“You can really make things better.”

I was born in Nairobi, after which we moved up country where I grew up. I took some jobs there working in first aid rooms and then I came to Mukuru twenty years ago. I became a Human Rights Defender when I worked in a clinic in Mukuru. However, in 2007, they closed the clinic because of the post-election violence. After staying home for two years I decided to work as a volunteer at the community health centre. It was better for me to be there than to stay in the house. My family is in Mukuru, they think a job is a job and they are supporting me.
Young girls growing up here face many challenges, some of them are orphans, some don’t go to school, some have been raped, some of them are doing so much home labour. Over the last 20 years, Mukuru is changing for the better. We go from house to house to ask mothers to send their children to school. I find it most rewarding and enjoy talking to people because you can really make things better.
Since I am a community leader, some people understand you, but some people cannot understand you. As a woman HRD, there are so many challenges. In the community, there are gangsters. Once they know you are a gender defender, they want to kill you so that they can remove the problem. They don’t like people changing others. It is very difficult.
I joined the toolkit organisers programme because I like to meet new people and I like to make friends. I like empowering them when I have a health talk, it is my work, like when I talk about gender based violence. For the toolkit organisers, if I go to Kibera I make friends there, if I go to Mathare, I make friends there, and we can all learn from each other.

Grace Papa


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