By Isabel Pike, Research Intern, APHRC
A few children looked up sleepily as I entered a daycare center in Korogocho. Other children remained fast asleep – some with their heads on the desks and some lying right across the desks. The director of the center explained that afternoons were time for children to rest but that they did not have mattresses for the children to lie on.
As a research intern at APHRC, I spent the weeks before the visit to the daycare center analyzing data from 43 daycare centers in Korogocho, collected for the Creating Better Economic Opportunities for Women in Nairobi Slums through Improved Childcare Options Project. The data revealed interesting statistics including the average monthly fees, whether the centers had piped water and electricity, and what centers provided children with lunch.
Seeing the centers made the data come alive. At another center, the director, who had grown up in Korogocho, explained the challenges that the children and their families face: mothers who have unstable, low-paying jobs such as scavenging through rubbish heaps on the Dandora dumpsite or sometimes as commercial sex work; families unable to pay the monthly daycare fees of 200 Kenya Shillings (approximately 2 US Dollars) per child; and widespread recreational drug use, such as sniffing glue, even among young children.
The next stage of the project is to carry out a randomized controlled trial to assess whether providing mothers with a voucher to access subsidized regular daycare or enhanced daycare for their children has an effect on women’s participation in labor markets and income generation.
In addition to working on the daycare project, my internship allowed me to present prior work – a paper on marriage timing among men in Kenya that I wrote during a seminar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I am a PhD student in Sociology and Demography. I was honored to present to APHRC research scientists, whose work I had read and admired before. The comments were thorough, pointing out potential data sets and existing research to draw on as well as constructively challenging my argument. I left with thoughts on how to strengthen the paper.
I also started working on a paper that will draw on transcripts of in-depth interviews with young adults from the Transitions to Adulthood Study implemented by APHRC between 2007 and 2010. The paper will provide insights into how young adults in Korogocho and Viwandani view marriage, a social institution in flux.
Finally, I appreciated the collegial working environment of APHRC. I attended as many research presentations as possible, always on interesting topics, followed by lively discussion. And I was welcomed by all, including senior research scientists, my office mates and fellow interns, the security guards I talked with as I came and left the office, and colleagues I shared lunch with in the garden.
With my research interests in family demography and urbanization in sub-Saharan Africa, I cannot imagine a better place to have worked than cutting-edge APHRC. Saying goodbye on my last day was difficult but I hope that the projects that I started working on and the relationships I formed while there will not end with the summer but continue into the future.