Empowering Kibera’s Youth: The Story of Ghetto Rats Fighting Plastic Pollution

In the heart of Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum, a group of young activists is making waves in the fight against plastic pollution. Meet Ghetto Rats Youth Group, a grassroots initiative that is not only cleaning up their community but also turning plastic waste into a source of income.

Founded around three years ago during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghetto Rats Youth Group has become a beacon of hope for the residents of Kibera. Mohammed Ahmed, one of the group’s officials, explains how the project started as a simple idea to tackle the growing problem of plastic pollution in their neighbourhood.

“We saw plastic waste piling up everywhere, clogging drains and polluting our environment,” says Ahmed. “We knew we had to do something about it.”

Ghetto Rats Youth Group representative (C) during and interview. Picture Curtsey by Ghetto Rats Youth Group

And so, Ghetto Rats Youth Group was born. The group specializes in collecting plastic waste from the community, which they then sell to recycling companies. This not only helps to clean up the streets of Kibera but also provides much-needed income for the group members.

Rashebah Nduta, the group’s coordinator and communication person, emphasizes the importance of community involvement in their efforts. “We work closely with the Nyumba Kumi initiatives to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and proper waste management,” she explains. “By empowering the community and providing capacity building, we can create lasting change.”

But it hasn’t been without its challenges. Osman Bilal, the group’s mobilizer, highlights some of the obstacles they face, including a lack of finances to obtain the necessary licenses for their activities and insufficient storage space for the collected plastics. Despite these challenges, the members of Ghetto Rats Youth Group remain resilient in their mission to make a difference.

Ghetto Rats Youth Group. Picture Curtsey by Ghetto Rats Youth Group

When presented with the opportunity to attend the Nairobi Summer School on Climate Justice, the group expressed keen interest. “We believe that by gaining more knowledge and advocacy skills, we can have an even greater impact on our community,” says Bilal. “The people of Kibera are directly affected by poverty, and education is key to creating lasting change.”

As Ghetto Rats Youth Group continues to grow and expand its reach, their dedication to environmental conservation and community empowerment serves as an inspiration to us all. In the face of adversity, these young activists are proving that positive change is possible, one plastic bottle at a time.

Maurice Kimatu

The Author is a Journalist from Kenya

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