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Three stepping stones - a school-leaver’s skills-based training program on the streets of Kenya’s slums.

A three-step path for school leavers in Kenya’s slums, building confidence, communication and goal-setting to combat youth unemployment.

Photo of Tania Laden - LivelyHoods
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Our idea is to create a street-based skills program for young school leavers and unemployed youth, based on the ‘Mawe Tatu’ tradition of Kenya. ‘Mawe Tatu is the name for the three stones that Kenyans traditionally use to balance a cooking pot over an open fire. The concept of having three stones, or pillars, as the foundation of a solid structure has been used in Kenya for generations. We will create a modern vision of Mawe Tatu for the country’s unemployed youth based on three foundational skills of confidence, communication and goal-setting, which are not acquired by reading a book or getting a school certificate. We will therefore tackle these skills through street-based roadshows in Kenyan informal settlements, and peri-urban hubs where youth from outlying areas can come and get exposure to basic skills and techniques that are becoming indispensable in the workplace. A one-day roadshow in a given local community will deliver dynamic information on employable skills, youth empowerment and income generation opportunities, and invite youth in the area to a free three-day training in a nearby training centre. The one-day roadshow will provide an introduction to the Mawe Tatu for youth empowerment, and will be somewhat of a taster for the more in-depth training which will be offered to all interested youth. Both the roadshow sessions and the three-day Mawe Tatu trainings will be free of charge to all interested young people.


We will work in low-income urban and peri-urban areas of Kenya where unemployment is highest. We will specifically target those who stand most to gain from a first exposure to training for skills and confidence building. This broadly equates to youth with a monthly household income of under $300 who have not completed secondary school, or who have finished school one to three years ago and are sitting idle, struggling to find opportunities.


LivelyHoods was founded in 2011 by two young women, Tania and Maria, in search of ways to boost learning and economic opportunities for disadvantaged youth in Nairobi slums, and to overcome distribution bottlenecks. Today LivelyHoods is led by a team of Kenyans from the 10 communities we work in.


  • Kenya


  • Yes, for more than one year.


  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

The objective of the ‘Three Stepping Stones’ skills training is to foster life skills and build confidence in disadvantaged youth who are often seen as ‘unemployable’ because of a lack of experience and soft skills. Our aim is to provide the skills to equip every young person who comes through the program to take a next step of their own choosing, in full control of their professional advancement, and be able to sustainably provide for themselves and their families.

The Kenyan education system does not currently put an emphasis on promoting healthy communication, decision-making, work-readiness and presentation skills, and it is these areas, amongst others, that our ‘Three stepping Stones’ program will focus on. Through our six years of experience in training youth in entrepreneurship, sales and communication, we have built up a resource bank of techniques, materials, and a flexible training model that can be applied in different formulas across Kenya, and across the wider East African region.

Kenya faces an unemployment crisis that is exacerbated by stark gender and age-related inequalities. The World Bank rated Kenya’s youth unemployment rate in informal settlements at 70%. Youth and women are most affected as they often face significant barriers to employment and make up the greatest proportion of the low-income population in the country. These barriers include a limited number of formal jobs available, as well as gaps in their employment records. This challenge is even greater for those who have not completed their formal education, or do not have practical skills demanded by the market. Women face additional hurdles as they often have lower levels of education, and most of their activities are restricted to the home.

LivelyHoods is a social enterprise that seeks to create opportunities for youth and women in urban informal settlements (i.e., slums) to earn a sustainable income and realize their employment potential. Since 2011 we have trained and employed youth and women to sell life improving, environmentally and socially beneficial products in their communities. In the five years since its launch, LivelyHoods has trained over 2,000 youth and women and created 920 jobs, ultimately creating more stable and prosperous socioeconomic conditions for Kenya’s slum communities.

Young jobseekers are often unaware what employers are looking for, and of their own potential, skillsets and weaknesses. We intend to bring a youth-centric work-readiness boot camp directly to communities where unemployment amongst youth is highest, and further education levels are lowest, for example Kawangware, Kibera, Mathare in Nairobi, and the informal settlements of Momabsa and the county’s other major towns.  

We will start off in each community with a one-day roadshow with taster classes on empowerment, communication, sales and marketing and presentation skills, all pertaining to entrepreneurship and work-readiness. This taster session will provide a stepping stone for youth to take part in the full three-day training program that will build on these themes, and empower them with knowledge of the foundational soft skills that employers are looking for. This will be open to all people, of all ages, and will be advertised through partner organizations, local mobilizers and youth groups. They will be led by energetic, young, experienced LivelyHoods trainers and mobilisers, who have all been trained by LivelyHoods and previously worked as LivelyHoods sales agents.

Roadshows such as this are usually focused on marketing campaigns for private companies, or indeed social marketing for public health issues.  We will therefore be reaching youth through mainstream channels that are widely seen and appeal to youth. The subsequent full training will last three days, which will go deeper into cultivating skills and attitudes which will enable youth to access jobs and opportunities which were previously not available to them, and build the confidence needed to pursue challenging but rewarding jobs.

The three skills, the Mawe Tatu, will be addressed through classroom sessions, dynamic roleplays and field-based practicals engaging with the local community in marketing, presenting and raising awareness around environmental issues, based out of the LivelyHoods training centers.

At the end the three-day training period, trainees will get a certificate of recognition, based on completing the full three days and completing the final assessment, which consists of a presentation in front of all the trainees and LivelyHoods management.

We will provide advice and guidance on pursuing further education, on setting up a business, accessing and managing finances, and applying and interviewing for jobs. Almost all of our managers and trainers who will work with the trainees are former trainees of our existing program, and therefore are uniquely placed to understand the difficulties faced by the youth we encounter who find themselves stuck in a rut or lacking in direction. We believe strongly in promoting leaders and inspirational youth, who have undergone transformational change thanks to their LivelyHoods opportunity, so that they can inspire and guide future cohorts of youth to find their own path to progress and success.


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