“Inequalities are linked with poverty and sustainable development, and have patently hindered development and stalled progress. Acting together, these inequalities further entrench the deprivation suffered by certain groups and individuals and manifest themselves clearly in the way space is used” – Dr. Joan Clos Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Executive Director, UN-Habitat
Meet Wanjiku, a mother of two and a wife to Julius, living in Kenya’s biggest slums. She did not manage to finish school and got married at the age of 16. They barely make a living as Julius is the sole breadwinner. Attributed to this is the fact that Wanjiku has to take care of the children back at home. Julius does not make a lot of cash from his odd jobs either. The little he makes he uses to drown his sorrows at a local bar. At times Wanjiku is beaten up for not being productive. She would change her situation and work as her husband but there are children involved and they need a caregiver. The same story is shared by Adebayo and Jabulile from Shomolu and Soweto in South Africa or even Agbogbloshie. One question remains after their story. Is gender equality attainable in informal settlements of Africa?
Informal settlements are home to urban residents who live under a dollar a day. In Sub-Saharan Africa, fifty-nine percent of the urban population lives in slums and it is predicted that by 2050 this number will project to 1.2 billion people. These settlements are characterized by inadequate housing, basic services, and social amenities, overcrowding and high population density, insecure tenure, social exclusion, and poverty.
Gender inequalities remain severe, with women being five times more likely to be unemployed than males. This has translated to vulnerability and feeling of insecurity by the dwellers in the settlements, especially among the women. Poverty and disempowerment go hand in hand because of the inability to meet basic needs, resulting in dependence on others, ruling out the capacity for meaningful choices.
Women who live in slums represent one of the strongest forces for the development of millions of urban families living in poverty around the world. They not only take daily care of the housework and but a majority step in to assist the breadwinners or are the breadwinners’ and generators of household livelihoods. It becomes challenging to play the role of a caregiver and a provider for most women in the slums. A ray of light has shone however courtesy of Kidogo social enterprise.
Kidogo provides high-quality, affordable early childhood care and education for young children in families living in Africa’s urban slums. When a mother decides to put food to the table most children are left alone, under the care of an elder sibling who is pulled from school or in congested, unsafe baby-care centers with poor sanitation. Kidogo centers weigh in reducing this dilemma and at the same time help in childhood development.
The centers offer safe and stimulating physical environments, trained early childhood development, caregivers from the local community and health and nutrition programs as well as explanatory play-based curriculum, using learning stations and child-centered strategies.
Kidogo centers offer safe and stimulating physical environments and trained early childhood development|photo|acumenideas.com
Kidogo also works to improve the quality of local baby-care through a micro-franchising program that delivers training resources and offers support to “mama-preneurs” running their baby-care centers. Their innovative model ensures local women are empowered to start their child-care micro-enterprises.
Kidogo helps women caregivers in informal settlements who are passionate by turning that passion into a business. Through the spokes Programme, Kidogo partners with these women to come to a level of quality and help them become sustainable.
Kidogo also works with industries to set up daycares that help mothers in the work setting. This helps improve their productivity as they do not have to worry about the safety and well-being of their children from time to time.
To date, there is no proven, financially stable child-care model in Sub-Saharan Africa informal settlements. Kidogo combines the sustainability of early childhood development with gender equality by providing equal opportunities for women in informal settlements.
The new norm is that the future is female but the position of women in the informal sectors is compromised. It is social enterprises like Kidogo that are ensuring that no woman is left behind.