Youths Exploit Art Talent to Earn Decent Living

At 30 years old, Daniel Odinga, has been able to inspire other youths in Nairobi’s sprawling slums of Kariobangi and Korogocho to realize and exploit their talents for improved livelihoods.

 Through Kamash self-help group, where he is the secretary, Odinga has been in the fore-front in organizing events like Kariobangi Hood Festivals, which brings together young people from the slums to showcase their talents in various arts. The group also organizes education debates for children aged 18 years and below to interact, learn and share ideas through drama and arts.

“We have inspired many unemployed young men and women in the slums to engage in income generating activities and participate in arts and this has helped boost their income levels and reduce crime and other social ills in the neighbourhood.” Says Odinga.

Odinga is one of the  30 youth grassroots development coordinators under Initiative X; Slum Edition, a project by the Youth Arts Development and Entrepreneurship Network (YADEN) aimed at empowering the youth with talents in arts to address social issues affecting their communities.

The project funded by the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) involves 15 youth groups, which acts as platforms of opportunity for more than 300 youths.

“Initiative X, Slum Edition recognizes that the youth are at cross-roads, so we bring them together to share their challenges and inspire each other through various art forms like drama, discussions and skits. She explains

The project whose first phase was carried out in Kibera, Korogocho and Mathare slums between August 2012 and July 2013, involved the selection of 15 youth groups based on the activities they engage in, which were trained and empowered to influence positive change in their communities.

Eshikhuyi says the youth, churches and community elders were used in selecting the groups from which the 30 youth grassroots development coordinators were identified after training.

“We are working with the youth grassroots development coordinators to help other youths in their communities to develop themselves by realizing their talents, which they exploit to improve their livelihoods,” she says.

As a result of the influence from the coordinators, more than 300 young people are involved in various income generating activities through groups. YADEN also used part of the grant from KCDF to set up a revolving fund through which the groups can get loans to boost their entrepreneurial activities.

Eshikhuyi says they have been able to sustain and scale up the project because once they have empowered the various youth groups to engage in art as a form of entrepreneurship, the beneficiaries use their facilities at a fee to undertake their projects.

At the Liberty Building in Pangani Estate, where YADEN is housed, the organisation has a recording studio and an auditorium, where artists produce their music and undergo rehearsals. The organisation also has public address facilities and vans that are hired out to performing artists to help them reach out to the communities.

They have also been able to link up with other donors who are able to continue funding similar programmes for the benefit of the communities they are targeting.

Following successful implementation of the slum edition, YADEN is currently implementing Initiative X; Eastleigh Edition, which is funded by the USAID. It covers additional slums like Majengo, Pumwani, Eastleigh and Kariobangi.

The Initiative X; Eastleigh Edition is aimed at countering violence and extremism in the target areas, which have seen rising cases youth radicalization leading to terrorism attacks.

“We have built on the Initiative X; Slum Edition to be able to undertake a broad range of activities aiming to counter the drivers of violence and extremism through livelihood training, community debates on sensitive topics, cultural events and counseling.” Says Eshikhuyi.

Through the projects, youths with talents in arts have been supported to come up with paintings and engage in performing arts like music and drama, which they use to counter dangers of violence and extremism through well-crafted messages.

 “Through the youth development coordinators we have been able to identify young people who are vulnerable to radicalization and we are able to counsel and enhance their acceptance in the community,” she adds.

Making the Initiative X; Slum Edition a success was, however, not easy as identifying and scaling the number of groups to 15 was not easy given the high number of youths who were interested in the programme.

Most of the groups were also not well organized and the first step to incorporating them into the programme involved setting up structures and building their capacity.

YADEN, which was registered in 2003 as a youth drama group before being transformed into a non-profit organisation in 2007 has also benefited immensely from its partnership with KCDF.

Eshikhuyi says through the grantor, they have enhanced their capacity to manage projects through training on finance and project management.

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