The Covid-19 pandemic has changed lives in a manner never
anticipated. Economy, politics, culture, environment, and all spheres of human
endeavours have been disrupted and foreseeably, for good.
Amidst the tough times, the Kazi Mtaani hygiene programme
launched last year by president Uhuru Kenyatta is significant. It presented an
opportunity to rethink a new way of living in slum areas across urban cities in
the country. Economic, political and social systems that have held the world
for generations have come down tumbling.
The main goal of the initiative by the government was to
protect the most vulnerable youths in the informal settlements from the adverse
effects of Covid-19. The president extended Kazi Mtaani last month following an
outcry from youths in the country. Evidently the program has improved and acted
as a turning point for a number of youths who have now been able to employ
themselves from the fortunes of the program.
In Mitume slum within Kitale town, Trans Nzoia County, I
meet Hellen a beneficiary of the first phase of Kazi Mtaani ready to open her
Chemist. She sets her Chemist for the day before we get into our interview.
” This is a slum area and happened to be strategic
place for my business. The number of chemists around here as seen are
countable. That’s why I opted to settle my business here,” says Hellen
A section of Mitume Slum in Kitale town Trans Nzoia County where Helen’s Business is situated. Photo courtesy
Enrolled during the first phase of Kazi Mtaani a hygiene
programme by the government, Hellen decided to save her 11 days’ earnings from
the programme to better her life since she’s a single mother of two.
” This was well thoughts by the president for the
youths. Before Kazi Mtaani I was an off business and surviving like a free
bird,” she laughs. ” When the opportunity presented itself I
responded early enough and luckily I got a position and that’s when my journey
of serious savings started, ” she explaines.
Kazi Mtaani operates in two groups, each in shift of 11 days
with a supervisor who runs and watch over the operations undertaken by the
participants. With the program majorly focused on the youths in slum areas the
initiative was timely considering the fact that the ongoing pandemic changed
the entire global system and altered a number of economies.
“Last year after the lockdown and curfew it was very
difficult to even get three meals of the day. I entirely depended on selling of
Mitumba, second hand clothes, after the lockdown and closure of the open-air
markets in town was even worse. The initiative was an opportunity for many of
us to improve and have food at the table.” says Hellen.
Hellen did not waste an opportunity with a single sent she
worked for everyday, with not being sure when the country will be declared
Corona free, she had to plan herself out with the little from the government’s
“The first earnings were an indication for me that I
could make it big from the earnings and the little I earned from the clothes I
sold. I started saving little by little and opted for a Chemist around here
because I believed one cannot go wrong when it comes to healthcare provision in
an area like Mitume.” She further said.
With a starting stock of Ksh. 16,000, Helen started her Chemist
that is since doing better and earnings and has employed someone to keep watch
for her half-day as she tackles other errands in the farm that she leased from
the profits of the chemists and the savings from Kazi Mtaani.
” I didn’t see myself as an employer. Now I have
employed someone who works from 8am-5pm in the evening as I ran other things. I
leased a farm at the cost of Ksh. 4,000 in Kabolet at the out of town, planted
beans that I used to increase my stock and now that it’s planting season for
maize approaching, I’m preparing just like any other farmer to plant as the
rainy season approaches.” She said.
Business in slum areas being active at around late evenings,
Hellen says she makes lots of sales during the evenings and prefers to be
around by herself and hopes to expand her business and get little of nursing
classes before she opens up her own clinic.
Not far from her, we meet Eliud Wafula a supervisor at
Milimani participants doing cleanliness of trenches around the area. He
finishes the day before he starts talking to us. He has been a supervisor for
the both phases.
” This how we live everyday ever since the Kazi Mtaani
began. My day starts at 8am and by 12 noon I go and do my personal stuffs,”
Samples of homemade soaps distributed by Eliud and his team
Eliud who started manufacturing homemade soaps from the Kazi
Mtaani savings and now gets both local and large scale demands from around
Kitale town. He with a team of four who now forms the team of his employees
supply soaps majorly liquid to their customers.
“Since I have to be at work by 8am since we start
cleaning around the designated station, I had to look for a team that I trained
how to make and by the time I’m done we start delivering around the demands
placed and sell to locals around my neighbourhood. I started small with orders
majorly around until I utilized social media and started sending pictures of my
soap and started getting much orders that I don’t regret,” he adds.
Schools, small private hospitals and children’s home have
been his major and regular customers who will order for soaps in large
quantities due to the nature of their operations,boosted his morale increasing
the team to help him move around markets and supply on time to his customers.
” I did marketing for the first time with free samples
on primary schools around here in Milimani who were impressed with soap and
started ordering in large amounts. The closure of schools will somehow affect
business till when they re-open,” he explains.
Evident that lives for Hellen Wesa mad and Eliud Wafula
having changed for good since the start of Kazi Mtaani and having employed
others from their fortunes shows the greater importance of the government
initiative during this tough economic times that it was a productive and
” Definitely things changed, I’m able to comfortably
pay my bills and manage my business at the e same time. It was a chance for
every youth determined to succeed. I’m glad it was extended,and from second
phase that was renewed few weeks ago, I’m saving to enroll for a nursing
course,” says Hellen.
“I’m way much better and happy at the same time that I
was able to employ fellow youths. This program should be made continuous. It
was a great initiative by the government as compared to loans that are said to
be available for youths with so much difficulty in accessing the money,”
Unemployment rate among youths in the country becoming a
major challenge; according to the Kenya National Bureau Statistics (KNBS)as of
2020, unemployed youths are 7.2%. With the general unemployment rate standing
at 2.98% in 2020 according to World Bank. 80% of the unemployed youths in the
country are aged below 35 years. The Kazi Mtaani has offered a Chance for
youths to create employment for themselves and even employing others. Evidently
that Kazi Mtaani has improved lives for many youths in the slums in informal
Urban centers, With Hellen and Eliud having transformed their lives from the