By Brenda Oginda and Nyasani Mbaka
Malezi Mashinani is a programme run by Muungano Support Trust (MuST) under competitive organizing of informal settlement communities. This program was started to target the livelihoods of single young mothers’ and their children in the informal settlements. With MuST being engaged in various slum upgrading programmes, the plight of single young mothers was found to be inadequately addressed.
This program seeks to address livelihood challenges faced by single young mothers as well as their children. This program enables these young mothers to be involved in daily savings which is the backbone of Muungano. These savings may be used in investments and generation of more income that will be a plus to their livelihoods together with that of their children. After years of working in informal settlements it is apparent that various segments of the informal settlement population face unique challenges. One of these segments is the single young mothers. The problem expressed by the single young mothers was in relation to access of information and organization of single young mothers to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the financial institutions.
While it is assumed that information on financial products is available and known to many in the informal settlements, during our interaction with them we discovered that single young mothers remained passive and even where they were active they still failed to meet the necessary requirements for accessing these products. Lack of adequate entrepreneurial skills and being unable to complete education has contributed to low self esteem and confidence thereby forcing majority of these single young mothers into trading in illegal economic activities like prostitution, drugs and illicit brew.
The option suggested by a section of the women respondents (97.5%) under this category preferred joint or group businesses/ enterprises which will translate into self employment or self-reliance. This was revealed in a study undertaken in Kosovo village of Mathare valley. In order to achieve this milestone it is important to explore innovative ways of creating programmes or projects that will start in a small way with the intention of scaling up the practice and informing policy.
In the context of Kenya for instance, there will be need to start influencing how the Youth fund, Women Development Fund and other special Enterprise Funds can be made available, accessible ,and tailor-made for single young mothers in the informal settlements. As young entrepreneurs they will definitely need business development capacity building.
The plight of single young mothers’ families in informal settlements Immediately after birth, a young girl intuitively becomes a mother and an ‘adult’ therefore demeaning the need for education. This is the perception held by a huge number of single young mothers who stated their unwillingness to continue with education citing overage and child caring obligations as the major excuses. Those who had the courage, time and resources joined informal trainings in vocational skills mainly in tailoring and hairdressing/beauty salon. Consequently most single young mothers in the informal settlements come from poor families mostly headed coincidentally by a single woman. Lacking previous experience in entrepreneurship, the majority of these homes rely on casual jobs and low wage employment.
In Kenya, today very few people in the informal settlements have been sufficiently sensitized to access and benefit from the public development and enterprise funds which are allocated to youths, women and special groups. The purpose of these funds is to create employment among the youth and women and to join the national income grid. Because the single young mothers in the informal settlement are not organized and are not part of the social networks therefore they are excluded from any form of support.
While it is assumed that single young mothers are busy taking care of their children, it has also emerged that majority of this urban dwellers are forced to live independently in the informal settlements mainly as tenants where some share costs of rent and food with their peers. Some of them are easily influenced negatively and because they have been abandoned by their parents or society, they end up looking for other means of survival. It is at this point that most of them end up into prostitution or into illegal businesses while majority are forced to seek early marriages. On the other hand, the children of these single young mothers are often denied appropriate and healthy early childhood development.
As the young mother struggles with raising her family, the child at some point gets neglected. These mothers cannot afford to hire house helps for their children forcing them to seek the informal services of Early Childhood Development (ECD) within their reach. These informal services are also for expensive to majority of them and others opt for extreme measures to survive through locking and neglecting their children in the house for the entire day.
The informal ECD services are also facing their own share of challenges: inadequate facilities, dilapidated facilities which often expose the children to diseases and other health hazards, and expensive operational costs. Due to this trend of living by these single young mothers, MuST stepped in to assist these vulnerable group by starting this great initiative that will enable them in improving their livelihoods and to be productive in the society. The purpose of the project is to facilitate their socio-economic transformation and improve ECD for informal settlement children especially those being brought up in single motherhood families.
The objectives of Malezi Mashinani:
• To establish improved and efficient Child Care and Mother Centers for provision of child-mother care services in the Informal Settlements.
• To facilitate the creation of business ventures in order to increase livelihood opportunities.
• To develop daily savings and loaning schemes for single young mothers in the informal Settlements. Project areas; Currently there are two Projects under the program. Kosovo, Mathare Malezi Mashinani is present in Kosovo which is one of the villages in Mathare.
The center is currently being run by five ladies who were the pioneers of the project in Kosovo. Its capacity is approximately 15 children during the day and night. Their greatest challenge however is room for expansion since more children are brought daily but they cannot be able to accommodate them. The centre is opened at 6.30am, so parents can drop off their children as they go to work, and closed at 7.30pm. However, they sometimes have to stay past the closing time until the last parent comes to pick their child. The charges are thirty shillings per child during the day and fifty shillings at night.
The baby and mother care centre has since improved. From their savings they have been able to buy some of the necessities in the centre. They have managed to buy mattresses, beds, jikos among other items. They had initially started a nutrition program which was a great imitative but due to the rising cost of living many parents and guardians complained and they said they could no longer be able to cater for the nutrition kitty. So the alternative was for parents to bring along packed lunch for their children, which is currently the trend. However, they have to cook for the children whose parents do not carry along food for them. Maili saba, Dandora The centre currently has about 20 children during the day.
This one however, does not operate at night because electricity installation has not yet been done. The centre opens at 7.00am and closes at 6.30pm. It is on a 30 by 50 feet piece of land. Here the children are served with the morning tea at 10.00am, cooked for lunch and given porridge at 4.00pm this motivates the parents to bring their children because they are assured of them being taken care of and being fed. The parents pay 30 Shillings per day for each child. The centre is run by twelve single young mothers who are involved in active savings. In addition, some of them have their children in the centre. An increasing number of the mothers who bring their children to the mother and child centre are beginning to understand the importance of the savings scheme and many have so far joined.