Kenya is one of the faster growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many people have migrated to the cities in search of new opportunities creating a gradual increase in population density and people living in slums. More than half the urban population live in slums. Slum dwellers have worse access to piped water, sewage systems, and electricity compared to other urban areas, are less well educated than the rest of the city’s population, at higher risk of transmission of communicable diseases, and live in areas of higher crime rates and poverty (World Bank 2017).
While the population continues to urbanise, more people are pushed below the national poverty line. 38.6% of the population live on less than £1.50 a day. Poverty is one of the main reasons child are forced into child labour. It is estimated that there are 60,000 working and street connected children in Nairobi, Kenya. Many children engage in the worst forms of child labour, working in hazardous conditions.
In the Mathare Slum in Nairobi, 15 mothers have come together to form a group savings scheme that means they are working together to plan better for their children’s futures.
When the mothers first met in 2016 many were unemployed and a few were earning one or two dollars a day doing odd jobs. They started meeting on a weekly basis and began contributing 100 Kenyan Shillings (80 pence) each to the communal savings kitty. Each week one member was allowed a loan from the kitty to spend as she wished - often on investing money in supplies for small businesses. The member would then repay the money after one week with an interest of 10%.
It's estimated that 60,000 children and young people live on the streets in Nairobi. Life is especially risky for these people. Many have lost their parents or have escaped from abusive homes. They work in hazardous conditions on the huge rubbish dumps, are forced into sex work and sexually exploited, or get by with petty crime. Many become addicted to glue, using it to take away hunger pangs.
Many children in Nairobi work on the Dandora rubbish site. They're exposed to hazardous materials, toxic waste, chemicals, and broken glass broken glass. Most of these children have to stop their schooling to work in the dump site.
Adding to the already dangerous conditions is the trauma of abuse from the authorities and those who have a duty to protect them. Police in Nairobi have a track record of targeting street children, in particular boys, and imprisoning them for crimes they did not commit or handing out excessive punishments for minor offences.
Our partner in Nairobi is Pendekezo Letu. For more than 20 years Pendekezo Letu has been supporting street children and their families to escape extreme poverty and lead more fulfilling lives away from the streets and slums. They have developed a very successful rehabilitation programme that every year supports 100 girls to get away from the dumpsites and streets and into education. Their parents and siblings receive support too, so that the whole family is strengthened. Pendekezo Letu also runs a justice programme for children who have been unlawfully imprisoned.
The intensive rehabilitation programme includes a range of support. Girls live on site in a hostel for the full ten months, have lessons based on the school curriculum, access to vocational skills training, and receive medical care and counselling. They are also given the option to take part in a family tracing and reintegration programme which helps girls, if they wish, to re-join their family.
Parents are given help to overcome some of the challenges that resulted in their children getting into a crisis situation. They receive home visits from social workers who monitor the standards at home and offer advice on child protection and parenting skills. They receive vocational and financial training so they can rely on more secure income and improve the way they manage the family money. Mothers are encouraged to come together to pool their funds into group savings and welfare funds. Siblings are giving education and vocational skills opportunities.
We have delivered child protection training and guidance to members of Local Area Advisory Councils and secured funding to enable them to operate more effectively. These councils are now better at handling child abuse cases and children are more aware of how to report abuse. The councils are also more effectively monitoring school registration and attendance and the quality of day-care centres. Pendekezo Letu now has a full time trained lawyer who provides legal representation for children appearing in Nairobi’s Juvenile and High Courts. Police and remand officers have been trained in child rights education.
We came to the end of a three year partnership with Comic Relief in July 2018. A further one year of funding has been granted to ensure the sustainability of the organisation. If you are interested in supporting the 2019 intake of girls, please get in touch.
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