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The benefits and challenges of working in the informal sector as a young entrepreneur in Kenya


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International Girl Child Day, African Girl and Education

Girl Day is celebrated every year on October 11 as an opportunity to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by girls around the world, especially in Africa, and the importance of providing them with quality education. In this article, we explore the Day's importance in the context of education in Africa, the challenges faced by girls, and initiatives aimed at improving their access to education. Education is a human right and the basis of personal and social development. However, African girls often face many barriers that prevent them from accessing education. These issues may be cultural, economic or political, but they all contribute to gender inequality in education. Girls' Day provides an opportunity to address these issues and work for gender equality in education.One of the most important problems faced by girls in Africa is early marriage and pregnancy. Cultural norms in many African societies dictate that girls should marry at a young age, often forcing them to drop out of school. Additionally, the lack of comprehensive sex education can lead to unintended pregnancies, further hindering their educational progress. Initiatives that raise awareness about the importance of delaying marriage and pregnancy until after completing their education are crucial.Another major obstacle is poverty. Many families in Africa struggle to meet basic needs, and education can be costly due to expenses like uniforms, books, and transportation. Girls are often the first to be withdrawn from school when a family faces financial constraints. To address this issue, scholarships, school donation programs, and affordable school supplies can help reduce the financial burden on families and support girls' education.Additionally, especially in rural areas, the distance to school will prevent girls from going to school. Unsafe travel and long distances can put them at risk. Building more schools and providing transportation closer to communities could help solve this problem. In many African countries, boys are expected to be encouraged in education and girls are expected to work within the family. It is important to change these attitudes and promote the value of girls' education. Social awareness programs and inclusive education programs that challenge stereotypes can play a key role.Child labor is another problem affecting girls. Many girls have to work to support their families, leaving little time for education. Government policies and international organizations can work to eliminate child labor and ensure girls have the opportunity to go to school.Unfortunately, conflicts and conflict in many parts of Africa have disrupted education and made it difficult for girls to access education. Efforts to build peace and improve education in post-conflict regions are critical to providing girls with a stable and safe learning environment.One of the best ways to improve educational opportunities for girls in Africa is to support and train female teachers. Many female teachers can act as role models and make it easier for girls to stay in school by creating an inclusive environment.Investing in girls' education in Africa has many long-term benefits. It can break the cycle of poverty, improve women's health, and promote gender equality. Girls who receive an education are more likely to make informed decisions about their health, family, and career. They are also more likely to become financially independent and contribute to their communities and economies. Several organizations, both local and international, are actively working to improve the education of girls in Africa. Plan International, UNICEF, and the Malala Fund are just a few examples. They provide resources, advocacy, and support to ensure that girls have equal access to quality education.In conclusion, Girl Child Day serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by girls in Africa when it comes to education. The challenges they face are many and include cultural barriers, financial constraints, and gender stereotypes. But through a combination of advocacy, policy change, and organizational efforts, progress can be made to ensure that girls receive a quality education just like boys. Investing in girls' education is not only a human rights issue but also a key driver of economic growth in Africa. This is something worth celebrating and encouraging on Girls' Day and every day.

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The informal sector is a large and diverse part of the Kenyan economy that encompasses all jobs that are not recognized as normal income sources and on which taxes are not paid. According to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the informal sector employs over 80% of the Kenyan working population1. The informal sector includes activities such as street vending, car washing, motorcycle taxiing, tailoring, carpentry, hairdressing, and many others.

The informal sector offers many benefits for young entrepreneurs in Kenya who want to start or grow their own businesses. Some of these benefits are:

  • Low barriers to entry: The informal sector does not require high levels of education, skills, capital, or registration to operate. This makes it easier for young people to enter the market and offer their products or services to customers.
  • Flexibility and innovation: The informal sector allows young entrepreneurs to adapt to changing customer needs, market conditions, and personal circumstances. They can experiment with new ideas, products, or services without much risk or regulation. They can also adjust their working hours, locations, and prices according to their preferences and availability.
  • Income generation and poverty reduction: The informal sector provides a source of income for many young people who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. It also helps them to support their families and communities, and to contribute to the economic growth of the country.

However, working in the informal sector also poses many challenges for young entrepreneurs in Kenya. Some of these challenges are:

  • Lack of access to finance: The informal sector is often excluded from formal financial services such as banks, microfinance institutions, or mobile money platforms. This limits the ability of young entrepreneurs to access credit, savings, insurance, or payment options that could help them grow their businesses or cope with shocks.
  • Lack of protection and security: The informal sector is often subject to harassment, extortion, eviction, or confiscation by authorities or other actors who view it as illegal, disorderly, or undesirable. This exposes young entrepreneurs to insecurity, uncertainty, and vulnerability that affect their livelihoods and well-being.
  • Lack of recognition and support: The informal sector is often ignored or marginalized by policy makers, employers’ organizations, workers’ organizations, or other stakeholders who do not see its value or potential. This deprives young entrepreneurs of opportunities to access training, markets, networks, infrastructure, or social protection that could enhance their productivity, competitiveness, or quality of life.

Despite these challenges, some young entrepreneurs in Kenya have managed to succeed in the informal sector by leveraging their creativity, resilience, and networks. Here are some examples of their stories:

Mary Wambui: Mary is a 25-year-old mother of two who sells tomatoes on the side of the road in Nairobi. She started her business with a loan of 500 shillings ($5) from her sister and now earns about 15,000 shillings ($150) per month. She uses her income to pay for her children’s education and health care. She also saves some money in a group savings scheme with other women traders. She hopes to expand her business by buying a bigger stall and diversifying her products.

John Mwangi: John is a 22-year-old college graduate who supports himself as a motorcycle taxi driver in Mombasa. He bought his motorcycle with a loan from his uncle and now earns about 20,000 shillings ($200) per month. He uses his income to pay back his loan and to invest in his education. He is currently pursuing an online course in digital marketing. He hopes to use his skills to start his own online business in the future.

Grace Akinyi: Grace is a 24-year-old fashion designer who runs her own tailoring shop in Kisumu. She learned her craft from her mother who was also a tailor. She now employs three other young women who help her make clothes for her customers. She earns about 30,000 shillings ($300) per month. She uses her income to pay for her rent, utilities, and materials. She also supports her younger siblings who are still in school. She hopes to open another shop in a bigger town and to showcase her designs on social media.

These stories show that working in the informal sector can be rewarding and empowering for young entrepreneurs in Kenya who have the passion, determination, and vision to pursue their dreams. However, they also highlight the need for more recognition and support from the government, the private sector, and the society to enable them to overcome the challenges they face and to realize their full potential.


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