Activist and social entrepreneur, Kennedy Odede, has called on global leaders to involve local communities in urban transformation.
Speaking during an online seminar dubbed “Transforming Urban Poverty into Urban Promise” organized to mark World Cities Day, Odede said there is need to involve local communities and organisations to achieve true transformation because they have lived experience.
“Community owns the space. No matter how smart you are, you cannot transform that community without involving them,” says Odede, CEO and co-founder of Shining hope for Communities (SHOFCO)
While acknowledging that cities are places where everyone wants to live, Odede observes that there have been failed systems subsequently leading to poor living conditions and informal settlements in every city.
“City is a light. It attracts many people. I had much hope for a better life in the city, but that was never to be. For a city to be a city, it has to have human dignity but authorities have failed to support vulnerable people living in the informal settlements,” he said.
Odede cited SHOFCO’s partnership with the community and credits this relationship for making programmes in Kenyan slums successful.
“Our SHOFCO health clinics in Kibera and Mathare are the best in slums. Our services are anchored on three pillars; physical wellbeing, opportunity and dignity and selfworth,” he added.
Odede states that the clinics reached 103, 323 patients in 2019 with affordable and quality healthcare; he expects the numbers to grow by the end of this year.
SHOFCO is currently in 17 slums across Kenya and it has supported over 2.4 million people.
“We believe in community-led solutions. We have partners, but the community is the centre. It is easy to bring government, private sector and funders on board, but without the community support nothing can be achieved,” he reiterated.
Odede further states there is need to end injustice and inequality in the urban centres.
“During the current COVID-19 period, people are told to stay at home, observe social distance and wash their hands. But what happens to people living in slums in 10 by 10 rooms with no food?” He posed.
Odede also called on slum residents to embrace family planning methods so that they can have manageable families, promoting a better quality of life for individuals.
“Our partnership with The Challenge Initiative has seen many women embrace family planning methods. Religion has been a stumbling block to the family planning services, but I have engaged with pastors and imams who have been receptive on the need to have a manageable number of children especially in urban slums,” he conveys.