FIDA-Kenya’s work in facilitating organisation among women workers in the informal sector of Nairobi
An interview with Alice Maranga of FIDA-Kenya
FIDA Kenya is a registered non-government organisation committed to creating a society that is free from all forms of injustices and discrimination against women. Its membership is composed of women lawyers and women law students who aim to bring about improved legal status and access to justice for women and to raise public awareness on women's rights issues. FIDA Kenya hosts the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Network which seeks to devise ways of eliminating trafficking in persons and especially trafficking in women and children.
In 2009 GAATW strengthened its relationship with FIDA Kenya by facilitating training for Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR). This process counteracts the critique that anti-trafficking work sometimes makes assumptions about what is best for women by highlighting how women themselves are steering change in their own communities. The research was carried out by migrant women in the informal sector and was brought together in FIDA Kenya and GAATW’s publication The Realities and Agency of Informal Sector Workers: The Account of Migrant Women Workers in Nairobi.
Since FIDA Kenya’s findings from the Feminist Participatory Action Research in 2009 have the Kenyan authorities made any effort towards policies which recognise the labour rights, and broader human rights, of informal sector workers - particularly those most disadvantaged or discriminated against such as women and migrant workers?
The Kenyan government promulgated the Constitution in 2010 which has many positive attributes including the labour rights in article 41(1) which decrees that every person has a right to fair labour practices, (2) every worker has the right to; (a) fair remuneration; (b) to reasonable working conditions; (3) every employer has the right to form and join an employer’s organization.
How have the Jitahidi Women’s Group and Good Hope Women’s Group, who formed during the FPAR process, developed organisationally? – Have their membership levels continued to rise and how have they evolved in their concerns and advocacy/activism?
FIDA-Kenya’s Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR) 2009 initiative with women migrants in the informal sector has continued. After the training Jitahidi Women Group has grown to over twenty members, has become officially registered and prepared a work plan with the aim of uniting small scale business to enable workers to lobby and advocate for their labour rights. With the support of Fida Kenya the group have partnered with APHIA PLUS, a health project to improve access to health services, and have been trained in maternal and child health care, family planning, community hygiene, marketing product development, village saving loans, as volunteer outreach counsellors (V.O.C), Watoto Pamoja project and creating awareness of disabled children’s rights. The group also conducts training at the community level on HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning methods, voluntary male circumcision (VMMC) and Education Through Listening (ETL). The group has also partnered with Kawangware Urumwe Youth Project and community policing and Nairobi disabled Network. The group has also contributed to capacity building of FIDA Kenya’s clients through income generating initiatives. Small scale businesses have been developed and as a result there have been improvements in living standards and reductions in domestic violence.
Since the FPAR in 2009 membership for the Good Hope Women Group has increased to a total of 25 members. They trained in the preparation of detergents that they sell as a group and then share the profits. Apart from working as group in detergent preparation they also have their own different businesses supported by collective funds which members contribute every two weeks. Additionally they are involved in assisting people affected by HIV/AIDS in the community and do human rights advocacy and civic education on governance and democracy.
What advantages and disadvantages did you identify in using FPAR as a research model? Have you used it since 2009? How did you find this process?
The FPAR approach is empowering in the sense that it allows the recipients to realize their strength and human rights. It is an approach that targets women to realize their potential and enhances the development of women, as indicated by Jitahidi and Women Group. Since 2009 FIDA Kenya has used the approach to organize clients through Good Morning sessions which are 45 minutes session where clients are given information on different issues that affect them including information that could empower them economically. These women have been empowered to start small scale businesses and there has been a reduction of violence within these families.
Is the NGO-network of anti-trafficking organisations (of which FIDA was a part) still active?
Yes it is. The meetings are convened by the Ministry of Gender Social Services and Children Development, Department of Children. The network includes members from both civil society organizations and government ministries. Currently the network members are implementing the National Plan of Action on anti- trafficking in persons.
Which areas have FIDA Kenya’s most recent work focused on?
FIDA Kenya’s recent focus has been on the implementation of the Constitution (2010) which stated that members of parliament should not be made up of more two thirds of either gender, however ahead of the 2013 elections women remain underrepresented. The campaign on implementation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 also focuses on public interest litigation in inheritance and labour rights cases for women. The organization has also filed a case relating to the denial or dismissal of women who are due to take maternity leave. This is as result of many women reporting cases of losing their jobs when they announce their pregnancies at work. FIDA Kenya is also lobbying and advocating for the passing of the Family Bills which include the Family Protection Bill 2012, Property Rights Bill 2012, Marriage Bill 2012 and Family Protection Bill 2012 where we hope to see affirmative action taken place by the Government.
What are FIDA Kenya’s current anti-trafficking initiatives?
FIDA Kenya’s current work on trafficking in persons involves conducting education forums with law enforcement officers including police officers and Chiefs. The programme also targets women and youth leaders to create awareness of the Anti- Trafficking in Persons Act 2010. The programme is part of the plans to roll out the National Plan of Action to combating trafficking in persons.
Has there been any attempt by any donor or NGO to carry out research to find out the impact of anti-trafficking work in Kenya or to monitor what is being done to stop human trafficking?
In 2009 UNODC initiated an exploratory study into issues relating to organized crime and trafficking as part of their research into the developments of the 2009 to 2012 Regional Programme for Eastern Africa to promote the Rule of Law and Human Security. The Programme covered thirteen countries of Eastern Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. However, despite significant efforts by governments, international agencies and NGOs to eliminate trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling these issues continue to be a major concern in Africa. This is due to the large migration flows, resulting from formal economic unions and expansive, open borders, making trafficking and smuggling of people difficult to detect. The prospect of better living conditions elsewhere is most frequently the motivating factor for trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling as many people desire to move closer to areas that present them with increased opportunities. An uneven regulatory framework, poor international cooperation, lack of awareness among both the police and the population has made anti-trafficking responses difficult. As trafficking networks become more organized and ruthless, so the problem becomes increasingly more prominent.