by Tessy Cherono Maritim


picture courtesy

Me, I love Nairobi. I was born and brought up here.

I enjoy Nairobi’s public spaces despite how dysfunctional they are. They instill a sense of collective ownership and community in what has increasingly become a privatized society.

A Public Space can be defined as “a gathering spot or part of a neighborhood, downtown, special district, waterfront or other area within the public realm that helps promote social interaction and a sense of community“.

When I’m asked about public spaces in Nairobi, I think of men and women gathering at the stage to jump on a matatu and head to work. I think of tens of children hurriedly walking on the streets on their way back from school. I think of City Park market where my mom often buys our fruit and vegetable. I think of Uhuru Park which I have never had the initiative to walk through.

I find it sad that in Nairobi, public spaces are not top of mind when we think about relaxing and leisure activities. Public spaces are supposed to be enjoyed by all citizens regardless of their economic status, physical ability, gender or age. Oftentimes All the time, as a woman, my first concern is ‘Will I be safe? Do I need to go with someone?

When public spaces are developed, I wonder whether they think about who will eventually use them. Do they think about parents and their children? Do they think about a person with a physical disability? Do they think about pedestrians or people who use bikes? With its’ deeply motor-centric focus, public infrastructure in Kenya continues to hustle backwards. How can we build the future into our public spaces? 

In light of this, I’m delighted that The Arena is supporting Placemaking Week Nairobi (16th to 19th November), an initiative that invites us to not only celebrate public spaces in our city, but to think critically about how we use them and who uses them.

Check out some of the activities that will be taking place during the week, including an Urban Dialogue, Cycling and the Kilimani Street Festival!

In the meantime, I’m interested to know- what are some of your favourite public spaces in Nairobi? Tweet @thearenakenya with your answers and hope to see you during the course of Placemaking Week.

Tessy Cherono Maritim is fiercely and fearlessly dedicated to inspiring her generation to realise their potential in life. She is the Founder of The Arena Kenya, an enterprise that through events and digital platforms, leads a movement of smart, conscious and empowered young Africans focused on maximising themselves and the communities they live in.


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