Kenya: Girls ‘living and working’ on rubbish dumps after Covid-linked school closures


The charity group Action Aid has warned that due to school closures in Kenya triggered by the global pandemic, school girls are trying to make a living on rubbish dumps in the country.

The leading global NGO which tackles poverty told The Independent, over 600,000 girls are estimated to be out of school in the country and most are living on a dumpsite in Mwakirunge carrying out “hazardous work” in the southeastern part of Kenya.

Dzame, who was only 13-years-old when she got pregnant and married, did not go to school as her parents could not afford to send her.

The 25-year-old said: “I was living with my parents then when they separated, I went to live with my grandmother on the dumpsite.

“I search for things on the dumpsite to sell here, so I can get money to buy flour. Then the next day I do the same.”

She spends her days gathering plastic bottles on the dumpsite which she then sells to make money to feed her young family. Dzame explained the work is dangerous as it sees her climb into dump trucks.

She explained she frequently obtains injuries when litter falls on her – such as recently when she was forced to go to hospital after a glass bottle cut her.

“When I climb onto a lorry to search for water bottles, sometimes I get cut,” Dzame added. “When rubbish is coming down the lorry. When I was cut by a glass bottle, I stayed here until my mother came. She gave me some money and I went to the hospital, where I was given a tetanus shot.”

Dzame said she does not know how to read or even write her own name, adding that she is eager to go to school to learn to.

She said: “If I were educated, I would help my mother. I would look for a job and my mother would remain here with her grandchildren and I would give them money for upkeep.”

Kath Blaize-Smith, head of public fundraising at ActionAid UK, noted a girl’s future earnings rise by 18 per cent for each year that she remains in secondary school.

“Period poverty, violence on the way to school, early pregnancy and climate change are some of barriers girls worldwide face in getting an education,” she told The Independent.

“But with a good education girls have the power to change their own futures and it is one of the most effective ways of making lasting change in the world’s poorest communities.”

The campaigner explained ActionAid supports women and girls struggling to subsist due to living in poverty in over 40 countries.

“This includes ActionAid-supported catch-up centres in Kenya, where 5,000 girls across the country are currently learning literacy and basic skills in vocations such as business, electronics, and tailoring, before moving on to formal education or further training,” MsBlaize-Smith added.

It comes after a troubling report, shared exclusively with The Independent, found half of girls are at risk of never returning to school in Africa and Asia in the wake of the coronavirus emergency.

The study, which polled 24,000 girls, warns families will prioritise pushing their daughters into marriage at a young age or making them do child labour over returning to education once schools can safely open up.

Room to Read, an organisation which helps children in low-income communities develop literacy skills that carried out the study, said teenage girls had already dropped out during the Covid-19 crisis and this was likely to be the direct result of economic hardship. (Source: Independent UK)