Christy Gillmore

Christy Gillmore (Hakijamii the Economics and Social Rights Centre): Christy received her BA in Anthropology and Economics in 2006 from the University of Virginia. Upon graduating, she joined the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa, where she worked to empower women in a rural community. After returning from the Peace Corps, Christy worked in refugee resettlement as a health care coordinator and caseworker. At the time of her fellowship she was pursuing her MA in International Development and Social Change from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. After her fellowship, Christy wrote: “I had never lived in a big city in my life, and this experience opened my eyes to the immense inequalities that are growing due to globalization and rural-urban migration. I feel that I gained invaluable skills and confidence. I feel like I have gained writing and editing skills. I know that I want to focus on human rights now that I have experience of working in the field."

A Living Saint

28 Jul

It takes incredible passion and commitment to human rights and social justice to do the kind of work that Hakijamii does. Nearly every day the staff is in the office before I arrive and stays after I leave. Each member deserves a separate blog entry, but for length’s sake I will highlight one of them here. Louis has written about Odindo Opiata, Hakijamii’s director, in his latest blog entry.

I have been lucky enough to spend much of my time here with Marcy Kadenyeka, the Community Officer at Hakijamii. She is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. Though she is constantly busy acting as a liaison between Hakijamii and its community partners, often staying late into the night to finish her work, she never turns me down if I ask her for help (which is very, very often). She has truly acted as a mentor to Louis and me.

Marcy Kadenyeka asking questions to government officials at Education Accountability meeting in Starehe district. See Louis Rezac's blog post, "Free Primary Education" for more info about this meeting.

Originally from the Western part of Kenya, Marcy moved to Kibera, Nairobi in 1989. Since her arrival in Nairobi, she has been a leader in mobilizing marginalized communities, mainly from the people’s settlements (slums) of Nairobi. Having witnessed atrocities and substandard conditions in the settlements, including 6 people killed during tribal and political clashes in 2001, she wishes to be an agent for change in progressing toward a more equal world. A victim of domestic violence herself, she has provided assistance to countless women including the implementation of a support group for rape victims following the 2007 post-election violence. Despite only completing a primary education, she speaks 7 languages and is one of the fastest learners I’ve ever met.

She was elected as the chairperson for Nairobi People’s Settlement Network (a community partner of Hakijamii) when the organization was founded in 2005. Beating out candidates with university degrees, Marcy was hired at Hakijamii in 2009, an accomplishment she attributes to her spirit and experience with communities. At Hakijamii, Marcy feels that she is working toward her vision of a world where men, women, youth, and children can join together to access justice.

Marcy is the type of person that sees the best in everyone and brings out the best in everyone. If you go to lunch with her, she will insist on buying it despite having 5 children to provide for by herself. Often she surprises her co-workers with goodies like roasted corn and chocolate she bought from a street vendor. Many times I have heard her say, “[so and so] is a living saint,” to describe various people she knows. Indeed, I think anyone who knows her would agree that she, in fact, is the living saint.

Marcy and her two youngest daughters, Laura and Christine. Marcy and her family have lived in this house for 20 years.

Marcy’s personality and passion cannot be captured in words; meet her in this short video interview. Here she discusses the difficulties she has faced living in the slums, what problems are still going on, and what hopes she has for the future.


Posted By Christy Gillmore

Posted Jul 28th, 2010


  • Rick

    July 28, 2010


    Wow – what a neat lady. If someone in Marcy’s circumstance can provide so much inspiration and positive energy to those around her, what excuse do the rest of us have?

    Thanks for sharing her story with us, Christy.

  • Mary Virginia

    August 2, 2010


    Thank you for the video interview. It was wonderful getting to hear her story from her own voice, as well as yours.

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