This “Voices from the Field” webinar is scheduled for Thursday, October 5 from 10am to 11:30am ET.
With the recent presidential elections nullified by the Supreme Court, Kenyans are struggling for free, fair and verifiable elections. Without these, the risk of violence rises. This webinar will focus on grassroots coalitions like Kenyans for Tax Justice that are using strategic nonviolent action for a variety of goals: to ensure free elections; to end extra-judicial killings and violence against women and youth; and to achieve basic human rights enshrined in the Kenyan constitution but not realized for most of the country’s population. Many citizens in countries around the world, including democracies and those with more authoritarian governments, are grappling with the same challenges. The webinar will offer practical strategies, insights, and lessons learned that are relevant for activists and organizers struggling for justice in Africa and around the world.
Julius Okoth is a social justice crusader and currently coordinator of Kenyans for Tax Justice movement. He believes in social inclusion, respect for human rights and effective participation of all citizens in democratic and development processes and in governance of public affairs. Together with his fellow citizens at the grassroots, he has been advocating for a system of Kenya’s government that is representative, by demanding national or county government to do something or stop them doing something for the sake of fair, just and equitable Kenyan society directed towards fruitful relationship among human beings and between humans and the Earth.
Julius and Kenyans for Tax Justice received a LIN 2016 Fellowship and have successfully developed a number of trainers and experts on nonviolent resistance that are spreading the knowledge throughout Kenya in preparation for the August 2017 elections. They are seeking to work with communities and interested parties to oppose the Value Added Tax (VAT) that has recently been imposed on school textbooks, a move which has hit the poorest of the poor school-going children the hardest. The project will work with communities to ensure that these new taxes are abolished, and education is made accessible to all – using nonviolent means of resistance.
It is instructive to note that in Africa, only Kenya and South Africa levy Value Added Tax on school textbooks. This has made books very expensive, considering that majority of Kenyans live below the poverty line. This effort seeks to ensure that books are affordable, and education is accessible to all. They also work on broader rights related to basic needs, violence against women, and human rights.
Ruth Mumbi is a social justice activist, a community organiser and a strong defender of human/women’s rights. She was born and brought up in the informal settlement of Mathare, which is a collection of slums, and the second largest informal settlement in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. Ruth is the founder and current National Coordinator of Bunge la Wamama, a women’s chapter of Bunge la Mwananchi, a movement that conducts strong advocacy and campaigning on issues of social justice and accountability in different parts of Kenya.
Bunge la Wamama is also a member of the Kenyans for Tax Justice Coalition. Ruth Mumbi was a finalist for the 2013 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk and is a recognized women human rights defender in Kenya that works with grassroots communities. She facilitates community dialogue on social justice issues by empowering my community with knowledge, mobilizing them to expose malpractices by state officers, condemn human rights violations and demand accountability from the government.
Ruth also guides the women in the informal settlements on how to make demands on state agencies, including demands for the arrest of persons who have committed sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and where police failed to act; and demand justice for the victims and accountability from the police, by linking up victims of SGBV to human rights organisations where they can be offered free legal representation in court. Ruth attended the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, UK in 2014. Her position as a community leader has led to harassment, attacks, and ongoing threats.
Sakwa Makanda is a social justice activist in Kenya and a leader in the Kenyans for Tax Justice western chapter. His responsibilities include training and capacity building for residents who are mostly peasant farmers, boda boda drivers, and community leaders involved in building nonviolent social movements. In the past, he has been involved in building the unga revolution, a nonviolent campaign advocating for the reduction of prices for basic foodstuffs (unga is a staple of the local population’s diet); occupation of the Kenyan parliament fighting for the reduction of MPs’ salaries; and organizing the Bunga La Mwanchi (an umbrella coalition of a nonviolent movement), and Kenyans for Tax Justice chapters across the country. The goals of these mobilizations are freedom of association and speech. In the course of these struggles, many activists have been arrested, including Sakwa who has appeared in court five times on trumped up charges.