“Organising activities outside the forum and trying to bring the forum to the people in the slums was our aim,” a volunteer with Kutoka Network, a nongovernmental agency, said.
Kutoka Network organised the marathon with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and the Kenya Land and Housing Coalition to raise awareness of the conditions of Nairobi’s slum dwellers.
Under the slogan “Another world is possible, even for slum dwellers”, hundreds of people gathered outside St John’s Catholic Church in Korogocho, the third-largest informal settlement in Nairobi, for two hours to register for the marathon, which attracted all ages.
“In the last 10 years, the slums in Nairobi have undergone a revolution,” Daniel Moschetti of St John’s Catholic Church in Korogocho, said. “The slum population has risen up to advocate for their rights, holding policy and duty bearers responsible for their actions and initiating programmes aimed at improving their political, social and economic wellbeing.”
He added: “We thought the World Social Forum could be a great occasion to bring out their voices.”
According to Kutoka Network, Nairobi’s informal settlements house 2.5 million out of its four million people, crowded together in a mere five percent of the total urban area, living without basic services such as water, electricity and transport.
“We have all kinds of problems here,” an old woman waiting in the marathon registration line, said. “Especially if you are female and old, life is not easy.”
Charities working in Nairobi’s slums have complained about slum dwellers being required to pay to enter the Moi International Sports Stadium in Kasarani, where the World Social Forum was taking place.
“The entry fee [Ksh500 or US$7] is an unrealistic amount of money for someone who – on a good day – makes less than Ksh100 [$1.50] per day,” said one volunteer.
However, by staging their protest outside the stadium’s gates, many slum dwellers managed to gain entry to the Forum and the organising committee eventually agreed to lower the fee.