“Social justice” can be traced back in the 1840s amongst the Jesuits, associating it with St. Thomas Aquinas’s teachings. In November 2007, the United Nations General assembly approved the 20th February as World day of Social justice. The first World Day of Social Justice was however observed in 2009. On this globally marked day, organisation and institutions declare the urgency in promoting efforts that tackle social ills such as poverty, inequality, exclusion and peace.
This year, 350 Africa, Akiba Uhaki Foundation, The Catholic university of East Africa and other partners came together to mark this historic day in Nairobi. The 124 participants were activists, civil rights advocates from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. Students, various activists and rights advocates attended the forum.
Kenya is preparing for its presidential election in just six months and this saw the entire topic focused on the need for an informed voter education to empower the populace make better decisions in the august 8th polls in the country.
Emerging issues like the need to to form a social movement in Kenya echoed loudly as Kenyan activists are known to work from within isolated pockets thus sometimes portraying the image of competition rather than cooperation. With a strong social justice movement, everybody feels safe and the oppressor gets no leeways of having targeted attacks on individual activists, a situation that has become a very common occurrence in Kenya and the entire East African Region.
Speakers narrated of the social ills within the slums of Nairobi. For example, in Mukuru slums residence live in squalor conditions with no drainage system, clean piped water or toilets. Women and girls taste the better part of the hardships.
Arts and new media emerged as a new form of non-violent activism: a trend that is now becoming very safe to use when addressing gross issue that the oppressor never wants you to talk about.
Environmental protection resonated with the audience. Practical examples and lesson, that we need to start with: the little efforts and things around us. The audience really laughed at a recent report that put Kenya amongst the global countries with clean air, the report translates to low levels of toxicity in the country http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Kenya-has-cleanest-air-in-the-world-report/1056-3798550-by8tjr/ . Amidst the background of this report however Kenya is determined to invest in a US $ 2 Billion coal powered plant in Lamu, a UNESCO world heritage site. Additionally, several concessions have been signed with Chinese companies to start coal mining in Kitu,Mui Basin.
To address the current lethal drought pouncing on the horn of Africa https://350africa.org/kenyas-drought-a-humanitarian-crisis/ there emerged a need for a locally owned solutions and approaches to ending this perennial nightmare. At the moment close to 3 Million Kenyans face starvation with the effects mostly felt amongst the children and women. Thousand heads of livestock die every minute in the arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya. In the neighbouring Somali, Hargesha has been hit hard that every day women climate refugee camps report rampant cases of rape.
The Late Burkinabe, Thomas Sankara once said, “You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness!” Activists in Kenya put their lives on the line everyday of their life but they are not cowed. They have shown resilience despite the constant death threats, legal actions and intimidation. On this World day of social justice, activists and participants agreed to increase the levels of madness in their quest to make their communities free from all forms of injustice. It is in these little efforts within and by the communities that add up to a global change.
Images by Africa24Media.