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Wangui Mbatia: the Kenyan woman that forced the gates of the WSF dies

domingo 12 de fevereiro de 2017, por Translated by July Ammateur, Rita Freire

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Responsible for taking young poor people into the event of 2007, she defended the space of the WSF so that the fighters for alternatives did not feel alone. Nor crazy.

Wangui Mbatia, that young woman the World Social Forum partiicipants knew in 2007, when she rallied with the group of poor people at the Kenyata gates demanding to be let in the WSF territory for free, died yesterday (11) after a three-year struggle with cancer.

She was, indeed, one of Kenya’s best known female activists and intelectuals, involved in many of Kenya’s grassroots movements, like the mobilization tha influenced the Kenyan constitutional review process. She was one of the founders and a youg leadership of ‘Bunge La Wananchi’ (the People’s Parliament), a social movement wich was born in that moment when Kenya was debating its Constitution, looking for a new democratic state.

Her speach after enter the WSF territoy, receiving the support of the participants in the event, sounds until now:

“How can you start this Forum with a march through the slums, and then deny those who live there a chance to attend? If you visit the slums, you see the worst of us – you see only our misery and our poverty. You do not see the best of us. We have come here to show you the best of us – our energy, our ideas, our experiences. We have so much to contribute to this Forum - how can you have a debate on the solutions to poverty and exclude the poor?” (Danny report)

Wangui Mbatia and the youth of the favela of Kibera and Korogocho, who accompanied her to the WSF, provoked criticisms directed at the organization of the event and self-criticism in the WSF process. The episode led to the elaboration of criteria to ensure democratic participation and more stringent choice of service and food providers at events. In Nairobi itself, the stand of a hotel that sold expensive food was forced to immediately lower its prices to popular values.

Among the criticisms of the event, it is worth remembering an article from Open Democracy, recognizing "aastonishing political talent" in the young leadership.
" Alas, she had to direct it inwards, against an appalling organisation that closed off the WSF from Kenyan society, when she should have been supported by it to address her calm and determined eloquence to the wider world.

Participants of the WSF edition in Dakar, Senegal, 2011, found her again, this time emphasizing the need to value the space built by popular struggles. Some of her phrases can be checked in the interviews for Kontext TV and alternative press in that edition::

"You actually come to the World Social Forum and you actually find you’re not crazy and the others are even more crazy if (than?) you are. So there’s a certain sense of validation"

"There are too many divisions around the world and I think what the World Social Forum does is to try to reduce those"

"Most of the discussions that are found at the World Social Forum are not mainstream, they’re not discussions you will find in the mainstream media, it makes it even more important to have a space where we can have a discussion between the Dalit, who are the untouchable of India and the illegal immigrants in Europe who are in some way also untouchable in Europe – their circumstances are just about the same ..."
Until her death, the activist led the KENGO Network of People’s Organizations, "a network of more than 2,000 active and registered grassroots organizations in Kenya that, through popular participation, face poverty using a bottom-up and grassroots approach Rights "as presented by the entity.

Wangui Mbatia was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. According to Kenyan journalist John Onyando, she then sent an e-mail to colleagues about the disease care in Nairobi:

“Cancer is a whole other story. We have only 18 oncologists for a population of over 40 million and 12 of them are in Nairobi and all of them are expensive consultants. On that end I will settle for creating awareness that cancer does not equal death and hopefully encourage people to open up so we don’t feel so alone when going through it,” she wrote in the email.

She was married with Polycarp Masaki and leaves behind also her daughter, Celine.