Tag Archives: Amnesty International

USA: Amnesty and WaterAid “Give a Crap about Human Rights” campaign

From now until World Toilet Day, 19 November, WaterAid USA and Amnesty International USA are urging people to Give a Crap about Human Rights by supporting the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act.

This Act would help provide 100 million people with “first-time, sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation within six years”.

The “Give a Crap about Human Rights” campaign is part of Amnesty’s Demand Dignity Campaign sub-programme on the human right to housing. This includes work on equal access to services for people living in inadequate housing – and clean water and sanitation are crucial services, and basic human rights.

Go to the Give a Crap about Human Rights web page for more information.

Source: Amnesty International USA,

Kenya, Nairobi: lack of sanitation leaves women sick and “prisoners in their homes”

Women and girls in Nairobi’s slums live under the constant threat of sexual violence, leaving them often too scared to leave their houses to use communal toilet and bathroom facilities, Amnesty International said in a new report released on 7 July 2010.

Amnesty International calls on the Kenyan government to enforce landlords’ obligations to construct toilets and bathrooms in the slums and settlements and provide assistance to structure owners who are unable to meet the costs of constructing toilets and bathrooms.

Insecurity and Indignity: Women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya [1] details how the failure of the government to incorporate the slums in urban plans and budgets has resulted in poor access to services like sanitation, which hits women in slums and informal settlements especially hard.

“Women in Nairobi’s settlements become prisoners in their own homes at night and some times well before it is dark,” said Godfrey Odongo, Amnesty Internationals East Africa researcher. “They need more privacy than men when going to the toilet or taking a bath and the inaccessibility of facilities make women vulnerable to rape, leaving them trapped in their own homes.

“The fact that they are unable to access even the limited communal toilet facilities also puts them at risk of illness.”

The situation is compounded by the lack of police presence in the slums and when women fall victim to violence they are unlikely to see justice done. Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum and home to up to a million people, has no police post.

“I always underestimated the threat of violence,” said 19-year-old Amina of Mathare slum. “I would go to the latrine any time provided it was not too late. This was until about two months ago when I almost became a victim of rape.”

Amina was set upon by a group of four men while she walked to the latrine at 7pm. They hit her, undressed her and were about to rape her when her cries were heard and a group of residents came to save her. Although she knew one of the men involved in the assault, Amina did not go to the police as she feared reprisal attacks.

Unable to leave their one-roomed houses after dark, many women in informal settlements resort to ‘flying toilets’ – using plastic bags thrown from the home to dispose of waste.

Women also told Amnesty International how the poor sanitary conditions they live in – which include widespread disposal of human excreta in the open because of lack of adequate access to toilets – directly contribute to cases of poor health and to high health care costs.

Other women describe the humiliation of bathing in front of their relatives and children.

Even by day, public bathroom facilities are few and far between and invariably involve walking long distances. According to official figures, only 24 per cent of residents in Nairobi’s informal settlements have access to toilet facilities at household level.

Despite some positive features, Kenya’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) policies to meet the target on sanitation do not address the specific needs of women who face the threat of violence because they lack adequate sanitation.

They also do not address the lack of enforcement of regulations requiring owners and landlords to provide sanitation.

“There is a huge gap between what the government commits to do, and what is going on in the slums everyday” said Godfrey Odongo.

“Kenya’s national policies recognise the rights to sanitation and there are laws and standards in place. However, because of decades of failure to recognize slums and informal settlements, planning laws and regulations are not enforced in these areas.

“The lack of enforcement of these laws has ensured that landlords and structure owners in the slums can get away without providing any toilets or shower places for their tenants”

Lack of security of tenure also remains a long standing problem for tenants, despite a national land policy in place, removing any incentives that landlords or owners could have to ensure proper sanitation, and measures to increase security.

Amnesty says the government must also take immediate measures to improve security, lighting and policing and ensure that relevant government authorities coordinate their efforts to improve the water and sanitation situation in the settlements.

Amnesty representatives met with officials from the Ministry of Health, the City Council including the Town Clerk, and also some officials from the official regulator of water and sanitation services within Nairobi, the Athi Water Services Board.

In almost all of the meetings, it was agreed that there was little coordination between the relevant Ministries in the government to ensure that women in slums had access to water and sanitation.

Even though Amnesty recognised that the situation is complicated, representatives stressed that this is no reason to pass the buck from one Ministry to the next.

Some of the officials committed to asking the Office of the Prime Minister to bring together all of the relevant officials in an attempt to ensure that water and sanitation is provided for women in slums.

[1] Amnesty International (2010). Insecurity and indignity : women’s experiences in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. London, UK, Amnesty International Publications. Download full report

The report is one of the outputs of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign

Source: Amnesty International, 07 Jul 2010 ; Amy Agnew, Livewire, 07 Jul 2010

Kenya: two million people live in a human rights black hole in the slums of Nairobi

The Kenyan Public Health Act prescribes the health and safety measures that landlords must comply with, including the provision of sanitation and other services. As with other provisions, the local authorities do not enforce these against landlords or developers who build and rent homes in slums and settlements like Kibera.

Amnesty International has visited Kibera and other Nairobi slums as part of their global “Demand Dignity” campaign. The lack of adequate water and sanitation are recognized as human rights abuses. Amnesty is mobilizing slum residents to demand adequate housing and basic services.

Amnesty International released its report “The Unseen Majority: Nairobi’s Two Million Slum Dwellers” on 19 June 2009, which describes the dire conditions and gross human rights abuses endured in Nairobi’s informal settlements.

A performer from Black Marimba Cultural troop entertains marchers as they gather at Central Park, Nairobi. Photo: Amnesty International

A performer from Black Marimba Cultural troop entertains marchers as they gather at Central Park, Nairobi. Photo: Amnesty International

Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign aims to end global poverty by working to strengthen recognition and protection of the rights of the poor. Besides on slums, the campaign focuses on maternal mortality, corporate accountability and making rights law.

Read more on the Demand Dignity campaign web site

Demand Dignity Poster. Amnesty International

Demand Dignity Poster. Amnesty International

Source: Amnesty International, 19 Jun 2009