Ruguru Wanjiru, 37, female; activist

Portrait of Ruguru Wanjiru

I live in Umoja 2. There is a shortage of water; it is supplied twice a week. Houses are made of stone with iron sheet roofs. There is a lot of alcohol consumption. Youth have lost lives and jobs due to addiction to alcohol.

I was born in Mathare. My mother and I left for Dandora afrer separation from my father. After Dandora we went to Korogocho where I have lived since then. My mother left Dandora because she could not afford the rent. A wave of gangs appeared when I was in a teenager. I had to leave because of pressure to join the gangs. My friend who was lured to join was used to threaten me. There were high rates of crime. I had to leave for Kibera because of this hostility. There I was hosted by another woman for about eight years. I left when I had my first child. I went to Korogocho and Kariobangi. I then went back to Korogocho so I could contribute to making my community better through environmental initiatives. I grew up there. It is heavily polluted due to the proximity to the dumpsite. I have had respiratory issues.

I did not get a chance to see my father since my mother left before I was born. I felt we would not have been suffering if my father was there. The first place my mother lived in was next to the river so we had to move because when it rains water gets into the house. As a result important documents and items like furniture got spoiled. Affording rent was a challenge so we kept changing houses.

During the wave of the gangs so many young women had to leave because of the threats… Young men were brutalized and killed. Poverty levels made them vulnerable to crime.

Food prices have gone high. Affording three meals is far too expensive so people opt for one meal. There is scarcity of food at the Korogocho market which used to have lots of food at lower prices. The cost of living has generally gone up.

I have mobilized youth groups to grow vegetables. We have partnered with the county to support with animal farming such as fish. The vegetable gardens went well but the animal farming was not successful.

We need space, capacity building, clean water supply and soil.

This testimony is part of the Dossier Urban Displacement. Forced Evictions: Stories from the Frontline in African Cities