Forging gender parity in low-income communities

Forging gender parity in low-income communities

Most women in low-income communities are still excluded from many projects aimed to bring about economic, social and political change. In 2017, the World Economic Forum published that the global gender gap will take about 200 years to close at the current rate of progress. Fostering  gender equality, not only benefits women but the community and the world at large. Women make up 54% of the urban population globally, usually have primary responsibility for child rearing (especially in the global south), and make up 35% of the workforce in sub-Saharan Africa. More resources need to be invested in women to bring about sustainable change.

Somo, has been partnering with female led  enterprises being built out of low-income communities since 2016.  We have developed specific programs focuses on the women we work with.  We hold discussion seminars to discuss the issues they are facing and confidence trainings.  

Apart from initiating programs, we have dedicated ourselves to  partnering with businesses that give women a conducive environment to be in charge of their lives. We are partnering with women entrepreneurs whose businesses enable women to search for and secure employment. Two examples are WeeCare and El-Elyon daycare, a daycare in Kibera and Githurai respectively. $15 a month or $0.5 a day).

Leo, founder of  El-Elyon seeing the need for affordable educational toys, created stuffed letters and animals to help children learn. Caro founded WeeCare to teach early childhood education and educate young mothers on the importance speaking and reading to their kids early.  Carol works with multiple women’s groups to help them implement educational activities with their kids into their hectic schedules.

Another example is Afriknit dolls, a business that give the African Women an opportunity to give their children an identity from childhood through african themed affordable dolls.  Susan, a trained tailor and fabric technician, and her partner, Meshack, created Afriknit Dolls to address the lack of African-inspired dolls available in Nairobi. By using fabric waste from local tailors, they are able to create a sustainable and affordable product. With the business they train and employ vulnerable youth in the production of their dolls.

We partner with entrepreneurs that give women a safer way for women in Kibera to access healthy foods such as Twalalishe farm in Kibera.   Twalalishe not only provides food but facilitates training on the same). With all of our businesses we help them create a platform that can successfully hire female employees. Both Mwangaza Candles and Bounty Nut, candle and peanut butter businesses in Mathare focus on providing single mothers in Mathare with employment.


Wee Care, providing affordable and quality childcare in Kibera.

Wee Care, providing affordable and quality childcare in Kibera.

Affordable childcare is a necessity in urban slums such as Kibera because most parents need to work difficult hours to be able to provide basic needs for their families. Many parents in these areas are working casual jobs, though, and so struggle to afford the existing daycare options.  Lack of affordable daycare has held mothers back in the recent years and forced them to stay at home. Single mothers have opted for any available childcare they can afford regardless of the services provided.

Carol, who went through Somo’s  pilot, studied Early Childhood Education and saw the need to start an affordable, high-quality daycare. WeeCare was started to provide high-quality daycare to enable parents in Kibera work while their children received a strong start towards their education.

WeeCare receives a minimum of 25 children in a day and has 3 employees. Parents, drop off their children as early as 7 am and pick them up as late as 7 pm-- allowing flexible, long working hours. WeeCare daycare package includes Early Childhood Education, healthy balanced meals and a comfortable warm nap in between. WeeCare takes in all children regardless of their age. The charge is Ksh 50 (50 cents) half a day and Ksh 100 ($1) for a full day, subsidized for the community members to be able to afford it. There is a monthly charge of Ksh 1500 ($15) highly preferred by most parents.

WeeCare’s long-term goal is to start a preschool and kindergarten. Carol hopes this will be possible as 2019 kicks off since most parents prefer if their children would start off their education at WeeCare and will want to continue with her services.

Our new Hub launch and the community prospects

Our new Hub launch and the community prospects

In Korogocho the  community is eagerly awaiting the launch of our new Hub! The new Hub will allow us to develop new partnerships and improve our current ones in the Eastlands area of Nairobi. These partnerships will bring sustainability through impact oriented business ventures, reaching a large and diverse community.

We are launching the Hub at the Korogocho resource center, central to a large market where there is a lot of business activity.The resource center has been of great avail to the community because it acts as a meeting point between the community and different organizations.   Somo will add an incubation program, entailing entrepreneurship training, a mentorship program and community building initiatives to the area.

We are engaging different community members to help in carrying out outreach in the community.   Maureen, a member of the resource center for five years, is exhilarated to work proximate to Somo and has expressed the community's prospects: "We hope that the Somo project will impact our community positively. And that many will benefit from the project." She says that the community is looking forward having Somo there to help launch more enterprises in the area.

Florence, a businesswoman in Korogocho market, has started to sell of our entrepreneurs' goods through the Pop Up Shop says that she has a great hope that Somo will focus to empower mainly women and the youth. Evans, who works at the resource center, also hopes for a change in the underserved population as target groups in enforcing change.

Our new Hub provides a space, for our already graduated entrepreneurs that live closer to Korogocho hence providing both the team and our entrepreneurs an environment suitable in the scaling up of the businesses by providing access to the fast internet; needed for marketing and reporting.

We look forward to launching our hub and providing opportunities and growth in the underserved population of Korogocho.




"If you are from a slum in Kenya, the holidays have a way of reminding you that you are underserved.” A woman called Loice from Korogocho, the place we are setting up our 2nd Hub, tells me. In Nairobi’s low-income communities, where charity rather than investment is the norm and severe access and inequities exist, low-income communities become extremely marginalized. December is the season for giving and gifting, and we ask that this season you help us double our impact for next year!

Somo partners with local entrepreneurs to help them build self-sustaining, high-impact businesses. Our current program includes a rigorous business plan workshop, a 12-week MBA Bootcamp and an advisory program offering professional mentorship. Somo then builds long-term advising relationships with the graduates and offers early-stage grant equity and later-stage growth capital to qualifying entrepreneurs. We have created two co-working hubs for our entrepreneurs, and we help them expand their market access with shops and delivery services. Businesses include an organic urban farm, a computer programming school, a renewable briquettes manufacturer, Kenyan inspired recycled dolls, honey, peanut butter, and candles.

We have the power to help these communities-- instead of ephemeral gifts we give people the tools they need to change their communities from within.

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Teaching web design for a better future

Teaching web design for a better future

Elkanah is a web designer from Kawangware, one of the informal settlements in Nairobi. In 2016, he started DoubleServe to train youth in web design, helping them  acquire necessary skills to find jobs. Elkanah grew up living in an informal settlement in Kericho. After finishing high school in 2006, he decided to come to Nairobi to look for a job, a feit he found much more difficult than expected. He then joined college studying IT but wasn't able to finish school because he didn't have enough money for the school fees. After working in several odd jobs, he was able to join college again since he earned money as a web designer, which allowed him to pay for his school fees. Because of his own experience, Elkanah is passionate about training youth from the informal settlements to help them identify their passion and improve their personal situation. DoubleServe is not only a place where youth learns more about IT and web design but also a place they can receive mentorship, coaching and personal development.

At the moment, eleven students are being trained at DoubleServe on a daily basis. As a first step, they are trained in MS Office before moving to a more specialised program about web design. Currently there are eight students who joined the second part of the program. For his students to get practical practice, Elkanah is engaging with companies to acquire them as clients for DoubleServe. For the ones who stop after the basic training, Elkanah tries to connect them with companies which are more suitable for them. The main challenge DoubleServe faces at the moment is the consistency of the students since the training is free of charge for them. He is creating a model whereby his students learn the web design skills for free but then join his company and work off the training costs through lower salaries when starting.

Elkanah was part of Somo’s Cohort 4. He especially benefitted  from the financial management training and how to plan and track daily business activities. After finishing the training at Somo, DoubleServe got officially licensed as a business. At the moment Elkanah is providing the training in Kibera but he wishes to open a branch in his home area of Kawangware at the beginning of 2018. In three years, he envisions DoubleServe as an established company for web design and youth training and mentorship at the same time.