Facts About Child Labor in Kenya
According to UNICEF, a child laborer is a child who is too young to work or one who is involved in hazardous activities that could compromise their physical, mental, social and educational development. In Kenya, the Employment Act 2007 and the Children Act define a child as any person below the age of 18 years. Section 56 of the Employment Act makes it illegal to employ children under the age of 13. Children between the ages of 13 to 16 can be employed in “light work” while those between 16 and 18 are considered employable. Keep reading to learn the top seven facts about child labor in Kenya.

7 Facts About Child Labor in Kenya

  1. Farming, sand harvesting, drug peddling, street hawking, domestic work and sex work are the most common industries where child labor is present in Kenya. The commercial sexual exploitation of children tends to be more prevalent in tourism-heavy areas which include the capital city — Nairobi — and the coast.

  2. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most child laborers in Kenya (including those who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation) are girls. However, boys are also involved. Overall, 35.6 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 engage are considered child laborers.

  3. Lack of education is one of the causes of child labor in Kenya. Primary education is free and mandatory but some parents are often unable to afford books, uniforms and other learning materials. Furthermore, 40 percent of those who complete primary school do not transition to secondary school, leaving many children at risk of exploitation. In 2018, the government began rolling out free secondary education for all Kenyans which will hopefully help curb this obstacle.

  4. Several laws protect children from child labor in Kenya including the Employment Act 2007. The Children’s Act says that children should be protected from economic exploitation, any work that interferes with their education, and work that is harmful to a child’s health or social, mental, physical and spiritual development. Additionally, the law mandates that no child shall be recruited in armed conflicts.

  5. Kenya has ratified several international conventions that are aimed at protecting children from exploitation. These include Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, and the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons. However, Kenya is yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography which leaves children vulnerable to sex work.

  6. While some people may argue that child labor is beneficial to the economy because it raises a family’s income, this is hardly true. It harms the country’s economy in the long run as children are denied the opportunity to an education which could give them skills useful for getting a better job in the future.

  7. The government is doing its part in trying to end child labor in Kenya. In 2018, they increased the number of labor inspectors as well as the number of inspections conducted. The government also operates an emergency, toll-free child hotline to report instances of child abuse, including child labor. Organizations such as Save the Children and the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect are also helping out.

The government can help speed up the eradication of child labor in Kenya by subsidizing the cost of books, uniforms and other fees to ensure that all children can attend school. Additionally, there is a need to ensure that laws explicitly define and set parameters for what children can and cannot do. Finally, the government can ensure that the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services have sufficient financial and human resources to address child labor violations.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

Disabled Children in Kenya
One in ten Kenyans under the age of 21 is disabled. In Kenya, several women feel the pressure from their communities and family members to either kill or give away their disabled children. Disabled Rights International interviewed several mothers of disabled children who claimed that disabled children are referred to or often called idiots, subhuman, imbeciles, abnormal and a burden.

Other reasons for child abandonment and even child killings are that the family will not be able to afford medical bills or that the child will be unable to live a full life. Kenyan women are usually ostracized by their community for raising a disabled child and are either said to be cursed or that the child is cursed. If these women are unable to gain enough support, they will be more likely to give up or even kill their child.

Awareness about Disabilities

A contributing factor to the treatment of disabled children in Kenya is that little to no information is known about disabilities. Women in Kenya are rarely told that their child has a disability when they are born, and they are sent home without any sort of information.

In the survey conducted by Disabled Rights International (DRI), 93 percent of women only found out their child had a disability after taking them home. Some doctors refuse to treat the child, claiming that they are contagious. A lack of education about disabilities and the future life of the disabled person has a large impact on the treatment of disabled children.

Institutions for Disabled Children

Some disabled children in Kenya are given away to overcrowded institutions. Disabled children are separated from nondisabled children in specific institutions that are less sanitary and underfunded. In Kenya, the children in orphanages have living family members, but they are typically abandoned due to their family’s inability to care for them. Institutionalized children with disabilities spend their whole lives in institutions because, even as adults, they have nowhere else to go. The DRI found that some of these institutions even put these children in restraints or isolation rooms.

The problem with these institutions is that the donations that they receive from different organizations and mission trips are often not used for the children. The DRI found that several orphanages who benefited from donations or mission trips were still not suitable for children, although these funds were provided for this purpose. One organization, Child in Family Focus, advocates for family-focused relief efforts rather than donating money to these institutions, so that a family can keep and raise their child. The group focuses on advocacy, deinstitutionalization and lobbying for child protection policies.

Able Child Africa

Around 100,000 disabled children in Kenya are out of school, meaning that they do not have access to even a basic education. Organizations like Able Child Africa are trying to change this situation. One of their current projects involves disabled children who are out of school in inclusive sports clubs. The inclusive club means that both non-disabled and disabled children are participating in the same club. These sports clubs are held at local schools where the organization hopes the children will eventually enroll. The project began in 2015 and has been granted more funding so that the organization can range across two of Kenya’s school districts.

Organizations like Child in Family Focus and Able Child Africa are fighting for the better treatment of disabled children, whether by simply involving disabled children in activities at schools so that they enroll in school and have access to an education or by keeping them with their families.

As the stigma behind disabilities fades and people become more educated about disabilities, disabled children in Kenya can possibly have better care and a better future.

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Kenya
Kenya is a country in North East Africa (also known as the Horn of Africa) located on the Indian Ocean coastline. The countries in the Horn of Africa have been frequently hit by droughts that lasted for decades. As a result of this, Kenya suffered and still suffers from extreme food shortages that lead to illnesses and in many cases to death. To understand Kenya’s struggles and progress, below are the top 10 facts about hunger in Kenya.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Kenya

  1. Kenya has a population of 46 million people. Of this number, 25 percent or 11.5 million people live in underdeveloped housing and suffer from a variety of harmful living conditions such as food insecurity and diseases. The people who are most vulnerable to food scarcity live in dry areas, which is about 80 percent of the land.
  2. The number one cause of death of children under five years old is malnutrition. According to the World Food Programme, 337,000 children under five years old suffer from malnutrition.
  3. Twenty-five percent of children in Kenya suffer from stunted growth due to poor nutrition.
  4. Food scarcity is nothing new to East Africa. According to World Vision, poor climate and instability are the main causes of East Africa’s hunger. Droughts are extremely common and affect food-production, which leads to malnutrition.
  5. Instability is a consequence of years of political and social conflicts that make prices and food affected. Climate Change News states that due to political opposition and a lack of tools to run a government smoothly, the annual food inflation in Kenya increased 18.6 percent in 2017.
  6. Between July 2011 and mid-2012, East Africa experienced a drought that was known as the worst in 60 years, leaving 13 million people affected with a severe food crisis in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Hundreds of thousands of Somali people escaped to Kenya and Ethiopia to seek food and shelter. This has put more stress on Kenya and Ethiopia as the two already crowded countries. Huffington Post reported that the overall death rate is about seven out of 10,000 people a day while the average crisis rate is usually two person per day.
  7. Fortunately, the number of people in Kenya affected by food insecurity has improved from 3.4 million in 2017 to 2.6 million in 2018. This significant improvement is a direct result of more rain and living necessities supplied to the people in need.
  8. While there are millions of people in Kenya that are still in need of help, health and nutrition services have been extended out to two million people.
  9. During droughts, food prices escalate. In Kenya, maize prices rose 30 percent. However, people are still able to purchase this life staple due to increased imports from Uganda.
  10. Africa has the most people living in extreme poverty and facing food shortages. Food shortages are so severe that many children cannot go to school because schools are forced to close. According to Save the Children organization, only 30 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls are enrolled in school during droughts, and only a few complete their education. In addition, 4.7 million children across East Africa are at risk of dropping out of school due to the drought’s impact. The Kenyan government promised to donate money for food aid but has only given 4,000 bags of maize that can last only for a week.

Food is a necessity to live but in Kenya food almost seems like a privilege since so many obstacles need to be faced in order to feed a family. Besides food shortages, Kenyans have to deal with a horrendous climate and an unstable government which creates a cycle of unfortunate events.

These top 10 facts about hunger in Kenya give an idea of the struggles these people have to face. Fortunately, Kenya continues to lift itself up out of poverty with the help from surrounding countries.

– Kristen Uedoi
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Kenya

Kenya has long struggled with the issue of poverty and with the symptoms that follow such as high rates of disease and child mortality. Life expectancy is low in Kenya, just one of the examples of the effects poverty has on a country. The following are 10 facts about poverty in Kenya.

Poverty in Kenya

  1. Around 35.5% of Kenya’s population is living below the poverty line, reported in 2016. This means basically that more than one-third of the entire country is living on less than the U.S. $1.90 per day. Much of Kenya is rural land, which contributes to high rates of the population living in poverty.
  2. Kenya ranked 154th out of 177 countries for life expectancy and GDP in a 2005 report by the UN. The entire region that surrounds Kenya also ranks low on that list. The situation in Kenya, however, has gotten notably better since this report.
  3. Desert land and unpredictable weather create an unstable economy. Over three-fourths of Kenya’s population depends on the agriculture sector to survive. A lack of fertile land and erratic weather creates an unreliable source of sustainability.
  4. Kenya government is known to be one of the most corrupted in the world. Impoverished people are unable to propel themselves upwards in society if their government is not working for them and government money is being misused.
  5. Levels of poverty in Kenya have improved significantly in the past decade. Currently, around 35.5% of the country is living in poverty, but in 2005, this number was 43.6%. Poverty in Kenya is nowadays lower than any other country in the Eastern Africa region, and it is still on the decline.
  6. A major contributor to decline in poverty rates lies in the agriculture sector. Good fortune in weather patterns is a great thing, but it leaves the prosperity Kenya has experienced in a vulnerable place. An unexpected drought could upturn progress made against poverty.
  7. Despite improvements, the World Bank does not believe poverty will be eradicated in Kenya by 2030. Representatives stated that although Kenya’s GDP has been growing yearly, the pace has not been fast enough to eliminate poverty by the above stated year.
  8. Kenya’s literacy rate has increased by 11% since 2005. This statistic is emblematic of the immense improvements Kenya has made in its education system. In comparison to similarly situated countries like Ghana, Kenya’s literacy rates are higher.
  9. Child mortality has decreased in the last decade. In 2008, the rate was 52 out of every 1,000 live births. In 2014 it had decreased to 39. Rates of deaths in children under the age of five also decreased from 74 out of 1,000 to 52.
  10. Among the benefits of decreased poverty levels, people of Kenya have experienced better access to sanitation. Despite this, Kenya still ranks low in comparison to some of its neighbor countries in terms of access to quality water sources. However, Kenya still ranks above countries like Ghana and Rwanda for improved sanitation.

The facts about poverty in Kenya has ameliorated significantly in recent decades. The country has expanded its education and system of health care, and the GDP has grown consistently every year. Although the situation is far from satisfactory, things are looking up for people in Kenya.

– Amelia Merchant

Photo: Flickr

The Story of Poverty Decline in KenyaA December 2017 report published by the World Bank indicates that the percentage of Kenyan people living below the international poverty line has dropped significantly over the last decade. In 2005-2006, 43.6 percent of Kenyans were living on less than $1.90 per day. In 2015-2016, that number sank to 35.6 percent, a dramatic improvement.

Despite these findings, researchers maintain that it is doubtful that poverty in Kenya will be eradicated by 2030. So what exactly is behind the poverty decline in Kenya, and why will it not be enough to completely solve the problem in the future?

Infrastructure Contributes to Poverty Decline in Kenya

Since 2013, the public sector’s contribution to GDP growth has jumped from just 1.1 percent to 2.5 percent. This is largely due to ambitious projects undertaken by the Kenyatta administration, including the construction of a $24.5 billion northern trade route, the expansion of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, the creation of the Lamu Port and the modernization of major Kenyan airports. These developments have opened up new opportunities for trade throughout the region.

Beyond that, Kenya has made incredible strides in providing basic needs to its citizens over the past few years. In 2013, only 27 percent of Kenyan households had access to electricity. This number skyrocketed to 55 percent, or 5.7 million households, by the beginning of 2017. The number of Kenyan households with access to improved water sources has also climbed from just 60 percent in 2005 to nearly 72 percent in 2015. In addition, Kenya is leading the way in households with access to adequate sanitation facilities among countries with similar poverty rates. These improvements are crucial to promoting economic growth because they are the cornerstones of basic health and well-being.

Agricultural Growth Promising, But Unstable

Another factor leading to the poverty decline in Kenya is the agricultural sector. According to the report, agriculture accounted for the largest share of poverty reduction in the past decade. The agricultural sector remains the leading contributor to Kenya’s GDP, and provided a sizeable boost to the economy with an average growth of 4.1 percent between 2011 and 2015.

However, this is problematic because farming is an unreliable source of growth. The success of crops is completely controlled by weather conditions, and drought is extremely common in Africa. Kenya witnessed the devastating impacts of relying on agriculture last year when its economy took a hit due to decreased rainfall levels. This instability is one of the reasons why experts say that poverty will not be eradicated by 2030.

Private Sector Investment Needed to Continue Poverty Decline in Kenya

An additional obstacle to the poverty decline in Kenya is the deterioration of the private sector. In recent years, GDP growth from private investments has slid from 1.3 percent in 2013 to negative 0.7 percent in 2017. This is partially due to the political instability that surrounded the presidential election in 2017, which led many to see investments in Kenya as a risk because the government seemed fragile. Another claim made in the report is that the increase in government spending led to “crowding out,” the discouraging of private spending due to a rise in interest rates.

Although poverty may not be completely eradicated by 2030, it is projected to decrease at the rate of one percentage point per year if current trends continue. Though there are some major challenges to overcome in the future, the poverty decline in Kenya is a promising sign for the country’s welfare.

– Maddi Roy

Photo: Flickr

Addressing Poverty in Kenya
In a country that has a plethora of wealthy individuals who make use of the coastal regions and beautiful landscape, the rate of poverty in Kenya still remains at 46 percent of the population. With an increase in assistance from the government and those who are living a lavish lifestyle, this issue could be drastically improved in a short period of time.

Addressing Poverty in Kenya

According to Buzz Kenya, “In Kenya, the slums are next to the posh neighborhoods. The rich people depend on the poor for housekeeping, yet they pay them peanuts even though they are fully aware of their situation.”

There needs to be accountability for wealthy individuals to accommodate those doing housework. If the wealthy paid their workers at a higher rate instead of on average $1 a day, poverty would not be resolved but it would definitely help the issue tremendously.

Even access to resources that most people take for granted are considered a “luxury” in particular parts of Kenya; these resources can include healthcare, education and clean water. The Kenyan government is working on a solution that would greatly help poverty-stricken communities obtain the necessary assets to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

The government and concerned citizens have the ability to better a developing nation.

International Affairs Budget

There are multiple methods of assistance that the government provides and the people can act upon. The International Affairs budget is one part of legislation that is available to the people. By supporting the International Affairs budget, aid will be provided to countries around the world that need the most help.

Assistance can come in the form of fighting diseases, supplying emergency care throughout the nation and promoting hunger-relief and stability in the economic system abroad.

Contributions to efforts such as the International Affairs budget allows for more workers to be employed in the country and continue to develop new and improved ways to figure out how poverty can ultimately and eventually become eradicated.

Causes of Poverty in Kenya

Poverty is a result of many factors in a nation-state; for instance, unemployment, lack of clean water and people from other countries migrating over with absolutely nothing.

“In June 2011, Kenya faced formidable hurdles with the Horn of Africa drought that left 3.75 million Kenyans and 150,000 refugees mostly from Somalia, in need of humanitarian assistance.” Refugees also contribute to the rate of poverty in Kenya.

UNICEF was able to contain the situation and efficiently provide support for not just Kenyan citizens but also the refugees from Somalia and South Sudan.

Land, Agriculture and Future Progress

Urban areas are not as much of an issue when it comes to poverty. Slightly less than a third of Individuals living in urban areas are below the poverty line, while approximately half of Kenyans living in rural locations are considered impoverished.

Kenya-Advisor states, “around three quarters of Kenya’s population is dependent on the agriculture industry, but with its erratic weather patterns and vast regions of arid desert, it is a very unstable sector. Periods of drought can be crippling, not only in terms of food supply, but in jobs as well.”

With so many people relying on agriculture for their main access of food supply, this can lead to an overuse of the land that can poison the soils and no longer provide the nutrition that Kenyans need.

Also, it can impact wildlife due to the uneven distribution of agricultural resources and has the potential to influence climate change. With the diversification of funding that the government and the people have the ability to provide, there will be a severe decline to the rate of poverty in Kenya and a subsequent new outlook on this emerging nation.

– Matthew McGee

Photo: Flickr

UW-Madison Grassroots Encourages Women's Development in KenyaIt doesn’t take an organization with hundreds of thousands of members to make a difference in the world. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there is a group known as Merry-Go-Strong (MGS). MGS is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting children and women’s development in Kenya through the expansion of both minds and resources.

Women’s Development in Kenya

Back in the spring semester of 2012, Professor Lesley Sager challenged her students to use design thinking processes to artistically create shelters for people displaced from natural disasters.

The students created a structure based on cardboard. Susan Miller, a designer, saw value in cardboard structures being brought to Kenya. Sager and Miller teamed up and decided to journey to Kenya to see if there was any viability in promoting cardboard houses for families there.

Aside from the architect side of the trip, Sager had a deep interest in bringing education opportunity to the children (specifically girls) in Kenya.

Sager’s Journey in Gatunga

When she arrived in Gatunga, a small village in Tharaka Nithi County, Sager met Aniceta Kirigata, the founder of the Tharaka Women’s Welfare Program (TWWP) and the Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP). ARP is designed to protect girls from female genitalia mutilation (FGM). TWWP receives its funding through a scholarship with the Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP). Many girls are forced to drop out due to lack of money to pay for fees, or they must remain out of school in order to work; therefore, a scholarship like one from WGEP is a huge deal.

Once she realized there was an immense lack of income generating options for women and children, Sager decided to take a different approach to helping women’s development in Kenya.

The Origins of Merry-Go-Strong

In fall of 2014, Sager offered the first of four sequential design thinking courses at UW-Madison. These courses would focus on using student’s own ingenuity to create projects and tools that would be useful to the women in Kenya. These projects range from product development, to solar power, beekeeping and other options.

And one of these projects is how MGS was born. The members within this organization partner with TWWP in the village of Gatunga, a project that supports women by providing materials to create viondo (aka bags/purses). The purses are then bought from their Kenyan makers to be sold in the United States where there is a much bigger consumer market.

MGS’ Impact

The profits from the purses are used to fund future projects and create scholarships for girls to continue to attend ARP and finish proper schooling. This approach to supporting women’s development in Kenya is empowering because it provides for self-sustainability both among women and the community in Gatunga; these lives will be positively impacted in the upcoming future.

Sager still continues to go to Kenya once or twice a year to follow up on the progress of Merry-Go-Strong’s efforts in empowerment and ending FGM (Big Ten Network, 2017). With this type of resiliency and consistency, women’s development in Kenya will hopefully experience leaps and bounds.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

poverty in kenya
The stereotype still remains that Africa as a whole is vastly impoverished and desolate. While certainly some pockets of the continent continue to suffer, poverty in Kenya is showing great improvement.

10. Kenya has one of the highest rates of population growth.
Kenya’s population has nearly tripled in the last 35 years, from 16.3 million in 1980 to 47 million today. And not surprisingly …

9. Children make up nearly half of the population.
Of those living in Kenya, 42 percent are children under 15. This has major implications for the country’s infrastructure, and leaders are realizing it is past time to support these children.

8. Life expectancy is increasing.
According to The World Bank, life expectancy was at 53 years old in 2000 but has increased every year since. Now, the life expectancy is at 62 and is predicted to continue to rise. The majority of these improvements are from public health initiatives, particularly surrounding HIV/AIDS prevention after the disease was officially declared a natural disaster by the government in 2001.

7. There are not many physicians in Kenya.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is only one doctor and 12 nurses or midwives per 10,000 people in Kenya. This shortage of medical professionals is a severe problem for the nation, although major public health interventions have helped to reduce the mortality rate, such as those taken with HIV/AIDS as well as many waterborne illnesses.

6. The poorest inhabitants live in rural areas.
With limited access to the few physicians and nurses who do inhabit the country, rural areas suffer the greatest. Comprised mostly of farmers and other agricultural workers, those living in rural areas often go without healthcare, clean water and sanitation, as well as many other social services which primarily are located in the cities and business regions. Poverty in Kenya is a widespread problem but is concentrated in the rural areas.

5. The nation is not economically diverse.
The vast majority of all work lies in the agricultural sector, thus when droughts and other natural disasters occur, farmers are out of luck.

4. Kenya is on the path to economic growth.
With the realization of a lack of diversification, there have been improvements in the infrastructure of the Kenyan government and increased attention to the urban and business regions of the country, as well as increases in manufacturing.

3. Kenya has one of the highest literacy rates in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The youth literacy rate in Kenya is at about 85 percent as of this year, which is greater than its neighboring nations. For example, the youth literacy rate is 79 percent in Uganda, 61 percent in Sudan and 45 percent in Ethiopia.

2. School enrollment is 90 percent.
Correlated to a high literacy rate, school enrollment is quite high in Kenya. This is also reflected in the countries surrounding Kenya with lower literacy rates such as Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda.

1. There is hope.
Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) is a school for girls in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. Founded by Kennedy Odede, a native of Kibera, SHOFCO believes “the fight against urban poverty begins with a girl” and has enacted comprehensive education and healthcare systems to ensure free, quality primary education as well as free healthcare and social services for the girls. They are also the largest employer in Kibera, employing teachers as well as social services such as psychologists, doctors and even soccer coaches. Organizations such as SHOFCO exist throughout Kenya who are dedicated to promoting gender equality, education and basic human needs to a population that certainly needs it. With determined individuals such as those who work at SHOFCO, poverty in Kenya will decrease and put the country on a trajectory towards success.

– Liz Vestal

Sources: UNICEF, World Bank, Answers Africa, Our Africa, SHOFCO
Photo: Flickr,