#DignifiedUrbanLife Youth Summit: Intergenerational Dialogue and Music Unite to Fight Inequality

As the world marks the third anniversary of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to come together and make sense of what happened and what we can learn from the experience.

SDI and Know Your City TV’s Youth Summit is bringing together youth and elders from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa to create a federation song for the #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign, which is set to launch this Friday the 31st of March.

This campaign aims to be a powerful platform for change and progress, providing a unique opportunity for different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences.

SDI and Know Your City TV’s Youth Summit

The SDI and Know Your City TV‘s Youth Summit seeks to bring together youth and elders to create a federation song for the #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign. This campaign is a response to the immense challenges exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly for youth living in informal settlements. Through the summit, the aim is to mobilise groups of women and young people to create a federation song, utilising the age-old medium of song to transmit knowledge and values.

#DignifiedUrbanLife Campaign

The federation song is a unique opportunity to bring together different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences. Through intergenerational dialogue, young people can learn from the wisdom and experience of the older generation, while the older generation can learn from the creativity and enthusiasm of youth. By combining the two perspectives, we aim to create a powerful platform for change and progress. The federation song is a unique opportunity for bringing together different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences. By coming together and collaborating, we can create a song that is both inspirational and motivating. It can be used to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people living in slums, while also providing a platform to inspire and empower them to come together and find sustainable solutions to the problems they face.

Our Workplan

The #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign includes a step-by-step guide for community mobilisation and communications strategy. Our Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa affiliates appointed youth groups with experience in music production to lead the campaign. The steps include intergenerational dialogue, choir recording, youth remix, international collaboration and coordination, distribution, and monitoring, evaluation and outreach.

International Collaboration and Coordination

A small team from each country join us in Cape Town at the SDI Secretariat, bringing audio stems and demo along with behind-the-scenes videos, archive video, images, and documentation for a one-week hack-a-thon. At the hack-a-Thon, they will develop a targeted audience campaign strategy, coordinated media products, a policy shift strategy and plan of action, and a monitoring and evaluation framework.


Once the song, media products, and policy strategy have been developed, the next step is to promote and distribute them. This includes launching social media campaigns, creating music videos or other visuals to accompany the song, and distributing materials to the target groups.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Outreach

The final step is to monitor and evaluate the success of the campaign. This wil include tracking the reach of the campaign, as well as measuring the impact it has had on the target groups. We aim to do this through surveys, interviews, or other methods.

The #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign is an inspiring example of the power of intergenerational dialogue and music production to fight inequality. It provides a platform for different generations to come together and share knowledge, ideas and experiences, while also creating a powerful platform for change and progress.

This Friday the 31st of March marks the launch of this exciting campaign, and it is sure to be an inspiring event.

Media Making an Impact: #ChangeOurPicture

Originally published on urbanet, SDI presents the work of youth slum dwellers across the SDI network linked to documenting issues linked to resilience, livelihoods and housing.

A photo competition called for urban residents in African countries to portray how they use media to change the narrative on their environment. Slum Dwellers International presents some beautiful results of the #ChangeOurPicture competition.

The CoHabitat Network in partnership with Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and The Bartlett Development Planning Unit announced a photo competition for urban citizens across Africa, aimed at documenting how they make media to make change.

Presented with a theme and using a cell phone camera, the competition portrays the innovative ways in which communities document their history as well as the histories of how homes and cities are built. Communication through media thus becomes instrumental to approaches to development and social change.

The power of grassroots movements is reflected in the structure of the competition: “Federations” from informal settlements organise around collective goals they identify. Having agreed on the need of a platform for creative storytellers to document their lives, the Federations, in partnership with the CoHabitat Network, initiated the competition.

Own Your Narratives

“Nothing for us, without us” is a slogan of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) across the SDI network. This slogan serves as a reminder that grassroots must remain at the forefront of planning and that it is essential for residents to own the narratives that emerge from their communities.

Informal settlements are hubs of resilience and innovation. When media emerges as a key mode of communication, it highlights the dynamic lives of those living in informal settlements, constituting an opportunity to shift the conversation.

All across Africa, people are building their cities and are documenting the social production of habitat. Documentation –for example through photography – recognises these processes as meaningful, thus acknowledging these people’s actions as contributions to society.

Pictures Telling Stories

To make media to make change, it is essential to recognise the power media has across languages and cultures. As a photography competition relying on cell phones, #ChangeOurPicture is open to anyone, including those living in informal settlements, across Africa. Photos serve as a tool of storytelling; they capture informal spaces as spaces full of innovation and resilience.


Small teams across Africa submitted photographs with captions that were taken with cell phones. They focus on themes that speak to the varied landscapes and most pertinent issues of those living informally. These captions serve as snapshots of a larger story of their lives, challenges, and their perseverance within urban slum environments.

In order to encourage diversity of submissions, when the competition was first announced, there was no theme. The process of establishing themes emerged from a consultative process with youth media makers from across the SDI network. The below photographs are a sampling of the submissions – and of the immense talent of media makers across Africa, narrating the beauty and the pain of life within informal settlements.

They say my neighborhood is informal but we have the joy of life. Despite the determination of the defenders, our goal scorer keeps his cool.
Federation in Burkina Faso

Money & Livelihoods

I’ve always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success…… You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.. © Bernadett Nkhoma, Federation in Zambia


Before the cock go wake up, every soul and spirit don wake up de look 4 wetin to chop up and down. Na wetin go make you real hustler for lag nai be that oo, as Dem de talk am, no food for lazy man. We no go give up becos say pepper never red. Last last we go de alright.
© Nasu Abdulaziz, Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federation

Courage & Heroism

“As a young producer, I want to put a smile on someone’s face with my work through storytelling. What keeps me going is the people, their story and self motivation. My favorite quote, “Life is a battlefield, don’t rest until you win the battle.” – Nasu Abdulaziz
© Shawn Okechukwu Samuel, Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federation

All submissions to the #ChangeOurPicture competition can be viewed here.

Slums Made Better Together: Impact and Continued Learning

With innovative media being published by grassroots communities, this competition seeks to continue learning and encourage this type of knowledge dissemination.

A selection committee working on civic urban media will engage those with the most creative photography, identifying the finalists that will move forward in the competition process. The grand prize to be won in this competition is the opportunity to participate in an exchange with other media makers from across the continent. The finalists will receive the training and the resources needed to develop their photo series into a documentary.

The work will continue to be shared with partners and stakeholders around the world, as a traveling exhibition that engages the world with pertinent issues such as climate, informal slum upgrading, livelihoods – and the shared, social production of communities.

Announcing #ChangeOurPicture Cell Phone Photography Competition


This is a cellphone photography competition open to anyone who lives in an informal settlement in Africa. When you search for images of slums on social media what do you see? Dirt, despair, desperation? Informal settlements are alive with possibilities and places of great resilience and innovation. To enter and for more information click below!

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Kenya Youth Documenters’ First Blog Posts


  1. “The Floating Slum” by Eva Muchiri
  2. “Potato Riots” by Asha Ali
  3. “Giving Hope to Hopeless” by Milka Njeri
  4. “Crime in Mathare” by Kate Wanjiru
  5. “A Small Heaven or Hell?” by Mary Munyiva
  6. “A Call to All Young Mothers” by Sophia Khamis
  7. “Just a Call” by Peris Saleh
  8. “Eviction Mirror!” by Peris Saleh


By Eva Muchiri, Mathare-Bondeni

Rains seem to have awakened a certain migratory instinct in residents of Mathare. The state of total disorder has been on full display in the past couple of months as the rains pounded the slum especially after roars of flooding with sheer ruthlessness. Just as the saying goes, rain is a blessing but too much of it in this part of the capital; the aftermath shifts the other side of the cursed coin.

The area is always brushed off its glittering shinny silver lining of iron sheet houses leaving a trail of regrets and builderness of starting a new life. These are the times the residents wish the water would flow backward only for them to have a moment to collect any little thing that would ignite their hope of living.

The recent floods were never to be under estimated as they left a memory of the first day of creation. Nothing firm was left standing, not even the Bondeni rocks that were last shaken by the El-nino back in the years. Everything was left aligned to the force of gravity. It was not the first incident, but this time the incident coincidentally left a line of hope from the well wishers from the other side of life bringing forth anything appropriate to give a kick start to the mortals of the survivor series.

The problem with this side of the country is proportional to the natural catastrophe that comes as a result of geographical sloppiness of the region. The effects of the resulting flooding not only exposed fear among the residents who often bear the brunt of such a sudden deluge. People were trapped in houses for long hours as they waited for the rain to subside. Streams and waterways were submerged in knee-deep flood waters. Young children and short people were forced to pay so as to be carried and brought to the other side. The challenges faced by the residents are lack of infrastructure, poor drainage and lack of services for the poor.

As water levels rose outside, houses, shops and recreations centers began leaking inside their premises, and also sweeping away everything not sparing the wooden bridge. Some of the resident who live near the river were left homeless after their houses were swept away by the raging water, carrying with it goats and cows of a big business man called wachira in the slum who supplies the residents with the milk. Drunkards became sober and tried their very best to reach their homes as soon as the rain subsided. A couple of residents found themselves floating on water as if they were in a Jacuzzi while a sleep, they had to be rescued by some youths and taken to nearby clinics for check up. Through the Nairobi City profile done by Muungano in the year 2013, communal recommendation of slum improvement have been made by the National Youth Service works has slowly improved drainage systems which has reduced calamities like easy passage of water in streams and waterways.

It is said that slum dwellers would rather be rained on than close their daily business or lose money. It’s never advisable for people to find shelter near water masses, due to rapid rains that cause flooding and the rivers break their banks. Poor drainage can cause a lot of harm to people when the sewer lines block because of the muddy water. The chaos that results from the residents is like wildebeests crossing the Mara river that would be comical; were it not punishing in the unusual manner. It’s very sad watching your property being swept away by the heavy rains and there is nothing that can be done to at least save anything. The Muungano federation introduced farming methods to the residents which transformed them to farmers in the land near the river bank. This has helped in the reduction of flooding cases. The farm products harvested are always sold to the villagers at a fair price compared the normal market. The farm has also been a site for agricultural studies to nearby educational centers.


By Asha Ali, Machakos

Since the devolved system of county governance, Machakos has been one of the best performing counties in Kenya. However, it had its own fain share of challenges. In one morning of December 2014 as I was strolling by, in my own mental shadows walking with me, I heard some funny noises. Funny being it was both attractively curious, yet potentially harmful to my well being. Well being, meaning my current state of sanity.

Shouts, grunts, babblings, amongst other assorted rabbled noise, was what I heard from the market, with the usual haggling going on, but with a more civil-disoriented chaos. I saw, in my comical disbelief, sacks of potatoes sprawled all over the market floor, spilling their contents all over. Knowing that this must be a rejection action towards some government initiated scheme/plan which wasn’t confirmatory to the citizenry; I stood to watch the debacle, from a far distance all the same. These events usually turn out to be violent in the culminating stages of order in chaos, often witnessed during market days.

But to my shock, it wasn’t the sellers who were throwing their money away; it was the county inspectorate ‘officers’ who were actually destroying food, sustenance for mankind. All this for what: just because the said potatoes were not meant to be sold in 90kg quantity, in whatever measurements that they were meted in, by small number of retailers. The market was exclusively meant for wholesale only. This was from a by-law, enacted by the hoodlums who like to be referred to as ‘Honorable’, otherwise known as MCAs, in order to generate ‘more revenue’, by denying retailers access to the larger portion of the town market. As ludicrous as it seems, it had taken full effect, and the county council was intent on maintaining the ghastly law, even to violent endings.

In retaliation, the retailers did the natural thing that any gruntled mwanainchi did; teach the council askaris a thing or two about mixing business and its disruption. Which scholars have duly labeled it rioting, in effect made legal retaliation a necessity, considering the retailers decide NOT to use any weapons except their own hands. Maybe in their reasoning, they would be spared the usual dose of the dreaded rungus, the usual batons and the occasional pleasures of kicks and blows. One trader, Mrs. Amina Ali said, “It is unfortunate that the county government is introducing policies that are detrimental to hardworking through violence.” Well, the whole event turned out pretty docile than expected. None was actually hurt, with the chairman and two loud mouths being arrested and taken to the cooler for some ‘debriefing’. Was it a lenient path of containing civil strife, or just the basic and sudden lapse of sensible thinking for the citizenry, will never be known but that was a change in the right direction, with regards to handling civil strife in a humane way? But all ended quite amicably.

The Chairman, Mr. Isaac Mutua, and his two accomplices were arraigned in court and subsequently charged with incitement, that being a tap on the wrist, considering what was initially ‘arranged’ for them. Grateful they were, as they should have been, the whole affair taught me something.

Leniency is a trait most county governments have to embrace to if to have a peaceful and harmonious co-existence with the citizenry. The effect should recommend to the highest authority in the land. Unnecessary humiliation and injury to man is not the way to handle internal disputes and grievances. We are not back in the stone age when all was needed to quell a mob was a whack to the head and the unlawful detention of a few, and everything was back to normal. The population of today is craftier, more tenacious, and to a logic-defying extreme, more violent, if need be.

This approach will enhance human relations. The elite and the governed will have a patriotic sense of togetherness. Just like any household, all disputes are settled amicably. Through muungano wa wanavijiji , has written a petition to the county government of Machakos to come up with a standard potato  weights that will go a long way in addressing such potatoes wars.


By Milkah Njeri, Huruma

Huruma is located in northeast of Nairobi the capital of Kenya. I got an opportunity to visit a Muungano affiliated group in Huruma Kambi Moto settlement Mathare constituency.

H-town is a group of young girls and teenage mothers; it was started by two members in 2014 due to the high rate of gender based violence in the area, after mobilizing other members it was officially registered in the same year of July 2014, currently the group has fifteen registered members.

Gender based violence has been serious issue in Huruma settlement; this group is among other community based groups which is trying to address gender based violence in informal settlements.

I spoke to Anne Njeri, a mentor and a founder member of H-town group, “As we grew up gender based violence has been a way of life among young women, but we as h-town we would like to change this belief and help reduce cases of rape and violence women.”

In a recent event, one of their members was arrested, taken to court and jailed. She is currently serving a jail term at the Langata women prison for accidentally murdering her boyfriend whom it is alleged wanted to rape her.

Through the support Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Kambi moto saving scheme the group has strengthen its savings and loaning capacity .H-town is the leading model within Huruma in curbing incidences of sexual violence against young women.

Some of the impacts demonstrated by H-town include; some members have been sponsored to attend specialized courses such as driving, home economics, mentorship among others.

The group is currently offering trainings to young girls and women and through settlement campaigns that aim at decreasing cases of social violence among the Huruma community and is a model that can be replicated to other informal settlements.


By Kate Wanjiru, Mathare

Mathare is the second largest slum in Kenya after Kibera with approximately 73.3 hectares with an estimated population of 400,000 people who live in 13 villages; its just a few minutes’ drive away from the city centre. Mathare is home to some of the toughest criminal gangs in Nairobi whereby many youths steal and engage in crime to make a living.

Mathare has been greatly affected by insecurity mainly perpetrated by the youths in  a place known as Huruma in Kiamaiko. The youths of Mathare were influenced by the youths from Huruma  who have  introduced them to access cheap guns – mostly homemade guns.

In 2000 many youths reportedly joined street gangs and they would terrorize people in the community especially in Mathare no. 10 area, this incidences became too much and the community decided to take action by demonstrating  at  a nearby police station.

Many youths have lost their lives. In one year fifty youths were killed, but it was so painful to see the police shooting because they would find the youths holding illegal assembly  eg ‘base’ and ask them to kneel down and start shooting in front of their parents and the community. This was torture because before they killed them they would beat them up.

The youths of Mathare transformed after the introduction of jobs by the government for the youths ‘kazi kwa vijana’ and through educational seminars. In my hood, Bondeni there are many youths that have transformed. I got a chance to interview Kim who told me, ‘‘I was one of worst criminals,  I used to recruit young youths and taught them how to use guns and stealing from people especially hijacking cars but thanks God because I have now changed’’. Kim is now working with nongovernmental organizations like Muungano wa Bondeni to help other youths change. Kim is working in one of the Muungano developed toilets projects and saves like other members.


By Mary Munyiva 

Sometimes life seems to be hopeless when someone lives in a slum. But on the other hand “A VILLAGE OF HAPPINESS“ is part of a settlement in Kahawa Soweto. Most of the people here are ever drunkard, drug addicts, and commercial sex workers among others. Marital status contract is just for the next few seconds.

This was named so because everything you want is available such as alcohol, any kind of food you need and more so sex desire.

It has deteriorated health factor in the fact that most people are infected with HIV/TB yet they transmit it day and night. Their physical appearance looks as if they are age mates of the first president of Kenya and the most challenging factor is death almost every month.

It really paid a lot of attention to the entire community whereby a parent remains a parent. Most of their income is pickpocketing especially during the night but among them there graduates  ‘Of KUPIKA CHANGA’A’ funny enough they have been surviving with ‘TWAKS’ [pig intestines] of which

We are not sure of their health degree, when they are being cooked they do produce that sound of TWA TWA TWA that’s why they were named after that. Unfortunately, it was terminated from the source company through political influence, a neighbor MCA went to the company had the conversation which was held terminated the TWAKS.. Their lives changed since they were taking alcohol without eating.

With the effort of federation members and the community as a whole, there was a group which was mobilized called ’KAA SOBER’ and also they do contributions every Sunday of twenty shillings each and after that they go back to their normal life. We were able to join efforts with stakeholders like NACADA, SWOP among others so as to have a future generation.


By Sophia Khamis, Machakos

Often people think success comes because of luck or exceptional talent though it might be true for some but most successful people will tell you that the reason they are there it’s through persistence and burning desire to do something extra ordinary. Well this how mine all started.

Being a young mother from slums having left college early and having no experience in anything it was quite a challenge to start something up! I was in this saving scheme in Mjini Machakos having being forced by my mum to join, I not seeing any significance in it. I can vividly recall this certain date like two years ago there were visitors in our group/ chama known as Muungano wa Wanavijiji they targeted young mothers, well after some processes was one of  the lucky seven girls chosen from Machakos county, and 60 young women from 7 counties in Kenya.

We underwent trainings having a little baby “champ” it was quite a challenge but I couldn’t give up for anything because I could see it was something beneficial to me. Well I remember this one time we went through a training in Nakuru for four days after it all we were given 100/=for motorbike.

All I can do is laugh about this. It was quite a show people were mad and that is where some gave up but not for me and a few others because we had benefited and could see light in it. We started mentorship on entrepreneurship and politics, I chose entrepreneurship! It was both local and international mentorship. I remember my mentor from Australia Hanna Carlson she inspired me a lot gave me inspirational books to read! Shared life stories this made me feel so empowered as a young woman.

I took a loan from my group and started small business selling beauty products something I love doing, and today my business is my testimony.  So to all young mothers out there life isn’t going to change by knocking your heels together change starts from us! Don’t give up there is hope out there no body said its going to be easy but believe me when I say there is something for everyone you got to work for it.


By Peris Saleh, Mukuru

It’s better knowing something than ignoring it. This is know me I never wanted to be engaged in community activities or even wanted to know community affairs and how they run. I used to just sit at home watch television and that was my daily routine come rain or sunshine just day after day.

One day as I was seated on my door step I saw many people passing going to the same direction ,then one big woman came over to me and introduced herself as Doris. She asked me “Why are you seated on the door while other youths are going to the chief’s place for a meeting?” But I answered  am not interested in any meeting or knowing what people are going to do there. She asked me again “Are u in any youth group?” and I said no.

Doris was very kind to me that she started explaining to me the benefits of being in a youth group. “Its good for a youth like you to involve yourself in community work through the help of a youth group and that’s gives you the prospect of knowing what’s going on in the society. Being in a youth group helps one a lot first by keeping you busy due to the activities they are being done in the group and also you can learn a lot of things from your fellow youths.” I saw that was powerful  indeed and I needed to try this. She decided to help me to look for a group and introduced me into it.

The biggest thing of all she also introduced me to an organisation called MUUNGANO and there I learned a lot of things like: SAVINGS, DATA ENTRIES and know we are being thought on DOCUMENTATION. I really thank Doris for the empowerment she gave me not even forgetting the federation team for accepting me to work with them.

Truly an attitude can change once. Come all youth and join me in this wonderful journey of success.


By Peris Saleh, Mukuru

“We are not going anywhere! We are not going anywhere!  This is our land! This is where we were born and grew up! There is no place we are going!”


“My fellow people…”

“ YESSS!!!”

“My fellow youths…”


“Tell those who are asleep to wake up all the children, to make as much noise as they can! We don’t recognise those people! Who are they?

“Please don’t demolish our houses!”


“Don’t destroy! Have mercy on us.”

“You must go! Chirongo must go! Let’s join hands as a community to prevent this Caterpillar from destroying our houses.” (All mothers to stand in front of the Caterpillar together with their children).

“Youths…” EEEE!!!!! (screams)

“Youths…” AAAAA!!!!!! (screams)

“Let’s go and lie down in front of the caterpillar to let it first pass on us before it reaches to our houses.” (We arrange ourselves and the caterpillar went away; it didn’t dare to step on anyone.)

After the protests, the private developers never came back again to claim the land. Mukuru kwa Reuben was safe for another day. Luckily the case didn’t just end on the ground. The federation took it to court. After almost three months of fighting, we were able to stop the evictions and demolition of our homes.  We may be a slum, but we have unity and togetherness. That’s how we people of Mukuru kwa Reuben fight for our land.

However, the threat of eviction is ever present. Currently, another case of land ownership is in court. One of the larger settlements in Nairobi, Mukuru sits on a mix of public and privately owned land. These landowners have never developed the land and are only recently claiming it, forcing the current residents of Mukuru out of their homes. Returning to court, the federation continues to fight. Today we still have not heard back from the courts, and no solution has been suggested for the current eviction threat. But we’ll keep fighting. Unity is strength and there is nothing better than being together as a community!