Child headed households in Kenya, in pictures
We ran photovoice research with child headed households to explore their vulnerabilities in the context of Nairobi’s informal settlements. We trained four children living in two urban informal settlements – Korogocho and Viwandani – to use smartphones to take photos that reflected their experiences. We held in-depth interviews with eight more. They highlighted what caused them stress and affected their mental health, social interactions, school performance and attendance. The main challenges were lack of food and poor nutrition, hazardous living conditions and stigma from peers because there were limited livelihood opportunities for them. Despite the hardships, they were resilient. Decision-makers need to halt the generational transfer of poverty, to improve the life chances of these children who have inherited their parents’ marginalisation, and to prevent further transfer of vulnerabilities to their children.
“So, the [electricity] wires are actually stima za kusambaza (illegal electricity connections), they are very dangerous. They can electrocute when wet…at night you cannot sleep because they start producing sparks…there is a time they burnt a house” (Daniel, 17-year-old boy, Viwandani).
“They should build for us a proper sewage system…the ones constructed underground so that we cannot see them. It also prevents us from contracting many diseases” (Daniel, 17-year-old boy, Viwandani).
“This is the dumpsite. When we go there we don’t wear gloves because we cannot afford [them] so we have to touch everything. Sometimes we end up touching faeces because that is waste from people’s households. You can even get diseases there. In this picture, I’m at the dump site because some of the waste dumped there is from abroad and that is where COVID is prevalent. So you can end up touching someone’s mask then you forget and touch your face. You see in that situation you may end up getting COVID, so we are at high risk. Sometimes I get sick also—back aches and coughing—because I wake up very early in the morning” (Violet, 17-year-old girl, Korogocho).
“The government came and put up that wall, to close us in, the people of the Kijiji (referring to Viwandani informal settlement), from the other side of the rail track. So, like when these houses burn, you find that the fire trucks are not able to reach the burning houses…they put up the wall to separate us. You start feeling like you are not a Kenyan, or you feel like you were thrown away and it is like you do not hold any significance” (Daniel, 17-year-old boy, Viwandani).
“This is a matatu (minibus or similar vehicle used as a taxi) …where I work this is where I get some money. And the money you know that it is for supper, breakfast and lunch and other responsibilities” (Daniel, 17-year-old boy, Viwandani).
“Sometimes, when in school, my thoughts are still at the situation back at home. I am constantly in conflict [about] whether I should be in school or proving for my family and help my mum. The book there is to remind me that education is still a pillar of my life in my quest to sustain my family” (Robert, 17-year-old boy, Korogocho).
“We had that ugali but had nothing like vegetables to eat it with…and sometimes we have the vegetables with no money for flour” (Paula, 17-year-old girl, Viwandani).