Youth out to improve sanitation in Eastlands Winnie Akoth breaks down whole idea
As a scout, Winnie Akoth Otieno, was able to move from one Nairobi neighbourhood to another, and in their travails, she came across areas with sanitations so poor, she was compelled to do something about it. One of these areas is Jagwani in Mathare.
“It used to be a quarry, but people settled there, creating a slum of more than 3,000 residents.
Despite that I lived in Eastlands and had seen some terrible places, this was right on top because of the poor sanitation.
There was only one washing facility, which was poorly run due to lack of clean water and sewerage draining,” she says.
This is how the Jangwani Sanitation project was borne, with the objective of providing a clean water kiosk and a number of ablution blocks for both men and women.
As the chair of the Three Set Production, an entity she set up with her friends after secondary school, Winnie and the group members work with various self-help groups focused on improving health and economic livelihoods of the community.
Through a friend who knew about her desire to build a toilet in Jangwani, Winnie found out about a WASH project sponsored by the East African Breweries Limited Foudation under their Water for Life programme, which seeks to provide access to clean and safe water in communities where we live, source, work and sell.
The project is implemented by Amref Health Africa. She wrote a proposal and was selected among beneficiaries. Howevre, she had work to do before the project could commence.
“Since the place was already being used as a dumping site, we were told to first excavate the content,” she adds.
Winnie hired an excavator for a day from the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company.
They started the process of digging up the dirt and excavated 10 lorries yet it seemed as if nothing had been done. She was forced to look for other means to complete the mission.
“Hiring one excavator costs Sh7,000 per hour and we needed it for three days.
Area MP, TJ Kajwang, decided to help us and we approached one of the businesses to partner with us.
When the owner saw our plight, he decided to give us a buckle excavator and two lorries to help us.
We worked for five days, with the remaining work started by the youth from the area,” she adds.
The pandemic also brought the project to a halt and without any work, water filled up the quarry, creating a health risk and hazard to the community.
Fortunately with the help of EABL foundation and Amref, they were able to get back to the project under strict Covid-19 protocols.
The resumption of the project went miles in helping members of the community, some of who had been laid off and to helped young people who had turned to crime to get into legitimate means of earning a living.
Now, they are able afford to put food on table for their families and sort out some bills.
At the moment, the project has employed four youths who make sure things runs smoothly at the ablution block.
Besides the project, Three Set Production also supports the youth to engage in economic activities such as growing and selling vegetables and running a car wash.
“The block also has a library where we are trying to change the narrative by providing a better learning environment for school-going children,” she adds.
Proceeds from the same are also used to repair the old facility, which Winnie says will help ease the burden of serving thousands of people.
“We want to change the entire picture people have of Jangwani and by having companies support us, we are looking at making this a better place for everyone.
When we came for the first visit with Amref, the community health volunteers told us about the rising numbers of communicable diseases such as cholera and typhoid due to poor sanitation and dirty water.
At the moment these cases have gone down and it is a positive impact on the community,” she says.
Winnie says the biggest impact of the project has been on women in regards to menstrual health management.
Availability of clean water and space has helped them raise more awareness on the issue and women are appreciating the efforts to help them.
At the moment, Winnie is looking for well-wishers to get sanitary pads for girls in the area, which will be provided for free at the block.
Jangwani residents pay Sh150 per household per month, which gives them access to the toilet and water use.
For extra washing, users pay Sh30 and the organisation is looking at getting water ATM cards for its members.