In the midst of the slums lies a latent potential: the youth

By Nicerah Wanjiru (Kibera) and Lucy Waweru (Thika)

A recent youth engagement forum in Machakos.

A recent youth engagement forum in Machakos.

Kenya is going through and interesting transition period, where more space is opening for adequate freedom of expression and public participation as far as decision making is concerned.

However, the Irony still remains that the voices of the youth remains silent. The urban youth are focused in using communication technology to tell and share their own personal stories. The positive feedback from the technological platform, is that the youth want to go beyond negative stereotypes thrown on them by society, especially the young people living in the informal settlements.

It is for this reason that Muugano wa Wanavijiji, the federation of the urban poor has set on the path to work with the youth living in slums. The federation opens up to the creative vent in its quest to address urban challenges with regards to better housing and access to basic services.

In order to support the youth first to understand who they are, what their settlement networks look like and most importantly how are cities run to benefit populations is of great importance to defining a personal identity. Muugano has taken up the responsibility to train and empower the youth to acquire skills and capacities on data collection, management, reporting and advocacy, documentation- blogging, story writing, photography and most importantly community organisations that is unified through savings. Youth share their stories inspired by the events in their settlements. Community youth are inspired by seeing their stories on blogs and video.

Developing the youth talent fosters participation at settlement and city levels, hence positively affecting the futures of informal communities. Since this platforms emboldens their self-confidence, which to a larger extent changes how people living in slums are viewed.

In a recent youth forum hosted by Muugano for youths from three cities; Nairobi, Machakos and Kiambu, the voice of the youth was clear, “Just give us the opportunity, that is all we need”. “The youths are the future of Muugano wa Wanavijiji”. Says Rashid Mutua, the National Chairperson of Muuganowa Wanavijiji. Recognition of the youths in Muugano have come in handy by rolling out mentorship programs in different areas that is Machakos, Thika, and Nairobi.

Speaking at a recent meeting at Muugano house the Federation assured the youths that they will work and move together, for the youths have greater potential. He also asked the youths not to focus on the negative side despite the numerous challenges they face, he urged them to always look at the opportunities, the youths are the solution with the sixty percent population they can make decisions that can change their destiny for the better.

Jack Makau, Administrator of SDI-Kenya, a technical institution that supports the Kenya’s Federation of the urban poor, who apparently is referred to as a young Tak by the federation, said that, “It is a great privilege that Muugano has hosted the youths and they value you so much. It was difficult to hold meetings during our time in the past, if we were to meet like about five people, you could get arrested, but now things have changed for the better. Duringthe early formation of Muungano we couldn’t clap hands in meetings for someone would here you and that’s why up to date we don’t clap we say UMEME.”  He also urged to the youths to familiarize themselves with Muuganoslogans since it’s very important.

The fact that youths face numerous challenges ranging from joblessness, exploitation, communication barriers, and advocacy issues in the informal settlements doesn’t mean that’s the end. The youth now have the opportunity to connect to the world, and they can always reverse the situation by, thinking ahead on how to overcome city challenges. For them to move on they should start with the resources that they have as they seek guidance from the elderly, they should also have the capacity to mobilize those with a common goal towards creating a better future.

During the meeting the youths were taken through different exercises so as to understand their localities and who they are of which is very important. The team will embark on follow up activities in counties and also expand the team. The main objective of this to reach out to more youths and create a saving culture in them.