December 6, 2011
Ms. Beatrice Karore Amathi
Candidate for Civic Seat in the County Assembly
Ms. Beatrice Karore stands with great pride as she gestures across a sea of tin roofs from a hilltop on the far edge of her home village of Mathare. Although the landscape of tv antennas, clotheslines, and homes of earth & tin sheets in Mathare may not be like the glass and concrete high rises of Nairobi’s business center, like the ocean floor, this informal settlement (more commonly referred to as a slum) of nearly ½ million residents is much more complex and vibrant when one explores what flourishes below the surface.
As we weave our way down into the Mathere Valley, a community of ten distinctive villages defined by tribal origins, Beatrice navigates her way through a maze of small pathways teeming with trash and water runoff. We cross one of only three footbridges that connect the villages together across the Mathere River, as children play and women wait in line with yellow plastic jerry cans to collect water for their homes. At every turn we make, Beatrice encounters familiar faces that are eager to greet her and to share the latest news and community concerns with her.
As I quickly observe, the community has many unique challenges: landlessness, lack of access to clean drinking water & electricity, high youth unemployment, security concerns and higher than normal rates of poverty. During the 35 years that Beatrice has lived and raised her family in Mathere, she has not only experienced many of these challenges, but also found windows of opportunity to overcome them through leadership.
As a recognized leader within the Bunge La Wamama (or Women’s Parliament), Beatrice has empowered local women to stand up for themselves and to think collectively about coming up with solutions to the problems around them. As a group of about 25 women gather with Beatrice for a meeting to discuss how to recruit women leaders to run for office in 2012, they sip tea and highlight the achievements that women leaders have made so far. A newly opened community resource center has consolidated services to make resources like childcare, health services, and the internet available in one place. The new resource center also includes a laundry farm and safe baby care service for working mothers; both of these programs have created economic opportunities for underemployed women. As the meeting comes to a close, the group expresses their excitement for her candidacy for a civic seat on the Nairobi County Assembly by eagerly giving her their names and mobile numbers so that she can mobilize them as members of her campaign team.
ISSUES THAT DRIVE HER VISION for OFFICE
1.) Land Ownership for the People of Mathare
2.) Elevating the Community out of Poverty & Improve the Economic Potential of Women
-Bring more opportunities for youth and women businesses
-Increase access to education
-Bring electricity to community to improve security and safety
3.) Empower Women to take Leadership
-Collect data on issues affecting the community
-Build resource centers
ADVICE TO OTHER YOUNG WOMEN LEADERS
1.) Love Each Other: Recognize the Potential of Young Women
-Find mentor(s) that encourage you to leadership
-Bring strong women to politics that “have what it takes to win”
2.) Network Together
-Create bridges across class and backgrounds
-Problem solve together
-Create round tables for raising funds
-Build support systems that foster each others’ strengths
3.) Empower Women Against Exploitation
-Help women stop rape, gender based violence, pay inequity, etc.
4.) VOTE for Women