Informal settlements, commonly referred to as slums or urban villages, are usually an eye-sore to many modern cities and towns. Slums are defined by their low standards of living, and things are made worse because they are juxtaposed with affluent dwellings which exist side by side. Petty crime, poor sanitation, crowding, makeshift structures for homes and lack of social amenities are the main characteristics of slums. Economically, people who live in slums are defined as the urban poor who live on less than one US dollar per day. Socially, slum dwellings also come with their own challenges— prostitution, sexual offences and disease like HIV/AIDS are some of the common vices that afflict slums in Kenya and many other such dwellings across the world. It is in the light of these challenges that we analyse Bondeni slums in Nakuru where sexual immorality associated with the living conditions in slum dwellings is threatening to wipe out an entire generation of the youth population. Because of their low economic conditions, the youth in Bondeni are not privileged to get a good education— as a result, many are not able to get good employment.
The frustrations that come with lack of good education, and therefore gainful employment has led to culpable idleness among the youth. And as the saying goes— an idle mind is the devil’s workshop— many a young people end up in drug addiction and reckless sexual encounters outside marriage. The result, especially in view of reckless sexual liaisons, has been unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections among the youth. According to Fadhili Msuri, a Muslim peer counselor with Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance, even the Muslim community of Bondeni has not been spared the effects of sexual immorality, the strict Islamic teachings on this matter notwithstanding. “Idleness and lack of employment among the youth is the root cause of these vices,” Fadhili says, pointing out that there is need to have forums and peer education session that would assist the young people get away from this dangerous trajectory. Meanwhile, efforts are being made to address the problem especially among the Muslim community. In one of the Facebook postings created by a youth group in Bondeni under the caption ‘New Swamy Group,’ Muslim youth are encouraged to pay attention to Islamic teachings on sexual morality.
According to Madrassa teacher, Hashdaline Juma, prayer and good upbringing of children is vital to maintaining good morals despite one’s economic conditions. Elsewhere, stakeholders in the HIV/AIDS sector in Nakuru have been meeting to plan for this year’s Nakuru ASK show that will be held in July. According to Mr Givonce Oyee, the event is meant to ensure that CSOs are able to get stands and opportunities to exhibit the services and initiatives they offer in the fight against HIV/AIDS. However, as Kenya adopts the devolved government structure after the next general election, it will be important for the county governments to give special attention to slum dwellings by implementing socio-economic programmes that would uplift the living standards in informal settlements in urban areas.