Our team wanted to present our assessment of the pilot project which ended in February, and to explain how we are planning to move forward in phase 2.
Firstly, we wish to thank the Mathare District Officer and the escorts for their participation in the Safe Mathare pilot program. We understand the difficult and oftentimes dangerous nature of the work, and we greatly appreciate how much time and effort they have put into improving the safety of Mathare. We believe that this is an area where there is great potential for all of us to work together to better the lives of Mathare residents.
However, we also recognize that there are important challenges ahead, and after conducting our pilot evaluation, we have decided that we need to continue with the project in a different direction. Specifically, we will no longer be employing people as paid escorts. In fact, we hope to eliminate the official position of “escort” entirely. We have based our decision on the following findings:
1) As we explained in the community forum, payment seems to cause too many problems of jealousy and resentment in the community. We believe that the best way to address the problems of resentment and monitoring is to remove paid positions entirely from our second phase.
2) We could not sufficiently monitor escorts’ behavior. We heard in our feedback that some unexpected problems arose in which escorts were not behaving according to the rules that were set for them. We could not effectively monitor whether escorts were living up to their agreement and mandate. This caused too many problems, and we decided we could not continue with this model.
3) There were serious security risks. After the incident in January in which two escorts were attacked off-duty, we decided that the risk is too high. We do not believe that we can ensure the security of people who escort women during dusk and dawn hours. Thus we have to move to a different system that does not result in threats against people’s security.
Moving forward, we hope to refocus the project on empowering women’s groups to enhance their own safety. We think this will eliminate many of the problems with the first phase.
We decided to work directly with the residents of Mathare who are the most personally in need – the women themselves.
In Phase 2, we are not implementing a project – we are just gathering stories about people’s experiences of safety in Mathare. To emphasize, there are many differences between Phase 1 and Phase 2.
- there are no no paid positions
- there is no longer an escort system
- the goal is to hear locals’ stories about safety
- there is currently no project being implemented on the ground
We hope that the District Officer and escorts understand and support our reasons for the above decisions. As we embark on phase 2 over the next few months, we would heartily welcome the opportunity to continue to work with people in Mathare in any capacity. Thank you to the escorts again for all your help and your patience throughout our pilot.