“The voice I have is not my voice. It is the voice of the majority of people.”

The first Shelter City guest of this year arrived last week, and yesterday she kicked off her three months stay in The Netherlands with a presentation about her work to the students of MUNA in Het Nutshuis in The Hague. Her name is Wanjiku, she is a human rights defender from Kenya and she is staying in Shelter City Utrecht.

Wanjiku works for a grassroots organisation advocating for the rights of over 3000 members of an indigenous community. She leads advocacy campaigns against illegal logging within the Mt. Kenya Forests and highlights the involvement of politicians in those illegal activities. Because of the political involvement and the huge amounts of money that are at stake, the work Wanjiku does is dangerous. Human rights defenders in Kenya face serious threats, arbitrary arrests and deadly violence, and in 2015 Wanjiku herself was attacked, abducted and detained for two days.

“Am I a voice in the crowd?”

“The voice I have is not my voice. It is the voice of the majority of people. It is the voice of my community.” With these words Wanjiku explained her drive to continue her human rights work, regardless of the serious threats she faces.

Wanjiku, the name she chose to be referred to, is a common feminine name in Kenya. After the former president Daniel arap Moi dismissed the calls for a new constitution with the words “Do you think Wanjiku understands what is a constitution?”, the name came to symbolize “the average citizen” in the context of national politics. The name became the representation of the ordinary person and through her human rights work Wanjiku makes the voice of the ordinary people be heard. The voice of those in need of help.

Inspired by Wanjiku’s story the MUNA students wondered if she wasn’t afraid, and what she will do after her return to Kenya. “Yes, I am afraid” Wanjiku answered. “But when I get back to Kenya I will have an even louder voice. My people fight for others, for the community, not for themselves. Somebody must speak. Somebody must stand out and let this voice be heard.”

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