Kakuma & Kalobeyei, Kenya

The Her City related activities in Kakuma and Kalobeyei in Turkana, Kenya focus on four sites “Neighbourhood 1-3” in the Kakuma Refugee Camp and “Kalobeyei Town” in the Kalobeyei Settlement. This is the first project in an informal settlement that makes use of the Her City methodology and thus provides important lessons and recommendations for a way forward to widen the toolbox to larger groups of vulnerable populations such as refugees and minorities. The Her City project in Kakuma Kalobeyei is a continuation of previous interventions in the area.


Category: Public partnership
Location: Neighbourhood 1-3 in the Kakuma Refugee Camp and “Kalobeyei Town” in the Kalobeyei Settlement.
Time: – ongoing
Partners: UN-Habitat and Block by Block
Participants: Young women and girls from the area.

Her story


The settlement area is a result of short term emergency planning. In addition, the host community and the refugee community had a tense relationship and the project aimed at uniting the groups through collaboration. The Kakuma Refugee Camps and Kalobeyei Settlement, are both located alongside host communities. Public spaces are limited and the overall management of public spaces has been lacking in the Kalobeyei New Settlement.  Earlier experiences involving the communities in participatory workshops have shown that as much as 87% of the participants were men. For the three remaining sites there should therefore be a strong focus on including more women and girls in the activities, particularly from the most vulnerable minorities.


Public spaces can increase the safety of an area and they also provide the opportunity to develop a sense of ownership among the residents of the settlement. Public space also presents opportunities for provision of basic services, particularly in refugee settlements, and is a natural meeting point in crowded communities lacking resources. The Her City approach of involving citizens directly in designing public spaces has an effect on the management of public spaces and the sense of belonging to the same spaces. In addition, with the Her City initiatives the new settlement takes steps to become more permanent and integrated with the host community.


After visiting the sites, participants were involved in brainstorming workshops where they were divided into host community and refugee community groups. The brainstorming exercises showed that both communities had identified similar points for improvement. The exercise was followed by a Minecraft workshop where the participants got to visualise their design suggestions with the help of the computer game. The main focus of the designs were seating, streetlights and public toilets, followed by playgrounds, different types of greenery and paved walking paths.


Almost 40% of the participants in the Minecraft workshop had never used a computer before, the workshop enabled the majority of participants to self-confidently design public space. The workshops were followed by implementation of the design suggestions into Neighbourhood 1. This created a sense of belonging among the participants, seeing their design suggestions being implemented in the space. The space now features colourful structures to provide shade, public space seating, more greenery and a walking path.  Furthermore, the Her City activities in Kakuma and Kalobeyei shows that the toolbox can be implemented in refugee settlements and help the refugee communities interact more closely with the host communities. The project highlights that inhabitants and visitors of a specific public space identify the similar needs and visions for the space whether the person is a part of a host community or a refugee community.

Lessons learned

The project shows that participation can bridge a gap between host communities and refugee communities in neighbourhoods and create a sense of ownership of the public space among the same inhabitants. The sense of ownership was also strengthened by the early involvement of stakeholders and participants in the planning process.


Block 1: Stakeholder engagement

A multi-stakeholder team of girls and professionals to mainstream youth, gender and socio-economic perspectives throughout the entire planning, design and implementation process.

Block 2: City wide assessment

A city level analysis based on girls and young women’s observations and a list with their top priority spaces to be improved.

Block 3: Site specific assessment 

Collecting quantitative and qualitative data by girls and young women on the state of the space that is considered a top priority for improvement.

Block 4: Analysing challenges

A joint vision for the space based on a detailed analysis of the girls’ needs and current privileges in the space.

Block 5: Designing ideas

A rough design in Minecraft of the new space made by the girls and professionals based on the solutions identified throughout the process.

Block 6: Recommendations

A joint action plan for the space where girls and professionals negotiate ways forward for implementation and potential impact of the project.

Block 7: Action plans 

Detailed plans collaboratively developed by the girls and professionals for the construction phase including cost estimations and maintenance plans.

Block 8: Sharing results

Approval to move forward and start construction from decision-makers and community and spreading of knowledge gained throughout the project.

Block 9: Implementation and follow-up

An evaluation of the process, follow up on construction by the girls and a final report on the results of the entire project with a mainstreaming strategy to scale up similar initiatives.

Related SDGs



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Her City is a joint urban development initiative by UN-Habitat (the United Nations Human Settlements Programme) and the independent think tank Global Utmaning (Global Challenge).