we learnt about what being a human rights defender means. The Pan African Women group is a movement, we listened to each other. I decided to be a human rights defender to fight for other people’s rights before fighting for mine.  Most people don’t know their human rights so we work with them. Whilst helping other people, my mind became so serious and I finally decided to move out of my house. It is better now because there is no violence and I can make decisions on my own.

I do this human rights work because of passion and my work covers the whole (Mathare) valley. This activism has impacted my life because I can now stand for my rights without fearing anyone or anything. As a human rights defender, the thing I enjoy most is when you successfully rescue a child and justice has been delivered. Sometimes, we don’t find justice, which is the hardest part because people who had faith is us become disappointed. And then, even we become disappointed. 

My biggest fear as a human rights defender is that if I am hurt in my work, I cannot provide for my kids and I cannot pay rent. When I read about the toolkit, I felt like it is not just about being a human rights defender but it is all about being a woman human rights defender so I felt safe. By being a toolkit organiser, I hope to learn more and then to come back to my community and to educate them even more than I already have. 

Jecinter Agunja