Odindo Opiata: “Are we working for people or with people?”

Odindo Opiata, Hakijamii.

Economic and Social Rights Centre Hakijamii is one of the few organizations in Kenya promoting economic and social rights. Hakijamii aims to promote the rights of slums’ inhabitants in Nairobi and Kisumu among others by training, campaigning and doing information work. Hakijamii’s executive director Odindo Opiata told KIOS about his work while visiting Helsinki in KIOS’ seminar in August.

“After graduating from law school I worked as a legal counsel. Nevertheless, I realized that legal counseling was not enough, since I only was able to help individuals. It is better to work with people in a discriminated position by strengthening their own capacity to claim their rights.

There are no services in the districts we work in. We work with local organizations to examine how they could pursue their own rights and how the groups could work in cooperation in order to increase the effectivity of their work.

In addition, we seek to combine grassroots activities to macro-level advocacy. Our goal is to bring community organizations where the decisions are made. A common problem is that the people doing the work are not those who are suffering because of the problem. Are we working for people or with people?

People and their battles should be in the focus of our work. This means that human rights should be adapted into the local working environment. It is easy to combine international human rights instruments with the demands of locals and their daily battles. International and regional human rights conventions are only an addition to the tools justifying their claims. They enable us to pressure the authorities. The most important thing to remember is that when talking about human rights we are talking about people’s lives and livelihoods.”

KIOS has supported Hakijamii’s project strengthening grassroots organizations’ work to promote economic and social rights in slums.


Related organisations

  • Hakijamii (Economic and Social Rights Centre)