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."

Entering the world of advocacy in Nairobi

27 May

It’s difficult to describe all the feelings I’m experiencing a week before I depart for Nairobi, Kenya. It’s different from what I felt going into the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa- then I was full of apprehension, fear, and naivety. Anxiety is inevitable before embarking on a journey to the developing world- and Kenya is no exception- but this time I know what I will be doing, what my purpose is. My biggest fear is Nairobi, for I have never lived in a big city, and certainly not one as notorious as this (a common nickname for the city is “Nairobbery”). But here, I have the opportunity to do more than in a rural village in Mali, to work with organizations doing advocacy work in one of the most unequal nations in the world.

Through The Advocacy Project, I am partnered with Hakijamii, or the Social and Economic Rights Centre as it roughly translates from Swahili (the most widely used language in Kenya). Hakijamii works to strengthen and build capacity of community-based, or grassroots, organizations that are advocating for economic, social and cultural rights. Right now, Hakijamii supports over 120 organizations throughout Kenya and even other countries. It provides assistance through awareness raising, training, support for new community movements, advocacy and litigation support, and much more. Many of its achievements have been related to campaigning against forced evictions, a serious problem in Kenya. For decades, Kenyans have been forced out of their informal settlements to make way for government development projects. Faced with homelessness and loss of livelihood, they live in substandard conditions with little or no access to food, shelter, clean water, education, and healthcare. Nairobi is home to one of the largest slums in the world, Kibera, where between 600,000 and 1.2 million people live in an area smaller than Central Park in New York City, according to the Economist.

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya

Though I haven’t had much contact with Hakijamii staff personally yet, Odindo Opiata, Hakijamii’s director, and I have laid out a rough job description for my time there, which involves profiling the members of the Hakijamii’s partner organizations through picture and videos and compiling a database for the website. I am thrilled to do this, as it will allow me to work in the field where these grassroots groups operate. I will be collaborating with the Nairobi People’s Settlement Network (NPSN) and the Kisumu Social Rights Association (KISORA), coalitions formed as a result of Hakijamii’s work that bring together the smaller organizations. NPSN and KISORA focus on rights to food, education, and healthcare in addition to housing. Hakijamii and its partners operate in the same vein as Amnesty International and Cordaid, two international partners.

The work of Hakijamii and its partners is moving and inspiring. They face tremendous obstacles as they fight for justice and continue to make change where others have given up. I’m excited, honored, and ready to be introduced to a new world of human rights advocacy work.

Posted By Christy Gillmore

Posted May 27th, 2010


  • Tereza Bottman

    May 27, 2010


    Exciting work awaiting you! I highly recommend taking a look at this project to you. (Self-disclosure: my high school & college classmate assisted w/ this project. Her husband is the main guy.) The online exhibit features the stories of people living in the slums of Nairobi, among the four slum neighborhoods profiled internationally.

  • Tereza Bottman

    May 28, 2010


    Here is the link to The Places We Live online exhibit:

    • Christy Gillmore

      May 30, 2010


      Thanks for the info Tereza! That website is incredible- it really lets you look into life in the slums. I haven’t seen anything like it before.

  • Cate Irvin

    June 2, 2010


    Karibu Kenya, Christy. I am a fellow American working in Nairobi for the summer and after reading your blog I wanted to connect with you. I’m a graduate student from Tulane Univeristy and I am currently working on the establishment of urban agricultural projects in the informal settlements throughout Nairobi. The projects are only beginning to be formulated and we are deciding which direction to go in, but it sounds like much of the work the organizations you are working with do overlaps with much of what I am do, specifically issues relating the land rights and food security for informal communities. I would love to be able to keep in touch with you, even if just via email to see how your work goes and to make sure your time in Nairobi does not involve robbery! Don’t worry, in general its really not that bad as long as you’re relatively careful. Let me know if we could perhaps share experiences, thoughts, information and other such ideas over the next few months. Thanks and good luck!

    • Christy Gillmore

      June 5, 2010


      Hi Kate! Thanks for connecting with me. I would love to keep in touch about the work we are doing. I have just arrived on Wednesday, met with my organization, but haven’t really started working yet. All my time has been spent looking for an apartment. Where are you living and working?

  • Mikel Maron

    July 21, 2010


    Hi Christy

    Great writing here! I don’t think we’ve connected directly yet, but believe I’ve talked with your colleague Beverly about water and sanitation mapping.

    I’m wondering about the work you mentioned, gathering profiles of organizations into a database. It’s a need we hear very often, across Kibera in particular, and we are currently investigating technical approaches. Would be great to compare notes on this.

    Thanks and would be great to be in touch.

    Map Kibera

    • Christy Gillmore

      July 21, 2010


      Dear Mikel,

      Thanks for connecting! I’ve heard/read so much about Map Kibera- what a fantastic project. Beverly mentioned that she had connected with you. It would be great to compare notes. The main thing we’re doing has been to gather profiles specifically of the organizations that Hakijamii works with (we have about 5 or 6) and to put them up on a WordPress blogging website, which is in the works. We are also training members of the groups and Hakijamii staff to be able to post updates on the website so that they are networking and getting the word out on the great things they are doing. Because there is so much going on in the settlements, it would be great for these community groups to be telling the rest of the world and sharing resources and ideas.

      Is Map Kibera doing something similar?



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