Nairobi Half Life (or is it just Nairobi Life)

I have had a beautiful week, took some time off and rested. Good week and some rest means adds up to me struggling with a long list of things to write about! I guess that is what happens when we rest, new juices are filled, you see the world through new eyes. Everyday should be a resting day, then perhaps we would have lots to share about, well more of wishful thinking.

I finally got to see Nairobi Half Life!

A movie that is very well done; was so proud to be a Kenyan, if only for a few minutes to brag that we made that movie. Good quality. Just another reminder of what I am very convinced of, that we are a talented lot. Oh but sadly my pride of being a Kenyan quickly fades away as I watch the movie, especially because I am a Nairobian.

Turn a blind eye

You see the movie is about a Nairobi I would much rather ignore. A Nairobi that I would much rather pretend does not exist. A Nairobi that truth be told, I avoid like a bad plague. And I bet so do you! This is the Nairobi where buildings are unkempt, there are many shanties, and well if you visit this area, you best hold onto your handbag as if your life depends on it! It is the Nairobi that we tell tourists not to dare venture into, too unsafe.

Watching this movie, it really brings out the parallels in Nairobi greatly. The beauty of Kenyatta Avenue; the ‘sky scrappers’; the developed part of Nairobi that we are all proud off. Then it shows behind these other fascade, calling it a sham is an understatement.

I engaged in a conversation with the person seated next to me and her reaction was similar to me, ‘imagine I dint know this part of Nairobi’!

You see we have become very good at looking away. We are very good at coming up with back up plans that will ensure we continue to ignore the plight of many Nairobians and lets not even talk about Kenyans.

Believe it or not, the middle class income earners in Kenya are actually on the rise. But this class is also very good at ignoring the plight of others. We make do. If a place is too insecure, plan B kicks in, move out to a more uptown estate; if you meet with a beggar, look away lest you actually see them; if public schools have issues, take your kids to private hospitals; if all else fail, pack and relocate to diaspora. Heck, we even have learnt to chain our motor vehicle side mirrors, backup plan. I was somewhere where someone shared of an incident where they met with someone who had been shot by police after a scuffle (or something like that) and they kept trying to get someone to take this person to hospital but all the matatus (lets not even talk about the people in private vehicles) would refuse when they heard that the person was shot. Why get involved in battles that are not yours.

We have a choice

To be fair I do not blame us. I mean the amount of problems and issues we would need to look at are just too overwhelming! We have therefore learnt to look away, only bother with me myself and I.

However, in the process, there is a generation that has come up that is angry, unfed and hell bent on showing us the middle class that we cannot ignore them forever. Infact, I am convinced that the days of ignoring are quickly running out.

You just need to look at MRC or other groups that are quickly springing out. It’s a call to not be ignored any more.

The movie puts it very well, ‘we all have a choice to make, whether to look at the plight of others or not, but either way we pay a price’. The movie crudely shows how young boys will carjack us the middle class, or rob us or whatever else it takes but either way they will not sleep hungry while we seat pretty in our houses. Crime levels.

I obviously am not advocating for the untendered criminals but you know what, in a way  I do not blame them either. Gotta earn a living!

Did you know

–          While the proportion of Kenya’s urban population living in ‘absolute poverty’ has declined over the past decade, this conceals the fact that the percentage share of the very poorest urban groups – defined as the ‘food poor’ and ‘hardcore poor’ – has actually been increasing

–          There are over 4 million urban food poor (those who cannot even afford food) in Kenya, almost a third of whom are located in Nairobi

–          Inequality is declining in Kenya’s rural areas, but in cities it is high and rising. While the rural Gini coefficient is now around 0.38 – indicating similar levels of inequality to Portugal and much lower levels than the US – in Nairobi it is a staggering 0.59, indicating levels of inequality similar to Johannesburg in the mid-1990s

–          The poorest urban-dwellers spend up to ¾ of their income on staple foods alone

–          While primary school enrolment is marginally higher in urban areas, after the age of 15 far fewer boys and girls attend school in cities than rural areas. This has significant impacts as urban poverty has been shown to be inversely related to level of education of household head

–          Women in the slums are almost 5 times as likely as men to be unemployed

So what?

I guess the pertinent question is then so what. What can a mere me do. Two things:

–          One you are wiser and more privileged than many. With that comes a lot responsibility. Embrace that responsibility. Vote wisely, please not on tribal lines! You best vote someone who will not win but who stands for SOMETHING than a tribal chief!

–          Secondly, get involved. Search for ways to play your part. I guess I still go back to what I have talked about elsewhere, give. Give. Give. Might look like a small part to play but what if we all gave, perhaps someone will be saved from the streets of Nairobi.

Go see the movie. You will laugh at first as its meant to be comedy, then you will stop laughing and get really sad!



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