Living in a slum is not easy, and for those who do, daily struggles are the norm. The lack of access to basic services, such as clean water and healthcare, coupled with harassment from authorities and unfavourable policies, can make it challenging to make a living. However, a livelihoods evaluation study conducted in Nairobi’s informal settlements shows that with the right support, the residents of these communities can improve their lives.
The study found that providing slum residents with the skills they need to start and grow their businesses could be transformative. Many beneficiaries were able to increase their incomes and access markets outside their neighbourhoods, while some even secured credit from formal financial institutions and government loan programmes. However, despite these gains, businesses in slums still face significant challenges. These include corruption, harassment by authorities, expensive licenses, and unfavourable policies and government actions or inactions. For instance, the ban on plastic bags without providing alternatives had a negative impact on the livelihoods of the poor.
The study also revealed that poverty in slums is multi-dimensional and affects different groups in different ways. Single mothers and young women face unique challenges, including limited access to education and economic opportunities, reproductive health issues, and gender-based violence. Meanwhile, a large proportion of youth is socially and economically excluded and faces high levels of crime and inter-communal conflicts. The study suggests that tackling poverty in slums requires a multifaceted approach that combines entrepreneurial, business, financial literacy, technical, and social skills development. This approach is not only transformative but also empowering, building self-esteem, and confidence among slum residents.
Moreover, duty bearers also improved their responsiveness and attitudes in service to slum residents. For instance, chiefs positively responded to pleas for the protection of women and children from exploitation and violence. Additionally, concessionary water tariffs were introduced, and formal electricity connections were made available where it was not possible in the past.
Overall, the study shows that with the right support, slum residents can improve their livelihoods and access better opportunities. While challenges persist, it is encouraging to see positive changes happening in slums and a greater awareness of the need to empower these communities. We hope that this study will inspire more action to support slum residents and help break the cycle of poverty in these communities.