KIOS 20 years – celebrating the achievements and the unyielding nature of human rights work

Ihmisiä rivissä

KISORAn ja Hakijamiin edustajia. Kuva: KISORA

KIOS partner KISORA in the spotlight.


Kisumu at the center of human rights development


The new governance structures in Kenya give room for effective people’s participation. People have the right to participate in determining the development plans of the counties. In Kisumu, KIOS partner KISORA works with local communities in order to enhance economic and social rights through local development plans.

After the promulgation of the new constitution 2010, Kenya ushered in the new era of governance. The new era provides two centers of government: the national and the county government. Kisumu is one of the 47 counties with self-governance over specific mandates.

In the second term of county governance, the Kisumu County through its county assemblies has draft and passed into law various policies and legislations that provide protocols for all-inclusive development. There is a strong focus on the principals of human rights based approach to development.

The County Integrated Development plan (CIDP) is one of the 5-year master plans. It is set to determine all the development programs of the county.  The master plan is then implemented by the annual development plans.


There is more public engagement and improved services

The county is currently experiencing significant improvements in progressive realization of people’s rights. This is happening through well-organized forums and possibilities for the right to participation. There is public engagement in the county government affairs. The Public Participation Bill that was recently passed into law and the renewed passion and dedication by the county staffs benchmarks these improvements.

“The county has experience reduction of human conflicts (unless on political basis) in development. Upcoming infrastructural development is looming and there is tribal co-existence, fair trade, fair allocation of resources and less destruction of properties though evictions to begin with. Informal settlements are gradually experiencing improved services and security of people and properties.” These developments are the result of successful regular inter-community dialogues as well as strategic and issue based forums organized by Kisora and other partners.

People sitting in an audience

A community meeting in Kisumu organized by KISORA. Picture by KISORA


Kisumu CSOs come together for advocacy

The new dawn of opportunities has increased participation of community-based organizations (CSOs) in county affairs. The momentum has also decreased the fatigue in advocacy that ruled the CSO sector for many decades. Through the KIOS supported Human Rights and Governance Project, KISORA in partnership with Hakijamii, organized a joint Kisumu CSO forum on 24th January 2018. The county government of Kisumu (through Special Planning Ministry) was also invited to meet the CSOs and discuss how the CSOs can engage in the county development and policy circles.

The breakfast meeting was attended by 30 representatives of the CSO’s, technical departments of the county and Chief Officer Ministry of Special Programmes, Honorable Ruth Odinga. Honorable Ruth  Odinga affirmed her commitment in working with CSO’s to realize the dreams of the Kisumu County. The county executive officer for the special programs urged the CSOs to emulate the KISORA strategies of peoples based advocacy and request them to realign with the county agenda for the purpose of effective engagement. She also cautioned the briefcase CSOs busy soliciting money from the poor on pretence for support in education bursaries to stop before the law got up with them. Hakijamii’s Director Pauline Vata presented to Honorable Ruth Odinga a CSO communiqué of commitment and suggestions for county level reforms. This is the very first time the CSOs based in Kisumu county come together to reason and champion a common goal.

“The citizens have now had the doors of opportunities open, and it is upon the CSOs through their membership to empower the citizens to participate and engage meaningfully. The people now have the possibility to articulate on issues that can have a positive impact on their Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Kisora through its membership, partnerships and projects has always considered community empowerment as the cornerstone of its endeavors.” Throughout its existence, KISORA has been promoting people’s based advocacy.

Banner that reads "Forced evictions violates human rights to adequate housing"

KISORA community office. Picture by Maarit Roström / KIOS

As once said, “one hand gives in the flashy lights of cameras and the other one takes it in the shadows”. The CSOs could be delighted by this opportunity, but if not well utilized in a structured manner, it could turn into a destructive point for CSOs.  As it is common in Africa, and in Kenya in particular, “the government is the people”. But in reality, the people have no or little say in the government affairs. These are the issues the citizens of Kenya are trying to outdo through the opportunities provided by the new constitution. We expect the citizens to be able to engage in a rebranded, synergized and sustainable manner in the development projects and decision making. We expect to be informed about the results of the development projects and we expect the projects to be undertaken with a human rights based approach to development.  The communities are now regaining new energy in demanding and defending their rights.



KISORA (Kisumu Social Rights Association) Self Help Group is a network of grassroots human rights lobby groups from the informal settlements. KISORA was founded in 2007, through a KIOS supported project implemented by Hakijamii. KISORA coordinates and implements people led human rights campaigns. The network seeks to strengthen the capacity of the communities to demand and work for the realization of their economic and social rights. The cooperation between KIOS and KISORA has focused on enhancing the communities’ awareness on the right to participation and on economic, social and cultural rights. KIOS has been supporting the work of KISORA since 2013.

Two women and four men

Representatives of KISORA, Hakijamii and KIOS expert Elina Vuola. Picture by Maarit Roström / KIOS


Economic and Social Rights Centre (Hakijamii) was founded in 2004. In Kenya, before Hakijamii, there was a strong focus on civil and political rights without much work being done on economic and social rights from a rights based perspective, and Hakijamii was founded to fill in this gap in the NGO sector. Hakjamii has been strong in building networks and coalitions among the NGO sector. The mission of the organization is to strengthen the capacity of people at the grassroots to demand and claim their economic and social rights. KIOS supported the work of Hakijamii from 2005 to 2015, and through KIOS support Hakijamii engaged for instance in strong advocacy work related to the implementation of the rights to health, right to water and the right to sanitation, as they are described in Kenya’s Constitution 2010.





Pictures by KISORA and KIOS.

The views and opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy of KIOS.

This article is part of celebrating KIOS 20 years and sharing voices from our partners in the Global South.



Related organisations

  • KISORA Self Help Group