She is perhaps best recognized for her roles on stage, but Mercy Odondo is just more than an actress.
She is a human rights activist. She uses unconventional ways including Participatory Educational Theater (PET) to create awareness among community members.
Discontent among Kenyan youth has been the drive behind many like Mercy to seek justice and defend human rights.
“My entry to activism was greatly inspired by the courageous and passionate works of the late Dolphine Oketch around issues of Gender Based Violence (GBV) advocacy. I got attracted to her cause and felt that there was a need for an extra workforce to challenge violations especially those met by women and children.”
The self-made woman based in Manyatta slum in Kisumu County is the co-founder of Angaza Jamii, a CBO fighting for the rights of women and girls in the Nyanza Region.
“It’s a journey that began back in 2014. I had no idea about human rights leave alone the meaning of an activist until I met Amnesty International Manyatta. .I requested them to take me through basic training and that how I realized I could use my talent to empower the community. through entertainment “
What role do you play in Kisumu as a human rights defender? Through Angaza Jamii, we engage women and girls through training and community dialogues on Sexual Gender Based Violence. We use theater, group therapy sessions and filming to help women and girls become aware of their rights, how to report abuses and even get to know the referral path ways to seek medical assistance and justice.
What have been the highlights of your calling?
I have been part of both local and international initiatives. I participated in the Write for Rights, where I managed to mobilize 700 youths in Kisumu to write protest letters to the South African government to allow the women of Mapungulo village access Contraceptives. The women had difficulties accessing health facilities to get medical attention, due to long distance. I also took part in raising awareness of the pro-democracy activists arrested in the Democratic of Congo. I helped in mobilizing 700 youths to write letters to the DRC government to release Yves and Fred. The cases were successful and went a long way in ensuring justice for others.
What have been the challenges in your line of work?
Image building and branding for Human rights defenders is quite a huge task. Through your work, you create a lot of enemies and you never who is coming after you. Human rights defenders need to be protected.
What is your message to other human rights defenders and fellow Kenyans?
Plan to bring about real change. Keeps the fire burning when you want to the change the world?