Women and youth doing slum cleaning in Mukuru a programme under the national youth service

The face of Mukuru kwa Njenga informal settlement is gradually changing to a better place from insecurity related issues, poor sanitation to youth and women employment. This new developments can be greatly attributed to absorption of many youths/women into the National Youth Service (NYS) programme of cleaning the slum. According to area chief of Mukuru kwa Njenga, this new project has been a blessing to the community as it has helped a lot in terms of improving their living standards and also creating safe environment to live in.

Among other achievements, the project has helped to reduce criminal activities in the slum after many youths were absorbed into the upgrading programme hence getting them engaged.

“When we have youths living in this slum environment, they are prone to many temptations of indulging in mugging and other related criminal activities. I am happy that since the beginning of the programme criminal cases have dropped with less than 10 of cases break-into and assault being reported every week. I wish the programme will be long term plan,” says the chief.

Last year in a report which revealed hotspot areas to crime, Muindi Mweusi supermarket area in Mukuru was among the list, although of late the residents acknowledge there is little improvement. Most of those who were affected by lack of security included bodabodas and traders who usually close their businesses at late hours. Nzioki 29, a bodaboda rider and a father of two agrees that nowadays they operate till late hours and a week may pass without any incident of attacks to their colleagues.Casuals demolishing a building to pave way for road construction  in Mukuru

For now mugging has reduced which they think is because many youths are busy in the programme hence no time to idle, though they are afraid the situation may change if long term solution is not sought to address youth unemployment in the area which is becoming a concern.

In addition to security improvements, the programme has given married/single young mothers an opportunity to provide for their families and also help their husbands during this hard economic times. As opposed to when they used to look for casual jobs like washing clothes or at industrial companies which was unpredictable, now they are assured of work to do. Furthermore, those with small kids have time to take them to school or day care as cleaning job starts at 8.am in the morning and ends at 4pm leaving enough time to do other house chores.

Jane Muendi a single mother of one girl working with the NYS has opened a vegetable stall from the little savings they are paid every week and in return she has “employed” her cousin who operates it while at work.

“Kwa siku naweza pata mia tano, hiyo savings yangu imenisaidia (I get about sh500 per day which proves that the savings have been useful), noted Jane.

This sentiments are shared by many women who are now able to provide for themselves.

With over 1000 youths enrolled into the programme, it has acted as an eye opener to business related minds and already some have set out plans on where to spend their savings once they get from the Sacco. I meet a group of five youths who disclose to me they intend to start  operating a poshomill once they get their saving from the Sacco. With each day being deducted sh140 which goes to their Saving Sacco, they are  assured of enough money which may require little top up to start their business. Even though they agree saving into the Sacco is a noble idea, they lament one can’t be allowed to have his savings as an individual and therefore, finding likeminded people who wish to start a similar business is hard. In addition, one may wish to use the savings to expand already established business which is impossible.

However, as many celebrate the good things the programme has brought, some are counting losses as they are forced to demolish their houses and premises for roads to pass through. With no compensation as they have no valid land ownership documents, they feel the programme has worked against them. Now they are forced to relocate to unknown which means more expenses in constructing their premises again.

The residents too who are of low income are starting to have sleepless nights as they fear demolition of their households from the land cartel in the area.

“Wakati huu Mukuru itakuwa nzuri, maskini hizi nyumba za vibanda zitambolewa na wakubwa ndio wajenga za mawe, mtu kaa mi nitafford nyumba ya pesa mingi? lamented one of the residents.

Slum upgrading programme through the National Youth Service could be one the best things which happened to the slum as roads will be constructed and other business opportunities will sprout. But for it to have long term impact, ways of sustaining what has been started in terms of job creation to the youths and women and cleanliness to the surrounding will have to be put into place. Otherwise it will be exercise in futility as it will slide back to the old state of dirtiness and crime.