Dr Evans Kidero, winner of the newly created Gubernatorial seat of Nairobi County, has promised to tackle head-on the majority of the city's planning, infrastructure, and security problems. Speaking during his inaugural address on the 27th of March this year, Dr Kidero unveiled a seven-point plan with which he intends to bring Nairobi to the status of a World Class African metropolis. The speech highlighted a desire to address the desperate solid waste management situation the city is currently faced with; following that, Dr Kidero promised to focus on infrastructure development, public transport, and replacing informal settlements with low-cost housing. Read more or join the discussion.
Slums are mostly viewed from the outside as alienated environments in which people languish in abject poverty, barely managing to scrape by. Although there has been some progress toward debunking the stereotype of slum dwellers as lazy, criminal, and somewhat ignorant, there is still an overall perception that people who live in informal settlements are different, not like the rest of society and hence not quite able to get ahead in life. Read more or join the discussion.
Every year thousands of rural migrants stream to Nairobi slums in search of economic opportunities from which they are excluded back home. Recent studies have shown that the majority of slum dwellers are not born in Nairobi, but have come from rural areas to explore the city's livelihood opportunities during their early adult years. When it comes to services for these new arrivals, it seems safe to say that there is no such thing. New arrivals are at the lowest rung of the economic chain and must rely on their own ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit, and (importantly) family networks in order to get ahead. Read more or join the discussion.
On the 4th of March this year, the day Kenyans went to the polls to elect their fourth president, a large part of the mainstream media covering the elections was stationed in Kibera slum, ready to capture any violence that might erupt. At the end of the day, the general impression was that reporters had been disappointed that Kiberans had patiently spent hours on end in long winding queues as they waited for their turn to vote. "I had so many calls just before the election," Josh Owino, a coordinator for Kibera News Network (KNN), tells us. "International journalists contacted me because they wanted to do stories on how Kiberans were migrating out of the slums to avoid violence; they also wanted me to track down perpetrators from the 2008 post-election violence so they could get direct testimonies from them." Read more or join the discussion.
On the 27th of May 2012, the Kenyan LGBT news agency Identity reported that two men were caught having sex in the night in Kayole, a north Nairobi slum. According to the article, the men were attacked and stoned. One of them got away, but the other succumbed to his injuries; his body was later found at a dumpsite near where he had been caught. The incident highlights a difficult reality for Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) living in Nairobi slums. Sleeping in cramped quarters, with privacy a luxury that few can afford, and forced to conceal their sexual identity for fear of repercussions, MSM hide in the shadows and often lack access to the medical services the rest of the population enjoys. Read more or join the discussion.
In a country in which government planning is glaringly absent from its sprawling shantytowns, it takes external actors to tackle some of the infrastructure needs of these underserved locations. Private companies on their own do not generally enter into a slum-upgrading program unless given a concrete incentive to do so. That said, private investment in slums is not uncommon: it is a recognised fact that the small-scale purchasing power of individual slum dwellers really adds up when it is multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of souls that can inhabit an informal settlement. Enter Esther Passaris, part Greek, part Kenyan, brought up in the coastal city of Mombasa, who has spent the better part of a decade harnessing the power of Kenya's businesses to create projects with a positive social impact. Read more or join the discussion.
Lack of access to clean water is one of the greatest causes of ill-health and disease in over-populated informal settlements. More often than not, people find themselves paying over the odds prices for water that has been contaminated by waste and raw sewage that run perilously close to the pipelines for domestic-use. In Nairobi, some people take time to boil water in order to sanitize it, but many just drink it as it is, believing that it is not their problem and that they have more important things to worry about. A project that has been test-run over the last couple of years in Kibera, spearheaded by a Swiss aquatic research company called Eawag, tries to address this situation by providing an affordable solution for water sanitization. Read more or join the discussion.
Homelessness in Nairobi is not always apparent to the passer-by. By night the streets of central town are not full of people sleeping rough as is often the case in affluent "developed" cities. Even in slums, homelessness is quite contained, with people cramming into tiny huts but not on the beaten paths outside. There is, however, one part of the population that makes a living in the shadows of Nairobi's streets. These are youth, constantly on the run from the police, many of whom make a bed for themselves when night falls wherever they can. Read more or join the discussion.
The story of the Kung Fu Grannies self-defense group in Korogocho — an impoverished neighborhood to the northeast of Nairobi in which more than 100,000 people live crammed into 1.5 square kilometers of land — first hit the news in 2009 and was an instant favorite. The news item pressed all the right buttons: a positive story from a marginalized African slum in which elderly women, so often destined to be helpless victims, were heroes training to fight against would-be rapists. Three years on, the story has lost none of its gloss: the evolution of the No Means No Worldwide (NMNW) program represents an ongoing success story in the fight to prevent violence against women from disadvantaged areas across Nairobi. Read more or join the discussion.
Typically, children in slums are depicted as having few opportunities to break free from the cycle of poverty into which they are born. It's a common assumption that slum kids spend their time working menial jobs, don't go to school, engage in petty crime, and depend largely on charity. Little attention is directed to the real game-changers: those born and brought up in the slum who have made it their lifelong mission to support children who cannot afford to go to school and have no way to pass their days productively. This week we're describing a day in the life of Tina Turner Warimu — a child who, with the help of one such mentor and her own determination, has begun to pave the road toward a bright future. Read more or join the discussion.