#WATWB: Kenya’s Erin Brockovich

Posted: 2018/02/23 in Blogging
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We are living in the times when life doesn’t seem to hold much meaning. Whether it is the life of an animal, a plant, or a human being. The essence of life has reduced almost to the point of nothingness. It seems that anything else is better than a living thing.

From the arguments due to climate change to those concerning pollution in the cities,  to deforestation, poaching, immigration, etc, the outstanding concept is that we no longer care about life. We are inconvenienced by life. We hate life. The pursuit of the nonliving things, money and material resources, is being carried out at the expense of everything else, even ourselves. We are in bondage.

In Kenya, in the impoverished, marginalized regions of Mombasa, a place called Owino Uhuru, a chemical company has been poisoning its workers and the neighbouring community with lead. The company has been producing lead from recycling old car batteries. It has been operating at night to avoid detection, emitting fumes laden with lead into the air and also releasing the untreated wastewater into streams used by the community for washing, cooking, and cleaning.

Workers at the plant faced the most direct exposure to chemicals. They were provided one pair of flimsy cotton gloves per month, which quickly disintegrated after a few days. Once the gloves were gone, workers continued work with bare hands. In contrast, managers entering the factory did so in full protective gear.

One woman, Phyllis Omido, has been been fighting for the closure of the company.

Phyllis was first hired to manage the plant’s community relations. Her first task was to put together an environmental impact report. She found out what they were doing to the community, and, instead of protecting the company as is common in most such instances, she exposed them.

One of her first tasks was to put together an environmental impact report. Working with a team of experts, she found that the plant’s proximity to the local community left residents vulnerable to dangerous chemicals—and that the plant was likely operating under illegally obtained permits. Her report recommended closing the factory and relocating, but management dismissed the recommendations and removed Omido from the project.”

About three months later, she found out that she herself had become so poisoned with lead that her own breast milk was in turn making her infant son violently ill.

With a little encouragement, she founded an NGO, the Center for Justice, Governance, and Environmental Action (CJGEA) and convinced the government health department to test local community members for lead. The results confirmed her worst fears. All her three children had very high levels of lead poisoning. Soil tests also showed lead levels increased almost tenfold from 2008 to 2009, when the plant became operational.

Equipped with this data, she began to actively seek the shutdown of the plant. Her efforts were in vain, and the company hit back. She was arrested, attacked by armed men, and forced into hiding.

She never gave up, though. Her bravery eventually paid off.

the NGO she founded, the Centre for Justice, Governance, and Environmental Action, has already forced the closure of the plant and is now pushing the courts to secure compensation for the victims and a clean-up of the community.

They have gathered thousands of local residents in a class action against the government and two companies – Metal Refinery EPZ Ltd and Penguin Paper and Book Company (no connection with the global publishing company) for 1.6bn Kenyan shillings (£11.5m) compensation and a clean-up of contaminated land.

Two years after the suit was launched, the plaintiffs will be called as witness for the first time on 19 March in the environment and land court.

Her story can be found here and here.

Her website is here

Portrait of Phyllis

Phyllis Omido, environmental activist

 

This is the eleventh celebration of the WE ARE THE WORLD BLOGFEST #WATWB which is carried out every last Friday of the month, and which aims to spread love and positiveness in this vulnerable world. A celebration of heroes who can still restore our faith in humanity, especially in this period when our world seems to be full of endless series of horrible happenings.

Our generous co-hosts for this month are:   Inderpreet UppalShilpa Garg, Eric Lahti, Roshan Radhakrishnan, and myself.

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To sign up for We Are The World Blogfest, please see the guidelines below.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

  1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.
  2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Something like this news  about a man who only fosters terminally ill children.
  3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.
  4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.
  5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.
  6. To signup, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List
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Comments
  1. Dan Antion says:

    This is an inspirational story, Peter. It’s hard to imagine the strength required to stay and fight these people. The world needs many more people like this woman.

    Thanks for bringing this story to our attention and for hosting #WATW

  2. Wow, what a brave woman. I can’t imagine what Phyllis has had to endure to insure that her family and community are no longer at risk. Thanks so much for sharing this and for being part of #WATWB

  3. Miss Andi says:

    People like her make the best of humans. Kudos for her perseverance!

  4. What a fascinating and upright woman. Her determination shows in her face. Thank you so much for sharing this with us

  5. BellyBytes says:

    Fighting against big corporations that provide jobs to the neighbouring areas requires guts as this young lady had shown. All too often we prefer to have someone else fight our fight especially young mothers. Or was she motivated to fight because she was a young mother ? Thanks for sharing this lovely story

    • Peter Nena says:

      Being a mother was part of her motivation, since her children had become poisoned as well. But when she conducted the environmental impact study and recommended that the factory should be closed, she had not realized that she herself and her children had become poisoned. Thank you Sunita.

  6. Such an inspiring story of courage and commitment – she is indeed a true heroine. Thanks for sharing this story, and for co-hosting this month.

  7. I’m amazed at Phyllis’ tenacity; despite being arrested, attacked and forced into hiding, she still stood strong… AND it’s paying off!
    God bless her soul!
    Writer In Transit

  8. Phyllis Omido is a courageous woman. It is so sad and terrible that any company would show such a complete lack of regard for its impact on human beings and the environment. I know there are too many companies like this one. Great to hear Ms. Omido’s efforts have had such good results.

    • Peter Nena says:

      And they are usually very difficult to defeat, having all their money and power. Philly’s NGO had support from other well-meaning NGOs. They succeeded. Thanks Deborah.

  9. Ally Bean says:

    This is an amazing story. I’m impressed with this woman’s strength of character and stick-to-it-iveness– just like Erin Brockovich. What a way to live your life, trying to get a basic human need. Great addition to the #WATWB.

    • Peter Nena says:

      Sometimes when we have no choice but to keep fighting. Especially when the alternative is death by lead poisoning. Death is you fight; death if you don’t fight. So you fight and hope for the best. Thank you Ally.

  10. John Maberry says:

    It’s so important to stand up for justice against polluters.

  11. She is incredibly brave and inspiring! Thank you for introducing us to her, Peter. Thank you also for co-hosting this month’s #WATWB.

  12. Norah says:

    What an inspirational story. If only we were all so strong to stand up for what we know to be right.

  13. Susan Scott says:

    This is such a scary story Peter – it is frigging unbelievable the harm intended or unintended that happens in the name of progress. Or ignorance, or just sheer don’t care attitude. Phyllis Omedo is a true hero, may her efforts with the NGO bring good results. May all environmental activists take a leaf out of her book. Thanks for alerting us to this powerful story, and for co-hosting.

    • Peter Nena says:

      It is disturbing, Susan, that these companies poison children and and their parents, but when you try to stop them they fight back with a vengeance, as if it is them who were wronged first. No compunction at all. No care. The company bosses used wear protective gear, which means that they understood what they were doing to their workers and the community, but still went on with it, anyway. It is terrifying. Thanks.

  14. simonfalk28 says:

    When will we ever learn, Peter? Your opening is so poignantly apt for what had happened with that company. How we wish it were not so. Bravo for Phyllis and her NGO. May they increase. Thanks for this story and for co-hosting us again.

  15. KDKH says:

    What an amazing, strong woman. We need more like her! Great article.

  16. bikerchick57 says:

    This is a story of courage – the type of courage that takes determination, strong will and fearlessness. I can’t imagine what would have happened to the workers and the people of this community if the plant had not been shut down. How many people would have died from lead poisoning?
    Thanks for sharing this woman’s brave story and thanks for hosting this month’s #WATWB.

  17. datmama4 says:

    Some people are beyond brave. I’m discouraged so often at the lack of regard for human life in so many parts of the world. This is such an inspiring story of hope that things can be changed.

  18. Peter Nena says:

    You are right. Beyond brave. It takes that to fight such polluters. Thanks.

  19. Shilpa Garg says:

    It can be overwhelming to stand up against large corporations. Kudos to Phyllis for fighting back despite all odds. She is a true hero and a shining example of courage, determination and perseverance. Thanks for sharing her story, Peter!

  20. […] via #WATWB: Kenya’s Erin Brockovich — Demogorgon’s Fiction […]

  21. Tish Farrell says:

    A brave woman indeed, Peter. You’ve have done an excellent job telling her story. Warmest greetings to you. How are you? I’m sorry I’ve not been in touch lately.

    • Peter Nena says:

      Hello, Tish. Thank you for visiting and for your kind words. I am OK, just a little depressed about the state of the nation. I feel a bitterness in me and a powerlessness that leaves me too tired. Things aren’t looking good here, with the government in utter and complete rejection of the Constitution. There was an incident at the airport this week. It worries.

      • Tish Farrell says:

        I’ve been following Kenya news since Raila’s extraordinary induction as people’s president. I can appreciate your feelings of despondency. The Miguna shenanigans go from bad to worse. Sending you a virtual hug. Take heart!

      • Peter Nena says:

        Thanks again. It will all come to pass someday.

  22. You do realize that for all the doom and gloom you preach, you are here holding out hope….? =)

    • Peter Nena says:

      Hi, D! I’m glad to see you here. I hardly preach doom and gloom these days. I haven’t posted a horror story since January 2017. I try to be positive, although the government here can drive a person all the way up the wall. Like a lizard. Ha, ha! Hope is hard to extinguish, though. It is a quintessential part of living. I need hope to cross a busy street, to swallow food, to return home in the evening. So it’s kind of always there. Thanks.

      • “I need hope to cross a busy street, to swallow food, to return home in the evening. So it’s kind of always there. ”

        Now THAT’s more like it!

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