Alixa Sharkey

Alexi Sharkey (Undergo Society of Kenya - USK): Alexi graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2007 with degrees in Political Science and French. She then spent a year in Yenta, Shandong Province, China, teaching Global Issues and English language courses. Alixa has also undertaken projects with immigrant youths in Lexington, Kentucky and interned for the Conceal General du Calvados in France. At the time of her fellowship Alexi was a graduate student at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego with a focus in International Politics. After her fellowship, Alexi wrote: “One day I was really grumpy during one of the training sessions, when one of the students came in and you could just tell he was so happy. So I asked him, 'Elias, you seem really happy, why are you so happy?' And he replied, 'because I am here and I am learning to bog.' And then I couldn't help but be happy as well...For now all I will say, with confidence, is that I am a much more patient person.”

Identification and Registration

26 Aug

On site visits in the slums it is not unusual for people to ask me for things: I need someone to sponsor me, I want to go to America, I want to go back to school, I need milk for my baby, we need money to build a new wing for our school/orphanage. It has become a reflex to say “I am sorry,  that is not what I do.” Last Thursday I got a new request, “Can you help me get an ID.” This was asked by a member of one of the Street Associations I’ve been working with. He said that he had all the paper work he needed, but when he went to the office to get his ID they asked for 1000 ksh because he is over 18 years old. ID’s are supposed to be free, but he did not know that so he left without one.

Cylus shows us the scales he used to do to weigh scrap metals and plastics. He needs an ID so he can apply for a small loan to restart his business.

Cylus shows us the scales he used to do to weigh scrap metals and plastics. He needs an ID so he can apply for a small loan to restart his business.

Proper identification and registration for groups is a very big deal. Without proper ID you cannot get a job, and without registering it is illegal for groups to meet. As I have previously discussed, young people living in the streets and in the slums are especially vulnerable to police harassment. Unregistered groups are in danger of being arrested simply for meeting. Unfortunately the registration process can be a difficult one.

In addition to protecting the group from police harassment, registration also allows groups to open a joint bank account, and it is the first step towards become a Community Based Organization (CBO). Once CBO status has been achieved, the group can have access to certain government funds as well as funds from other organizations. For these reasons, Undugu strongly encourages all Street Associations to register with the Ministry of Children, Gender and Social Services.

To register the group needs four things:

1. a list of all members,

2. a written constitution,

3. national ID cards (or the card numbers) for the majority of members,

4. 1000-1500 ksh for the registration fee ($13-$20).

The registration must be renewed every year.

Undugu helps by offering advice and support throughout the procedure. Each Street Association is required to write a constitution, regardless of how close they are to registering. The biggest difficulty is the national ID card. You can imagine that most young people living in the streets do not have any form of identification. To get an ID card all you need is a birth certificate; however, many of these young people are orphans or have not seen their parents in years and therefore do not have their birth certificates. There are other documents that can be used to get a national ID card. For example, baptism certificates, documents indicating they attended school, or photocopies of their parents ID cards. If they can get even one of these documents, Undugu will write a cover letter on their behalf.

Kenge'the (left) a Youth Facilitator and Buthania (right) a Project Officer talk to River Jordan Street Association about their group's progress.

Kenge'the (left) a Youth Facilitator and Buthania (right) a Project Officer talk to River Jordan Street Association about their group's progress.

If an individual has absolutely no documentation to prove that they are indeed Kenyan, the situation becomes even more complicated. They can go for a medical check-up and their dental records will be used to estimate age. And they will require an affidavit from someone who can speak on their behalf to prove they are indeed Kenyan.

Understandably it is unusual for enough of a Street Association’s members to have identification. Once they do the next problem is coming up with the money to register. Undugu encourages each group to save enough money to register. However, collectively saving 1000 or 1500 shillings is not easy when you do not have a bank account. Some members of the group are always more dedicated that others, and some will not contribute at all.

Those few groups that do manage to register are very proud of their achievement. They are also more confident in their activities, and can live with a bit less fear. One of Undugu’s Project Officers estimated that only 15-20 of the 140 Street Associations are registered.

Posted By Alixa Sharkey

Posted Aug 26th, 2009

1 Comment

  • Joe K

    August 28, 2009


    Bureaucracy always seems to cause nothing but problems, even in rich countries. However, it is worse to see this bureaucracy being used in a way that excludes help from those individuals who truly need it and thus causing the economic situation of a significant population to remain so poor. Many laws and governments seem to miss or forget about taking a realistic approach to many problems and only accomplish a generic policy that benefits a small portion of the population. As often is the case, the type of help that is needed seems more than what can simply be contributed from outside sources. As you said in your previous entry in regards to the fires, “There was nothing we could do to help.” I would imagine this feeling applies in many of the situations that you have been confronted with or are seeing while you are there (especially when hearing the requests for help or dealing with such a corrupted police force). Nevertheless, it is great to see and hear about the work you are doing because it not only makes a great impact on the individuals you work with but also continues to inform the world of such a difficult life that many of us will never encounter or experience. Thank you for taking the time to document the issues you have seen/experienced during your time in Kenya and keep up the good work!

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