Community Engagement & Service

Kenya's Youth in Informal Settlements: Social Exclusion and Democratic Engagement

The Trip:

This trip will explore the ways in which youth in Nairobi’s informal settlements are excluded from and disenfranchised by the country’s political processes as well as the ways in which youth are starting to carve out spaces for themselves in the country’s evolving democracy. The trip will focus on programmatic responses to this problem by meeting with a variety of grassroots youth-focused organizations, such as Youth Agenda and ICA, the Initiative for Community Action, to see first-hand how these groups are creating initiatives which allow youth to more effectively flex their political muscles. Additionally, we will meet with a local Member of Parliament to gain a government perspective on the issue and explore policy responses to it.

Nairobi, the commercial and cultural hub of East Africa, provides a magnificent backdrop of chaos and vibrancy to these issues. A city of over three million people, Nairobi is the perfect setting – a mix of old and new, tradition and innovation, culture and commerce – in which to explore the issues of youth in informal settlements and their participation in Kenya’s democracy.

Nairobi’s population continues to swell as more and more workers, especially youth, make their way to urban centers in search of jobs. Youth make up close to half the country’s entire population, and most residents of Nairobi’s informal settlements are youth, defined by the Kenyan government as people between the ages of 18 and 35. As the city continues to grow, so, too, do its informal settlements with their abhorrent living conditions, including lack of potable water, waste and sewage removal, and reliable electricity.

This trip will focus on youth in informal settlements as well as the country’s democratic and political processes. In August 2012, Kenya will face its first national election since the violence-fraught election of 2007, which left hundreds dead and many more internally displaced. In addition to ethnic tension, disenfranchisement also helped spur the violence; those feelings have not dissipated in the past five years. The threat of more violence following August’s election is a real one, making it that much more important for youth to know their voice matters in the upcoming election. If not, 2012 could easily become a repeat of 2007.

Traveling in March 2012, before the election, this trip will explore the roots of the exclusion and disenfranchisement of the youth in informal settlements. It will focus on hands-on involvement and learning through experience in both our daily meetings with organizations and our service projects.  Meetings, in-depth discussions, and nightly roundtable talks with various leaders in Kenyan society will add to the learning component. Additionally, the trip will engage in two service projects, an afternoon helping build a bridge in the informal settlement of Kawangware to facilitate access into and out of the settlement, and an awareness-raising event in Kibera.

About the Trip Leaders...

Julia Young is a senior in SIS with a concentration in International Development. She studied in Kenya for the 2010-2011 academic year while also conducting independent research throughout the country and managing community development projects in Kawangware. After witnessing political violence and protests in Nairobi, Julia became interested in examining the relationship between youth and politics as a determinant for economic and political success in the nation.

Emily Hoerner
is a senior in SIS with a concentration in International Development and a minor in Economics. She spent the Spring 2011 semester studying in Nairobi and interned with the Kibera-based youth group ICA, the Initiative for Community Action. This internship, along with the friendships she formed with several ICA members, all of whom live in Kibera, sparked her interest in and youth participation in governance.

Tentative Itinerary:

March 10: Travel to Nairobi, Kenya

March 11: Nairobi orientation

March 12: Kibera tour, lunch, and meet with ICA, the Initiative for Community Action

March 13: Meet with Youth Agenda; pizza party with Youth Agenda and ICA members

March 14: Kawangware tour, meeting with World Hope Academy and afternoon service project; evening out in Westlands

March 15: Meeting with Kenyan MP; dinner with Nairobi University students

March 16: Day-long service project in Kibera

March 17: Leave Nairobi


Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Dates of Trip: March 10-17, 2012
Student Trip Leaders: Julia Young, Emily Hoerner
Faculty Advisor: Eve Bratman
Cost: $2300
Cost Includes: airfare, transportation, room and board, meals, and all activities.
Cost does not include: Immunizations, visa, passport