Kibera Then and Now – Youth Employment in the Slums

Kibera, Kenya’s largest shantytown, is at the fault line of the youth employment crisis sweeping the world.

Three years ago, youths were tearing up the railroad tracks that run through the informal settlement during post-election violence over the lack of jobs. Furious over sky-high unemployment, thousands of idle youths took to the streets to disrupt and burn the businesses and houses of perceived members of the economically advantaged.

Today, residents have rebuilt their communities, and the hustle and bustle within the informal settlement has shifted from frustrated violence to productive work. Yet employment remains a huge challenge, particularly among the youth – a point analysts study closely as the country gears up for new elections next year.

Government neglect of Kibera has resulted in major gaps in public service. One of the key challenges is sanitation. People don’t have toilets, showers or running water in their homes.

Over the last five years, Kibera residents have banded together to create public bath houses, latrines, clean water kiosks and other projects that benefit the whole of the community. These initiatives have turned out to be among the more stable forms of income for the youth and women’s groups that run what the Umande Trust co-operative calls “bio centers.” Umande, sponsored by the ILO under its COOP Africa Challenge Fund, has over 50 bio centers across Kenya’s informal settlements. They convert human waste into bio gas that is used to heat water for the showers and sold to residents for cooking.

Click here to read the corresponding article on the ILO’s website.