Improving Access to Justice and Basic Services in the Informal Settlements of Nairobi
Introduction and Study Setting
An innovative study has found a staggering Poverty Penalty in Mukuru, where residents can only access more expensive yet lower-quality services than in Nairobis formal estates. Such inequitable burdens are only compounded by slum-dwellers exclusion from formal finance, lack of access to justice, and chronic land tenure insecurity. Mukuru residents must also cope with entrenched poverty, gender inequality, and frequent threats to their dignity that stem from their paltry housing and services. Population figures in Mukuru are highly contested and uncertain, similar to other slums, but residents are at elevated risk of forced evictions due to Mukurus prime location upon mainly private lands in the industrial area. In this rapidly-expanding informal settlement, households are usually crowded into tiny iron shacks with only minimal service provision. As one Mukuru resident noted, I have never seen latrines or toilets where I live. The water that is brought to us is so dirty that it is green in colour. We just survive by the grace of God.
To address these overlapping challenges, an interdisciplinary team of Kenyan experts recently proposed holistic strategies to support tenure security, equitable access to services, and justice for residents of Nairobis informal settlements. The research project was spearheaded by city planners at the University of Nairobi, pro-poor financial strategists at Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT), legal and finance professors at Strathmore University, and lawyers at the Katiba Institute. Supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) from 2013- 2015, this consortium partnered closely with residents throughout a multi-stage research process. A detailed situation analysis helped to reveal key links between meagre services, insecure land tenure, and unjust governance institutions in Nairobis informal settlements. In addition to exploring alternative models of service delivery, the situation analysis examined the complex relations between settlement types and service provision in Mukuru. Using extensive surveys, focus groups, and spatial data, the team subsequently developed a set of proposals to benefit households in Mukuru. The final report explores the potential of applying public interest-oriented legal, planning, and financial tools to tackle governance challenges in Mukuru, while strengthening the legitimacy and accountability of public authorities in the process. Furthermore, researchers have offered an array of policy-relevant recommendations such as inclusive slum upgrading initiatives, pro-poor financial strategies, and supportive legal frameworks in Mukuru.
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