Walking towards the Dandora dumpsite in East Nairobi is an extraordinary experience. From afar, the 32 acres piece of land that started off as an abandoned quarry, 30 years ago, appears like a miniature mount. But when one nears it, the hill fades off, to the eruption of pigs, marabou storks, and human beings making a living out of others’ waste.
I meet 25 year old Easter Kavini, a lean short dark lady with a charming smile. She has lived here despite the many challenges she has continued to face. Easter is shy for a while but is willing to share the story of her life, at least the elements that relate to the dump.
Just like fellow other women, she arrived at the dumpsite from kariobangi after life became too unbearable at home after her parents passed on. She had to make it work for herself by living in the streets, in order to make a living. According to Easter, there are many jobs to do, within and out of the dump but not everyone is allowed in.
One has to struggle from early in the morning, when the waste trucks arrive, scavenging the wasteland in order to identify materials such as plastics, metals and bones that can be recycled. On a normal busy day, Easter will make Ksh 250-$3- .This will cater for food and other necessities. She has been through all but the worst nightmare came knocking in a few weeks ago when she lost her baby.
Easter lost her almost 7-month baby while taking care of him, due to toxic gases and pneumonia during ongoing cold month of June at the Dandora dumpsite in Nairobi, Kenya. When the waste is burnt, toxic gases are formed and it is very noxious. Many of them -kids and women- were suffering from respiratory abnormalities, many had blocked airways.
The dumpsite equally poses serious social threats. Being an open space the dumpsite encourages and attracts many families to turn to street life since they scavenge for items from the dump site which they later sell to buy food.
Despite the loss, Easter convinced herself that she had to go on with life. She has since joined a women’s group at the site, which unites them to strive for development. In many instances during my visit, her mind would wander away and she would start to cry. The passion and attitude she has towards life explains the need of understanding her life and inner feelings.
The dumpsite experience is a lesson to educate our people to be more concerned about their environment and act to improve it. Many are the times we are tempted to be spectators as others struggle for our rights. We must be participants in the process of change. In a million ways Easter Kavini stands a heroine.
Photography:: Joe Lukhovi
Location:: Dandora dumpsite.