Community network empowers women and youth in Kenya’s Mathare Valley

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Community network empowers women and youth in Kenya’s Mathare Valley

WACC is partnering with the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) to spur economic empowerment among people living in the slums of Nairobi’s Mathare Valley through dependable and cost-effective community-run internet.

Founded in 2005, KICTANet is a multi-stakeholder forum for individuals and organizations working on ICT policy and regulation in Kenya. An internet access advocate for over 15 years, the organization has led the African community network initiative LOCNET together with project co-funder the Association for Progressive Communications.

Pressing need for internet access

The majority of the population in Mathare Valley live below the poverty line, according to KICTANet board member Mwendwa Kivuva.

Unemployment is high among youth, with many dropping out of school. While some of these young people engage in small-scale business, many “hang around without any meaningful contribution to society or end up in gang violence,” he says.

Women and girls are particularly vulnerable given the deplorable living conditions, delusory wages, and prevalence of illicit brews in the slum.

There is a pressing need for reliable and affordable internet to enable access to online resources and economic opportunities. “When faced with the choice between purchasing food or internet services, [people] prioritize food due to financial constraints,” Kivuva observes.

As well as individuals, numerous community-based organizations, schools, and community centers in the area lack connectivity.

Economic empowerment through internet access

To meet these needs, KICTANet is running a community network dubbed “Angaza,” a Swahili word meaning “light up.”

Through the WACC-supported project, Angaza has grown to cover three wards in Mathare Valley, a densely populated area with 350,000 people in a 5km radius.

Graphic for UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 with dark blue background and in white the number 16, the words "peace, justice and strong institutions" and a dove holding an olive branch and sitting on a gavelKICTANet is working with the newly connected schools and other community entities to raise awareness about the network’s availability and actively encourage internet adoption and usage. The project focuses on building the capacity and digital literacy of community — particularly women and youth — to make the most of the internet resources available to them.

“Economic empowerment of women and the youth through internet connectivity is at the center of focus in designing value-addition services and capacity-building training programs for users,” says Kivuva.

Bringing connectivity via community networks. Photo: KICTANet

WACC works in partnership with KICTANet and other communication rights and sustainable development organizations worldwide through its Communication for All Program (CAP), with support from Bread for the World-Germany.