Tag Archives: Kenya

Football Pitch Make-over through Design Thinking

A lot was happening in Mlango Kubwa’s football pitch last week. Mlango Kubwa is a ward in the Mathare informal settlement in Kenya. Mathare has approximately 500,000 residence; Mango Kubwa itself has approximately 50,000 residents of which 70% of the population is 24 and under.

After its inauguration by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, it became the centerpiece of Design Thinking workshop organized to give it a sustainable make-over.


The football pitch is the cornerstone of the community, strategically placed and accessible for all Mlango Kubwa’s residents. Used primary for football, sport and play, at times it’s also a place for talent shows, celebrations and other community events. But time, weather conditions and lack of resources have left a toll on its appearance and condition. What was once an astonishing sport facility in the midst of a slum is now rapidly deteriorating public space.


To try to help out and bring new ideas and perspectives on the issue, UN-HABITAT teamed up with GIZ Sport for Development Africa programme and Prof. Dr. Falk Uebernickel from University of St. Gallen, an expert in Design Thinking methodology, to run a 2-day workshop with the community. Ran as a pilot in a difficult context of poor urban community, the hope and expectation was to come up with new strategies to revitalize and sustainably maintain the field.


Despite slow start, the community members attending the workshop came up with some amazing ideas of how to improve the current state of the pitch.  Through rather complex and at times quite challenging steps of the Design Thinking methodology, the community looked at the most pressing issues, including safety and security, drainage, waste management and communication. Here are just few examples of simple interventions that were born that day:

  • Adequate fence around the pitch perimeter, with some kind of roofing to protect from rains
  • Paid caretaker(s)
  • Build-in drainage
  • Regular clean-ups, with competitions between school
  • WhatsApp group to inform the community of events and happenings at/around the pitch


Funding remains a challenge and will determine the successful implementation of all the ideas that the community envisioned for the football pitch but everyone remains hopeful that over time, they will achieve everything what they set themselves for. UN-HABITAT will continue to support the Mlango Kubwa community and hope that together we can make it happen.


Visit to Mathare by Youth Envoy


Great to see  to the Secretary General, visiting once again the  Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group (M.E.C.Y.G). As he states, some huge leaps forward in services at the centre with the the development of the ‪‎Innovate‬ Kenya‬ ICT and Entrepenruship programs, the great work of the iHub – Nairobi’s Innovation Hub and their Kio Kits, the continued focus on public space and football, and of course the indomitable spirit of the Mathare community and its youth!!!

On Friday July 22nd, the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi joined UN-Habitat and the Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group (M.E.C.Y.G) to check the youth-led projects in Mlango Kubwa community in Mathare. It was his second visit of this community and he was very impressed to see the progress the youth center made since 2014.


Mlango Kubwa community lies at the periphery of one of Nairobi’s biggest slums. Like everywhere else, young people face many challenges there, from access to safe spaces to access to resources and opportunities. What distinguish them from others though is their drive, enthusiasm and willingness to strive for change. They take no chances and work together to make their community a better place for all, but especially for the children and young people.


We were equally inspired and enchanted by the spirit of this youth. After we saw how they claimed burned-down space in the middle of their community, negotiated with authorities and built their first ever community football field with minimum resources and their hard work, we couldn’t not work with them. We wanted to support them so they can carry on their fantastic work and offer more opportunities for young people to grow in healthy environments.


With the help of Samsung, we built a fully equipped ICT center that offers not only access to internet, but access to knowledge. As part of our Innovate Kenya project, UN-HABITAT and its academic partners developed a series of E-learning courses that come with the Samsung donated equipment. There are number of courses on offer, including project management, marketing or urban agriculture.


Envoy’s visit to Mlango Kubwa meant a lot for the local youth, as well as for all of us who tagged along. It was great to watch how they presented their achievements with pride. It was even more touching to hear Envoy’s words of admiration and appreciation at the end.


Keep it up guys!






Written by Emily Onyango on behalf of our partners


The beginning of April meant a lot to different communities in Kariobangi who gathered as early as 7:00am to prepare for the sports day organized by UN-HABITAT in cooperation with CHRISC Kenya, Simama Africa, SWAGA and SOPA. One of the main objectives of the day was to recognize and reward all committed teams, groups and individuals who dedicated their time to promote community development and Sustainable Development Goals through sports.

And as one of the testimonies suggests, the anticipation for the day was overwhelming. “This is one of the biggest day that I have been waiting for. I brought my team of football players to participate in the Community Sport Day activities. The different types of games, like rope skipping, dodge ball or tag of war are perfect for them to learn something new, something different” said Steven Oduor, one of the youth leaders from Kariobangi.

The event, organized as a celebration of April 6th, the International Day of Sports for Development, was coordinated by UN-HABITAT’s interns, Yunhee and Suheon, who also spent 4 months prior to the event teaching young people in slums different sports, hygiene and biomechanics lessons to improve their health and well-being.


“I have been attending Saturday classes about hygiene and biomechanics. It was extremely interesting as I’ve learned a lot of new things. I know now the structure of my body, different types of bones I have, how much water I should be drinking on a daily basis and also different exercises that will help me to stay fit”, said Carole Jones from Tarumbeta dancers.

Over 200 children and young people attended the celebration. They played, they sang, they danced all day and were rewarded with different gifts at the end of the day. Some got books, some pens and some caps, most importantly, no one went home empty-handed.

The event was a success. Everyone involved on either side, participants and organizers alike, were very happy with the result and are hoping to organize a similar event next year again. Once again, we could have witnessed how sport is a powerful tool for community transformation and peaceful coexistence among different communities.



Celebrating April 6th in Kariobangi, Kenya

Community Sports Day – Empowering Youth Through Sports


Just a few days prior to a very significant day for all sports for development enthusiasts, April 6th, UN-HABITAT, in close collaboration with CHRISC Kenya, Simama Africa, Sports With A Goal Africa and Seeds of Peace Africa, staged a Community Sports Day at Marura Primary School in one of Nairobi’s infamous informal settlements – Kariobangi. Around 200 young people from different communities gathered to celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development while having fun, playing sports and working on strengthening social cohesion among the various groups.


Using various team-sports and games was our strategy to instill some core values, such as fair-play, ethics, tolerance and compassion. But what was truly fantastic was to watch young people playing together not only for the sense of achievement and victory, but for something bigger than that, the Sustainable Development Goals. We took the opportunity to introduce and promote the recently adopted SDGs, in particular SDG 3 (Good Health), 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality), 6 (Clean Water), 11 (Sustainable Cities) and 16 (Peace and Justice).


In the spirit of SDG 17 (Partnerships) we placed extra emphasis on the collaboration and partnerships not only of the organizers, but the community leaders and the youngsters themselves. It never stops amazing us, how much further we get when we join forces with others. As a huge international organization, we do need partners on the ground to help us execute our vision and plans and for April 6th celebrations, we found the perfect ones.


Our work didn’t stop on April 6th. In fact, it was just the beginning. Youth leaders from participating communities underwent extensive training prior to the event to gain additional skills to use when working with young people on daily basis. They were partners in organizing the event from the beginning and they were instrumental in running the show on the day.


As we see it, the day was a huge success and we can’t wait for our next opportunity to work with these wonderful organizations and young people. Despite their daily challenges and hardships, they are inspiring bunch with so much to say and do for a greater good of their communities and country. We’d be privileged and happy to be part of their journey of social transformation and community development.




From Culture Shock to Amazement

Let’s also hear from Suheon and his first impressions and experiences in Nairobi.

“I was a little bit worried when I heard first time that I will be working in slums. It is a completely new environment for me and I didn’t know what to expect. It took only short while to adjust though and now I am really enjoying the field experience and the people I get to meet. After all, people is what makes the place and I can feel the positive vibes and fun every time I go.

taekwondon class

Together with Yunhee, we work with local youth leaders to make them better coaches and instructors. We also help to organize and run sports events in various communities. I really enjoy it although things are not without challenges here. In a very short time I’ve learned that hardly anything goes according to plan over here. You can spend weeks on planning and preparing an event, yet at the end you have to improvise and free-style to make it happen. Like in December, there was supposed to be a volleyball tournament which was being worked on for weeks prior to the event. Yet it was almost cancelled last minute as suddenly there was a construction going on precisely on the volleyball court. Luckily, the tournament went ahead as the community came together and prepared make-shift court in just one hour in a nearby space. I was really impressed – the true meaning of “nothing is impossible” came out!


I’m not saying we should stop planning in advance, just keeping in mind that things may change at the end. A similar thing happened to me two weeks later as we were getting ready to host “Christmas Cantata” in one of the communities. But improvisation seems to be the strong-hold over here so it all worked our well at the end. It was actually amazing!


Unfortunately, during the week there is not so much field work so we spend most of our time in the UN-HABITAT office, catching up on some paper work. Apart of research work, we put together databases and prepare concept notes of our future projects and activities.

As the time progresses, Yunhee and I are ready to take on more responsibilities. We want to organize more sports events and activities. We want to coordinate them, not just help out. At the moment we’re preparing a Sports Day, a multi-sport event to promote Sustainable Development Goals, E-sports tournament to utilize the local craze about play-station and other video games and some fundraising activities to support these projects.

Working here in Kenya on sport for development projects is an amazing experience that is teaching me a lot. Part of the learning journey is also to overcome culture shock and learn how to interact and cope with different people and different cultures. Korean style is very particulate and it takes a lot of adjustments for me. But sport is making it so much easier and enjoyable. It has been an incredible journey so far and I hope to learn even more in the coming weeks”.

chrisc team



Keeping Fit in Nairobi’s Informal Settlements


Since November 2015, our Urban Sports Programme is supported by four amazing young people from South Korea. As Sports Management graduates, they came to support the development of different projects in Kenya and Rwanda for 5 months.

Working in Nairobi is Yunhee and Suheon, who are closely working with our partner organizations on the ground, CHRISC Kenya and Simama Africa, both using sport as a tool for development and social change. Covering number of informal settlements is North-Eastern part of Nairobi, they work with local youth to empower them through sport and games.

Two months in, let’s hear from Yunhee, how her experience in Kenya has been so far…

“I wanna give opportunity to as many young people as possible, to enjoy physical activity. So I run fitness classes in different communities in Nairobi. In December, I mostly worked with Fahari girls at Kasarani Youth Resource Center in Kariobangi. My class is just under one hour and covers everything from warm-up, stretching, main workout to cool down. Every class is different because I want to keep it dynamic and fun yet simple enough for everyone to join and enjoy. Despite the rocky and unsure start, the class proves to be amazing and the girls seem to love it.

Fahari Girls

It wasn’t easy for me at the beginning as the girls are various ages and meeting everyone’s needs and capabilities can be hard. But I’ve accepted the challenge and turned the focus more on the fun element that scores and results. I want to believe that I’ve turned the Wednesdays afternoons around for the girls and that our time together will have a positive impact on them now and in the future.

My work with Simama Africa focuses mainly on sustainability. Here I work mostly with youth leaders. I train them so they can get theoretical as well as practical skills in fitness which they can later pass on to other young people in the communities once we’re gone.

The 3-hour class is designed to cover basic theory, learn practical skills and allow for discussion rounds. The first day, all participants underwent a test of their physical capacity. I was struggling to measure the results without a proper equipment but then I started to improvise. Nothing is impossible when you have a strong will and a bit a creativity.

Fitness test

Here are just few examples of how I resolved the crisis of no available equipment:

  1. No measuring tape (20m) – I picked caution tape on a construction site on the way to class (I admit we struggled with accuracy, but it was as best as I could do)
  2. No mats (for sit-ups) – I used sofa cushion instead
  3. No measuring tape for long jump – I used 30cm ruler and marked each spot with a rock

These are just few examples. We’re at the beginning of our 16 weeks long journey, which I hope will be rewarding to each and everyone of the participants. I hope it will be a stepping stone for them to be better athletes, coaches and leaders”.



Nairobi’s Emerging Cities Dilemma

By Raphael Obonyo

Kenya, like countries across the globe, must contend with the challenges of rapid urbanization. The dramatic spike in youth unemployment, slum populations, and poverty rates in recent years is cause for alarm, but the government has yet to tackle the issue. If Kenya’s rapid urbanization is left unmitigated, the country could see even higher rates of unemployment, specifically within its youth population.

Kenya’s population has recently exceeded an incredible 43 million. Just a decade ago, Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, had a population of about 2 million. Today, the number of people who reside in the capital has doubled. The rapid growth of Kenya’s population is not commensurate with the country’s capacity to create jobs, not only in urban areas, but also in rural economies.

The issue has led to proliferation of slums and gross inequalities. About 60 percent of Nairobi’s 3.5 million residents live in slums where provision of public services are inadequate.

A significant number of Kenya’s population is composed of young people, often the most productive constituent of an economy. However, facing wide spread unemployment, many jobless and idle youth are migrating to urban areas to look for elusive jobs. Their desperate search for jobs continues to accompany natural patterns of urbanization in the country – overwhelming the country’s cities.

Some of slum residents heading to work

Analysts project that soon, over half of the population will reside in the urban areas. Already, the country’s rate of unemployment stands at 40 percent. Even more grim is the fact that 8 out of every 10 jobless Kenyans are youth aged between 15-34 years. It is worth noting that urbanization poses additional challenges to the youth due to their limited access to resources, education, training, and employment.

The manner in which many African economies are structured makes urbanization inevitable. Urbanization, a natural demographic change, is not an unnecessary evil thing. It is lack of proper policies to manage its negative effects, which manifests in Africa that creates the problems.

Over the past decade, the government of Kenya has not created proactive measures to deal with the problem. Today, without a deliberate plan to tackle the problems facing urban cities in Kenya, the country faces imminent danger of an urban explosion. Most importantly, Nairobi, a central pillar to the Kenyan economy could soon become overwhelmed by a growing unemployed and underemployed population.

Development of a sound strategy to avert the impending demographic crisis would enable the government of Kenya to have integrated plans and programs to manage the country’s reality of continued urbanization. A crucial aspect of addressing problems of urbanization is reducing unemployment among the youth in urban areas.

The UN Habitat’s most recent report titled State of urban youth 2012/2013; Youth in the prosperity of cities gives worrying statistics that by 2050, about 50 percent of the world’s population will be living in the urban areas. Most important, the report notes that 60 percent of all urban dwellers will be under the age of 18 by 2030.

Some of the workers trying to catch train in Nairobi

Kenya aspires to be a middle-income economy by 2030. But this cannot be achieved without an effective approach to control urbanization. As a starting point, the legislature must move with speed to put in place laws and policies that are required to govern and manage urban areas as provided for under the Constitution. For example, there is no sound explanation why Kenya has not put in place a disaster management policy. Such policy is critical to the country’s success is managing risks and disaster, particularly in the urban areas.

Kenya, as well as other African countries, must think of how to make urbanization work for their citizens, make their economy thrive, and create jobs for the youth. They must also focus on creating opportunities in rural and semi-urban areas to reduce stress on urban areas.

One initiative in Kenya called The Youth Enterprise Fund, offers an example of a positive and strategic investment in the country’s youth. It is a project that the government created in 2007, giving seed capital to young entrepreneurs. If properly financed and managed, the youth fund could support youth innovations and generate decent jobs.

The country has plans to build a number of resort cities along the new transport corridor to be served by the proposed Lamu port, which will provide many jobs. It is laudable that the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta has recognized the importance of paying attention and harnessing the positive aspects of urbanization. To show his concern about urbanization, the president created a new ministry to handle urban development. However, an inclusive approach must be adopted to avoid replicating the problems Kenya is already facing.

Make no mistake, without managing urbanization and creating economic opportunities for young people, it will be hard to cub insecurity and high levels of crimes in the city centers. Investing in jobs for young Kenyans and supporting urban and rural employment initiatives could provide reasonable ways to mitigate a growing force weighing down on Kenya.



Raphael Obonyo is a former member of the UN-Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board.

[Photos courtesy of Fredrick Ochieng]

Re-posted with permission from World Policy Journal

New Publications Out! Check it out!

Youth Led Development: A Case Study from the Mathare Slum, KenyaMathareYouth and their Needs Within Public Space

Youth Needs

Advancing Economic Citizenship for Children and Youth in Sub-Saharan Africa

Stories from the Field: The UN-Habitat Urban Youth Fund Becomes a Tool for Youth Empowerment in Kibera

Right to Participate: Report #1 Oslo Youth and Governance Platform

More published youth related materials from UN-Habitat can be found here.

How ICT is helping to change Kenya

The Innovate Kenya programme is a partnership between UN-Habitat. Samsung and local communities to foster innovation in Kenyan youth. One component of the programme is establishing 6 youth and ICT centres in Nairobi, Kenya, which will provide technology and entrepreneurship training to thousands of youth and youth-led groups. The backbone of this programme is an e-learning programme on social entrepreneurship developed by UN-Habitat which trains youth and youth-led organizations on how to start-up their own social enterprises.

The Real change-makers


Last week, UN-HABITAT has been invited to run its Youth & Urbanization workshop at CHRISC Kenya annual leadership camp in Rongai. 60+ youth leaders from all over Kenya came together for 5 days of non-formal learning through games and sport. At the end of it, they were not the only ones leaving inspired.


Our 9 hr workshop was packed with ideas and action! It was great to see how these young men and women challenged the system and their own mind-sets while addressing the most important issues affecting them daily in their local communities. Tribalism, drug abuse and insecurity were just few issues to be analyzed inside out.


For us, it was important to spend the time with these young people and listen to what they have to say. It is not enough to talk to young people that are able to travel to conferences. We need to reach out and work with youth that are mostly affected by these issues. After all, they face these challenges every day, their friends and peers live it every day. And with the right tools and help, these young people are the real change-makers in their communities.


We may have the power to push for change on the higher political level, but they have the power to change the things on the ground! So let us combine our efforts to address the youth urban challenges and make a real impact on the ground, not on paper.