NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 5 – Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) has been awarded this year’s UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour award in a ceremony held today in Yaoundé, Cameroon, during the Global Observance of World Habitat Day.
Awarded yearly, Scroll of Honour is one of the world’s most prestigious prizes presented to those working on sustainable urbanisation.
“It was our unanimous opinion that the Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) should receive the award for being a leading example of community led-change to eradicate extreme poverty in Kenya’s urban slums.
“SHOFCO focuses on the most vulnerable slum residents, including women and children, through service provision such as WASH, health clinics and resources to combat gender-based violence,” Maimunah Mohd, UN-Habitat Sharif Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, said in a congratulatory message to SHOFCO.
SHOFCO has not only done its part in aiding the vulnerable in the slums but also has had a huge impact in sports with projects in youth development and mini-tournaments.
Accepting the award, SHOFCO Founder and CEO Kennedy Odede thanked the UN-Habitat for recognizing their work in the informal settlements across Kenya.
“This award gives us immense pleasure at SHOFCO. We thank the UN-Habitat for this great global recognition. It empowers us to work even harder as we serve the vulnerable in the informal settlements,” Odede said.
SHOFCO Gender Department’s Director Caroline Sakwa accepted the award in Cameroon on behalf of the organisation.
SHOFCO is spearheading large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing community advocacy platforms, education and leadership opportunities for women and girls, and critical services for marginalized communities living within informal settlements.
SHOFCO established the first ever clinic in Kibera in 2010 with just a handful of staff and volunteers to treat communicable illnesses but by 2014, the numbers had skyrocketed to serving 300 patients per day, necessitating the creation of a major facility in Kibera and in 2015, expansion to Mathare.
With numbers rising, a need to be closer to the community gave rise to satellite clinics opening in neighbouring Manatha (2014), Kianda (2015), Subra (2017) and Makina (2017).
“The clinics were started from the idea that people should not die because of health care,” Odede said, while speaking to CNN’s African Voices Changemakers, a program that focuses on African non-profit leaders with localized solutions.
Odede told how a struggle to access water saw him put provision of this basic commodity on top of his wish list when SHOFCO came into being.
“We used to have to walk several kilometres to get water, and would often suffer from water-borne diseases, as the underground pipes were contaminated with raw sewage,” remembers Odede.
It is for this reason that SHOFCO used a cutting-edge aerial piping system when it installed a water treatment facility in the slum which can pump up to 300,000 litres of water at a time to aerial pipes that connect to various water kiosks throughout the Kibera slums.
The water goes to 24 kiosks stationed at strategic points. Members of the Kibera community are no longer walking several kilometres in search of this precious commodity, all thanks to Odede.
SHOFCO has also put up two schools in the Kibera and Mathare slums under its Girls Leadership and Education Programme.
The schools are the brainchild of Odede, who set them up as a way of empowering girls from the slum community.
So far, the school in Kibera, which has over 350 students, has had pupils sit for KCPE in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, whilst in Mathare, 250 students from pre-primary to Grade 5 are already enrolled for learning. Once admitted, the girls have access to a full scholarship.
SHOFCO has also put emphasis on gender-based violence (GBV) awareness and response services because of the overwhelming need and lack of services available.
There is a high prevalence of domestic violence, community violence and a lack of social safety nets in slum communities in Kenya.
“Resulting from an overwhelming need, we have added an emphasis on combating gender-based violence, violence awareness, and response services. Our caseworkers also do outreach in the community to educate and empower them to achieve a future without violence,” Odede said.
Through its Shofco Urban Network (SUN), the organisation has brought together individuals and households through social groups run independently and organizes them to actively seek tangible change in their community and society at large.
SUN seeks to build a strong urban network with the vision of giving the urban poor a voice and choice in their own community development.
SUN has over one million members in 24 slums across Kenya and that number is rising daily. SUN has created a self-sustaining Group Savings and Loans program for members and their immediate families with over 1,100 active saving groups.
Under the Sustainable Livelihoods Program, SUN is divided into two categories; SHOFCO Women’s Empowerment Project (SWEP) and SUN Youth.
SWEP provides business training, support and additional income for women living with HIV in Kibera and Mathare with members creating beautiful handmade goods, from beaded bracelets to colorful yoga bags and more. Through the sale of these unique goods, SWEP members are able to not only earn an income, but also build a community of support and sisterhood with women going through similar experiences.
SUN Youth, meanwhile, aims to educate and empower young people from the ages of 18-35. It has groups that work towards empowering the youth within the slum, through youth forums, clean-up activities, mentorship, and income-generating activities. It also has clubs that aim to nurture talent in soccer, boxing, karate, theatre, taekwondo, and acrobatics.
“These support groups have been very helpful for many of us as this is how we sustain ourselves. Besides the loans we take to improve our businesses, there is also a benevolent fund of Sh50,000 ($456) for members who are bereaved and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, these groups helped us get free food, soap, masks, sanitizers and a stipend courtesy of SHOFCO,” said Rose Naliaka, a member of SWEP, who lives in Gatwekera, Kibera.
As a result, 656 startups have come up, supported with business skills and training with Sh15.6 million ($143,000) saved in group savings and loan programs.
Odede and his expanding team are addressing the top six SDGs (no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, and clean water and sanitation) by giving job opportunities to slum dwellers, providing tuition-free education to disadvantaged girls, and assuring students receive free meals in their schools.