Maji Mazuri is a social economic development program created in 1984 by Wanjiku Kironyo and based in Nairobi, Kenya. The program was initially developed to help women and children in Mathare Valley, the second largest slum in East Africa.
Mathare is a desolate place. People live in abject poverty with no functional utilities; no clean water, no sewage system or electricity. They live in shacks made of mud, bits and cardboard and rusty corrugated iron. Crime is rampant and the streets are permeated with drugs, prostitution and a lethal brew of illegal alcohol called Chang'aa. Over 90% of the households are headed by single women, many of whom have been in abusive relationships and now engage in these illicit activities to survive.
Wanjiku Kironyo, a family marital therapist set up office in the Mathare Valley and began counseling women. The women suffered from severe depression and other psychological syndromes caused by single parenthood and the struggles in this impoverished setting. In addition to counseling, she realized the women needed economic empowerment and began to help them organize into small economic groups, i.e. cooperatives, a prelude to the Micro Enterprise networks later established by Maji Mazuri.
Thus women who had been through immense suffering including abusive relationships and imprisonment had social and economic support groups where they were able to not only survive but thrive by deriving strength from each other.
In 1985, a Canadian woman called Rosalind committed herself to starting a small agency known as the Awareness Program. The purpose of that program was to create a cooperative inter-country partnership with Wanjiku’s office. In 1986, the Awareness Program secured grants from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and provided the start up funds for Maji Mazuri Center.
From these humble beginnings, Maji Mazuri Center’s projects have evolved and grown significantly. Initial funding was primarily received from the Awareness Program, but funds from other sources, supporters and well-wishers have been accessed over the years. The program is currently composed of six interrelated projects. The projects range from treating and equiping handicapped, abandoned or orphaned children and providing training for residents of the community to become self sufficient, to training the youth on HIV/AIDS awareness and having them spread the word in the community.
The mission of Maji Mazuri is to help people to escape from the bondage of poverty, ignorance and myth and become fully developed individuals. The vision is to provide the foundation, education and support needed for the children, youth and families in Nairobi’s slums to become self-sustaining in terms of social, economic and spiritual well-being. Simply providing a home for orphaned children or telling the youth to use a condom will not solve the problem.
A holistic approach is needed and the solution involves working within the community. Programs must seek to address the root causes of poverty and help the community realize the most optimal solutions. System wide changes must be effected if there is hope for ending the cycle of poverty. Each of Maji Mazuri’s projects is designed with the principle of holistic, community-based approaches to addressing socio-economic inadequacies.
Thanks to volunteers from all over the world, Maji Mazuri's reach is now global.
Through building cross-continental awareness we hope to bring a voice to the world’s poor; people who suffer because they lack the simple resources they need to escape the bondage of poverty and become self-sustaining individuals. Our goal is provide basic tools and critical assistance to help thousands of families improve their lives in a meaningful way and end the cycle of poverty. Furthermore, by enlisting a new generation of committed global citizens we want to create awareness and knowledge to serve as a catalyst for thousands to get involved in our quest to bring more transformational opportunities to those in the impoverished slums of Mathare Valley and beyond.