“We cry ourselves to sleep” –the plight of the adolescent girl during COVID 19

Walking through the shanty houses one cannot but wonder if those in informal settlements are safe from this pandemic.  With the rising gender based violence and street harassment are the girls safe in this squalid neighborhood that is already straining from the stark poverty?

What measures is the government taking to prevent sexual harassment and violence affecting our girls and women with disability in informal settlements?. Achieng responded to this question during an awareness campaign on COVID 19 held in the slum by Polycom Development.

She says, “We are not able to learn well from home. There are a lot of distractions from outside from neighbors and little children playing”. She continues to say that sanitation is a big challenge. They cannot access tap water but can only hope for rain. “Our parents are jobless, we don’t have food, we sometimes cry ourselves to sleep when my parents don’t get anything for our empty stomachs and sometimes we shut our ears as our parents bicker about the whole night. This has often led to violence metted on my mother”.

“This for me is so painful”. She says amidst sobs. “I wish COVID 19 never traced its way to Africa”.


We have to Eat #DignifiedResponse to women and girls living in informal settlements

Polycom Development Project has been at the forefront to ensure women and girls in Kibera do not suffer due to the COVID 19 pandemic. It is surprising to note that food is distributed but majority of the marginalized women are finding this exercise difficult. Take for instance, Stella a thirteen year old girl living with her parents in the sprawling Kibera slums.

Life here has been unbearable and the pandemic has made the situation worse.  From a household that earns two dollars a day, the disease has rendered them hunger stricken. Food was cheaper but with restricted movement, this has affected their income. They as a family have to eat one meal a day.  With a desperate look drawn on her face, Stella has nothing more to say but ask the Government to consider giving them stipends instead of daily cuing up for food.

This is a difficult period for the household of four. If they are caught without masks, they are arrested; if they are caught outside during curfew they are arrested. “What can we do”? She asks amidst sobs. She continues, “We have to eat’.

#DignifiedResponse to women and girls living in informal settlements



Anyango (not her real name) lives in Kibera slums with her five siblings and an ailing mother. Anyango, the first born in her family has done odd jobs for a while now in-order to help the family put food on the table and also stay afloat despite the looming poverty. Hers is a case of living from hand to mouth.

On a daily basis she earns 2 dollars a day from her door to door laundry commonly referred to as ‘mama fua’. The 2 dollars affords her and family dinner for the day and breakfast for the following day. This has been the trend over the years. With the looming medical crisis, Anyango is wondering how she and her family will survive. How will her siblings eat and will she be able to take her mother to the most affordable healthcare within the slums? Most of the food kiosks around Kibera have been closed raising the prices of food in the slum.

Most households she has been visiting to do daily laundry have turned her back, the Government has introduced a curfew, she also needs to wash her hands regularly and use a hand sanitizer daily. Hand sanitizers are an expensive commodity for Anyango who cannot afford three meals a day, to her this is not a priority.

What will Anyango do if the Government declares a lockdown? Amid her sobs, she can only call to God for supernatural help.Anyango’s case represents just one case in over a million persons living in Kibera.

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Polycom Initiative to Curb Spread of covis-19 At Kibera

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Polycom Initiative to Curb Spread of covis-19 At Kibera


As the world grapples with the fight against Covid 19, Polycom Development Project has joined the fight at a community   level.  The current population in Kibera slums presents a looming danger for the locals should the pandemic strike the slum. According to the Ministry of Health in Kenya, as of March 30th Kenya has 50 confirmed cases with one death and over 2050 cases still yet to be tested and are under mandatory quarantine.

Polycom Development Project has stepped in to help the community. The Organization in its awareness creation set up a hand washing station outside the office. In this the Organization was able to educate a sample of the population on proper hand washing techniques as well as observing social distance among other World Health Organization directives.

The community Area Chief has placed an embargo on all the kiosk owners to have hand washing points in-front of their shops or face closure. It is however sad that most children are seen roaming around the slum oblivious of the dangers. Water a scarce commodity has presented a hug risk for the locals as social distancing and hygiene are not adhered to at the water collecting points. This is a race against time.

Join our course in any way as we stem the spread of Covid 19 among our people


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Nelly (Not her real name) is worried, she has missed her periods for 3 months, and is experiencing morning sickness. She is very worried, she is a candidate preparing to sit for her KCPE, she doesn’t; know what to do. She is dull, sleeps in class, pick up fights easily, something is very wrong. She is reported to the Ambassadors, who take their time to privately find out what is wrong with her, they start stressing on the need to boxshare worries through the Talking Boxes. Nelly is approached and requested to share whatever her problems is through the Talking Boxes. The mentors are alerted that something isn’t right with one of the girls and they should come for a GPENDE Assembly so the girls are reminded that they don’t have to keep their problems but share on paper. They girls have not revealed who their target girl is, the mentors hit the road to this particular school.

Contents are collected on the 2nd day and there is one reading “how can you know if you are pregnant?”. The mentors have to go back to school for content response, they are addressing pregnancy, how people become pregnant and the signs. The Ambassadors are convinced that Nelly is pregnant, Nelly is also convinced that she is pregnant. The Ambassadors decide to take it head on, they are their sister’s keeper. The approach is super, I am smiling as the ambassadors narrate how they approached Nelly. “Kindly tell us what your problem is, we are the only people who can help you without judging you. Whatever the problem we can solve it at Polycom without letting anyone know. You know Hilda (The Mentor in charge of the school) is our friend and we agreed that we cannot hide anything from her. We suspect that you are pregnant.” Nelly has been corners, so she admits her fears. They agree to come to Polycom and talk to Hilda to advise.

The girls report to their Patron (teacher in charge of Polycom programs) that they have an emergency and must rush to Polycom. They cannot be stopped, many teachers associate such emergencies with abrupt periods so they never stop them. When the girls get to the office they approach Hilda who gives them an appointment to come back the following day with Nelly. Hilda is taking her time to discuss with the resident Counsellor on what to do. The girls have to sneak out this time around, they cannot request to go to Polycom again and be allowed. They received pads yesterday and cannot have any further emergency.

Hilda is ready with the Counsellor to sit with Nelly as they rest of the Ambassadors continue with their usual Girls Talk with Hilda shortly and then leave back to school. The girls will come back for Nelly at 3:00 p.m. After intensive session, Nelly is taken to the clinic for test by Everlyne, a Polycom Volunteer. She is ready to confront her fears after the counselling session.

Nelly has a boyfriend who is a boda boda rider, they have been having unprotected sex for over 6 months, note, at times he uses protection at times he doesn’t. She has been having morning sickness and even vomited that morning. She is always tired and sleeping, so all the signs are there, she is pregnant. The nurse is prepared ahead of time, we want our girl to be handled in a special way, she must be encouraged and supported whether her result is positive or negative.

And good news, Nelly is not pregnant! She jumps and hugs Everlyne, and has hope and joy written all over her face. A sigh of relief for Nelly.

Now our work as Polycom begins:-

  • We must make sure that Nelly is supported to do her examination
  • We must walk with Nelly to understand the importance of her education and the need to make it a priority.
  • We must upskill her understanding of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights.
  • We must encourage the girls to use the Talking Boxes more
  • More GPENDE Assemblies are needed to encourage to use the Talking Boxes.


Story By

Anyango Jane

Founding Director

Polycom Development Project


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