Kate Copstick in the slums of Kenya: ethnic tension, evictions and rent boys

Kate Copstick in London earlier this week

Comedy critic Kate Copstick was last heard-of in this blog on Tuesday, just before she headed off to Kenya, where her Mama Biashara charity helps poor people – mostly women – start up their own small businesses.

This morning, I got an e-mail telling me what has been happening in Kenya:



The first workshop I did with Doris was in an outlying area where we had financed 32 women.

Their businesses were generally doing very well. Again, some were doing amazingly well.

However, we are nearing election time.

Which means unrest.

The women we financed were Kikuyu women. Their landlord (even slums have landlords) is a Luo.

Last election time, there was a great deal of violence directed at Kikuyu. And so no Luo wants Kikuyus on his land come the election – just in case.

So this landlord served eviction notices on the entire community. The men in the community cut up a bit rough. And so, one night, the landlord came with a bulldozer and flattened the entire area. Houses, possessions, businesses … All flattened in one night. Some places were even set on fire if the tenants clung on.

So now our 32 Kikuyu women are homeless and possessionless as well as businessless.

The same thing has happened to the groups of women we funded outside Narok in the rural Rift Valley.  Because this community was mixed – some Maasai, some Kikuyu and some mixed blood – they have been evicted and the Kikuyu and the mixed bloods sent off to different areas.  These woman are regrouping, but the groups have been split up according to tribe now and so it is all change.

Here, there is always some sort of new challenge that we cannot even imagine in the UK.  And the only place to learn is down here at grass-roots level.

In other news, the bloke with the pus-filled lungs and the infected piles responded to the medication I gave him and is now healthy and gainfully employed in Westlands, the women with high blood pressure have responded incredibly well to high strength garlic supplements, there are little businesses all over Kawangware, the Limuru group are blooming, the mira boys are expanding at a rate of knots and, all in all, we have won more than we lost.


Thank goodness for my wellies !!

The little workshop with the Dispossessed is in a small settlement now situated in a swamp. I generally think when the liquid one is wading through has a bluey green tinge and an iridescent shimmer… with bits bobbing around… it is best to have impermeable footwear.

The other thing I notice here is that almost all the women are HIV+  and several of them are looking after orphans as well as their own children. The family is strong here. Grandparents and aunties look after a woman’s children when she dies. It is an impressive thing to do considering no-one exactly has extra anything to share.

There is also a group of eight rent boys who have a terrific business plan for a small butchery business.

They buy from the local abattoir and sell fresh meat to small  businesses as well as cooking and selling the rest themselves.  They get about £150 from us to start the entire business including a month’s rent on the small place they have found near the terminus (great for selling food).  They have worked out their profit and have plans for eventual expansion.

Lovely guys.  And a good group dynamic.

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Filed under Africa, Charity, Kenya, Politics

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