Imarisha Jamii, AVSI Kenya’s latest project in urban refugee communities, is a compound of two Swahili words: Imarisha (strengthen) and Jamii (community). The project seeks to enhance the social and economic resilience of extremely poor adolescent girls and young women in urban refugee and host communities in Nairobi.
For over 30 years, AVSI Kenya has served vulnerable communities, implementing projects in education, school construction, vocational training, child protection and family economic strengthening for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC); projects in health, including HIV/AIDS; and in business development. AVSI in Kenya partners with several local organizations in the capital of Nairobi, rural villages, and refugee camps.
Kenya is currently host to some 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers of which 65,000 live in informal settlements in Nairobi and its surroundings, Mombasa and Nakuru. Most of the refugees come from Somalia, Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Sudan. Refugees in urban settings are among the most vulnerable in the region and women are often sent ahead without male partners and, thus, must assume the role of head-of-household. Urban refugee adolescent girls and young women face many challenges, including abuse, poor education and high levels of poverty arising from lack of skills which block entry into the labor market.
With funding from UNFCU Foundation, AVSI supports 250 adolescent girls and young women (13-35 years old) in urban refugee communities as they build a path out of extreme poverty by engaging in business skills training and income generating activities. Market-viable lines of business include dress-making, bakery, cookery, detergent making, tie and dye. In addition to financial literacy training, candidates are helped to set up Community Savings and Loans Associations (CSLAs) to pool resources and start-up microbusinesses. AVSI staff provides technical assistance to administer savings groups, ensuring that financial objectives are contributing to the goal of graduation. The women involved have also access to psychosocial services, including parenting and life skills.