The winning project of the 2006 Sub-regional Mashariki Innovations in Local Governance Awards Programme award was People United for a New Korogocho, situated in the sprawling Korogocho slums, one of the most densely populated and unstable slums of Nairobi, Kenya. An 'illegal' settlement born in the early 80s, Korogocho ranks 4th in population size after Kibera, Mathare, and Mukungu Kwa Njenga, with about 120,000 inhabitants crammed within a single square kilometer.
Lack of public services, prostitution, unemployment, drug addiction, alcoholism, rapes, criminality, and domestic violence are some of the most relevant problems, which concerted efforts by various stakeholders have struggled with over the years to address. Further to this reality is the massive presence of street children, who try to escape from the police round ups in the city, finding hideouts in the slums. Also, many illegal firearms find abode, an element that further aggravates criminality. Set against this challenging backdrop, People United for a New Korogocho has created economic empowerment and skills development among the marginalized in the society. The project evidences creative and innovative thinking in addressing poverty alleviation at the local level through the Dandora dumpsite program which has organized scavengers to harvest and resell garbage to earn a living.
The project also encourages use of talents through another of its sub-projects -- Artists United for a New Korogocho. These artists are all drawn from the Korogocho slums and display a noteworthy use of plays, songs, murals, and paintings to depict life in the slum. Other autonomous initiatives include Korogocho Street Children Programme (street children and glue-sniffing children), Bega Kwa Bega (for women, particularly former commercial sex workers), St. John Informal School, St. John Sports Society, Alcoholics Anonymous project, and so on.
Apart from the chief camp seating at a facility built by a non-governmental organization for the benefit of the youth, there is very little government presence in the slum. There are two public schools with over 4,000 children, which were initially built by the Kariobangi Parish Catholic Church and handed over to the government. Many informal and private schools have since sprung up, most of which are sub-standard and profit motivated. The project has an informal school and kindergarten with a population of 850 and 180 children respectively and has strived over the years to focus on quality and children's rights to education.
'People United For a New Korogocho' is a phrase used to describe about twenty projects run by the St. John Catholic Church, Korogocho. The Church has identified itself with the struggles involving the urban poor, particularly Korogocho where the Comboni Missionaries live among the community. Each of the projects was initiated together with the community to address a specific challenge that was prevailing at the time. Following short management and leadership courses run by St. John's, each of these groups have set up autonomous governance structures which enable them to continue running effectively. The projects target the youth at risk, women, alcoholics, children out of school, and street children. All project officials are elected every two years by the residents of Korogocho in a carefully monitored election. The project has collaborated with organizations that include: UN-HABITAT -- Safer Cities Program, Tangaza College & Institute of Social Ministry, and the Catholic Diocese of Nairobi.
Korogocho has emerged as one of the most creative slums in the city. Any visits to the slums reveal the struggles of the slum population to radically transform their community. A lot of good news is coming from Korogocho courtesy of this new emancipation for a more dignified humanity. The creativity and energies of the youth, coupled with commitment of women and men of goodwill have been in the project's efforts to create 'A new Korogocho'. All its sub-projects are aimed at achieving this overall goal. The belief is that together with the support of all stakeholders in Korogocho, 'Another World Without Slums Is Possible.'