Tag Archives: Mathare

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!





UN Habitat’s Youth Representative marks UN at 70 with children in Mathare slums

Raphael Obonyo, former UN Habitat’s Youth Representative marks UN at 70 with children in Mathare slums.

As part of his reflective work, the former UN Habitat’s External Youth Advisor, Raphael Obonyo joined children and young people in the sprawling slums of Mathare in Kenya to mark the United Nations seventieth anniversary.

Speaking at the function, the former UN Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board member called on young people to play a more prominent role in public life and development. “Let us stop being spectators, and play an active role in transforming our world for the better” he said.

He called on the Government of Kenya, businesses and development partners to invest in youth-the country’s greatest asset. Lamentably, unemployment and underemployment of youth remains a major challenge in the country.

“The success of the youth is critical for the success of any society” said Mr Obonyo.

According to the recent statistics from Brookings, Kenyan youths aged 15-24 years have unemployment rates of 25 percent—about double the overall unemployment of 12.7 percent for the entire working-age group (15-64).

Having grown up in the poor slums of Korogocho in Nairobi city, Raphael Obonyo who was named one of the 2014 Africa’s Most Inspirational Youth, chose to mark UN at 70 in the poor neighbourhood of Mathare informal settlement to inspire young people to take ownership over their own solutions.

“It is really important for the youth especially from poor areas like Korogocho and Mathare to understand that we have the solution to our problems” he said.

He also stated that he was aware of the hardships and odds that young people from poor neighbourhoods face, and the importance of encouraging them to keep their dreams alive. “I know your needs, and your challenges”. “Keep working hard to spark change and to make the world better” he said.

Calling the event to mark UN at 70 historic as it was held in the poor neighbourhood of Mathare where thousands of young people were living in abject poverty, Mr Obonyo lauded and urged the UN Habitat to continue with the good work of investing and supporting young people – the next generation of leaders.

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.

Rehabilitation of a Sports Field in Mathare


In 2014, a well-known community leader named Kaka (Swahili for brother) created a new sporting landmark in Mathare. With the help of many supporters (including UN Habitat), Kaka helped the community reclaim a football pitch. Since then, the space has been a beehive of activity, with kids and youth enjoying the space and community events taking place. The field also hosts lively crusades that attract people from all over and generates income for the group.


Most recently with the help of local Mathare MP, Stephen Kariuku, major donations were made that really impacted the only sports pitch in Mlango Kubwa. Safaricom has brought a number of large metal stands that make watching the game so much more enjoyable as previously there was no place to sit. Philips, the electronics giant, has installed two solar panel lights that allow the youth to play and train well into the evening. Both of these donations have helped in the positive long-term effects that this space has provided for the community. Parents in the neighborhood now say that whenever they need to look for their kid they go straight to the field. The rehabilitation of the pitch has greatly reduced the numbers of children playing on the road where they risk getting hit by vehicles. Donations and further support that will improve the space are still being sought.


The gripping documentary ‘Slum Soccer’ can be watched here:


Youth & Public Space Workshop in Mathare


Saturday was fun! UN-HABITAT visited the Mlango Kubwa community in Mathare slums, Nairobi to run a workshop on public space planning with local children and youth. Our friends from Up with Hope, Spatial Collective and Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Club helped us to put this event together.Though we planned for 30 participants, dozens more children showed up in the youth center, our main venue. Some of them were too young to participate, so they just watched and played. Some were eager to join the group work and we didn’t stop them. Why would we – after all, it is them, the children and young people of Mlango Kubwa that live there and thus have the right to say, what they would like to see happening with the space around them.


Joao took over the ice-breakers and energizers throughout the day to keep everyone sharp and in good mood. Dana and Tone facilitated the process. Building on the success of the Youth & Urbanization workshop that we ran at the East Africa Cup in Tanzania a week earlier, the participants started with drawing their community maps the way they see it. Unlike in Moshi, each group was working with different type of public space: Hang out spaces, sport spaces, green spaces, art spaces and safe spaces. This way we could get more comprehensive understanding of what’s going on in the community and create broader wish-lists to work with.


Once the brain work of space assessment and wish-lists was done, each group went to visit the physical spaces they identified as the best one right now and the new one to be created in future. Interestingly enough, many places overlapped (e.g. same place was chosen as the best sport space, the safest space and the best space to hang out) and also some of the things on their wish-list fitted well in more categories (e.g. swimming pool has been identified as a desirable space intervention by the safe space group as well as the hang out group). Various types of sport fields (volleyball, rugby, basketball etc.) have been also marked by more than one group.


The final poster making and presentations were fantastic too! Young people put together their work and added some action points to kick off the transformation process. With confidence and pride they presented their work to the rest of the group and few guests. The posters remain in the community for others to admire their work and as a reminder for the participants.

Well done everyone! Job well done!