Kenya: Challenging the status quo

In news footage from early 2018, police can be seen chasing young children through the streets of Nairobi and forcefully pulling them into vans.

The children were then sent to one of the county's eleven youth remand homes or, often, adult jails. Their only crime was simply living on the streets. Over the past few years, the Kenyan government has initiated several of these 'round-ups' as part of their wider strategy to 'wipe out street children'.  

In Kenya the need for alternative provision for these children is clear. Since 2015, StreetInvest has partnered with Glad's House, an NGO based in Mombasa. Many young people are attracted by the prospect of work in Kenya's second largest city, and come looking to escape rural. During one visit, we met a young man who simply said he wanted to swim in the sea and 'feel free'. He didn’t realise that the sea was salty, he said, until he arrived in Mombasa aged just 13. 

Since 2010, Glad's House has dedicated itself to the street-connected children that the rest of society sees as 'too challenging'.  Everything Glad's House does is part of a Street Work programme, which is rooted in the belief that journeying alongside street children, building their self-esteem and empowering them to take ownership of their own lives, can create lasting change. 

Since 2015, we have trained 20 street workers, supported Glad's House to develop in house Street Work trainers to pass on their skills and have provided resources to strengthen their programme, including our monitoring and evaluation tools.

Last year, two of our team visited Glad's House to further grow our partnership and develop a joint long-term strategy to tackle the increasing oppression of street-connect children at the hands of the government, and the issues they face on the streets of Mombasa's every day. 

In the first year of our new strategy, we plan to deliver behaviour change workshops to key stakeholders in Mombasa County, including magistrates, senior police officials and managers of the Mombasa county Children's Remand Home. Tackling the negatives attitudes of those in power is the first step towards change.

Glad's House has also engaged with eight organsiations in Mombasa, and trained 16 staff members with StreetInvest's core 'Introduction to Street Work' training. This enables them to conduct joint Street Work, share resources, and implement coordinated programmes to support young people. Working together, using the same approach, we can make a bigger difference.