Colleagues in the United Nations system,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a special honour for me to join you here today at the launch of the Model Housing Project of the Kenya Women Land Access Trust, and the handover of the Moonbeam Youth Training Centre to the Trust.
It is also an auspicious occasion, because this event today is my last formal matter of official business before I take my leave of the United Nations system tomorrow. How apt therefore that my final public act in my capacity as Executive Director of UN-HABITAT is to hail two very worthy projects in this wonderful country. Kenya has been my home, officially and unofficially, for the past 10 years.
And nothing symbolizes the way I love it here more than when I see new, affordable housing become available. Although we have just four model homes now, this is a great start. It is vitally important to build more and more new homes when we still see too many people living in the slums, when we realise that it is women and the children they support who suffer the most. They live their lives without basic services, security of tenure or affordable health care. And naturally it is virtually impossible for them to get the mortgage financing they need to get out of the poverty trap.
So I am delighted that the Kenya Women Land Access Trust is leading the way here towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders a decade ago. Your Access Trust is one of several set up with the encouragement of UN-HABITAT to help lift women out of this trap into affordable homes purchased through the loans you help them arrange.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am informed that the trust already has a membership topping 700 in five cooperatives operating in the slums of Nairobi and surrounding municipalities. All these members are now able to save towards their mortgages. One day they too will be able to afford to buy homes that cost one million Kenya shillings.
Please give the Trust a big hand!
As we all know, the problems of inadequate shelter, health care, education, poverty and unemployment among young people can lead them all too easily into crime. Ignoring their plight thus carries tremendous social and economic costs.
Youth training to improve employment prospects and entrepreneurship requires attention by governments as well as the private sector.
When the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, visited this city on his first official mission on taking office, he provided a personal donation of 100,000 US dollars of seed money to help launch in 2008 what is today known as the Moonbeam Youth Training Centre – a centre for young people without the resources or skills to lift themselves out of poverty.
I am pleased to inform you that the Centre has provided excellent training to young people from the informal settlements of Mavoko, Kibera, Githogoro, Kariobangi, Korogocho and others. They are learning new skills in using computers, the construction industry, entrepreneurship and business development.
I am therefore very proud indeed to hand over the day-to-day running of this facility to the Kenya Women Land Access Trust on behalf of UN-HABITAT and the UN system. Our role will now simply be advisory and to provide some oversight from time to time.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of UN-HABITAT, I would like to take this opportunity of my final order of business in this wonderful country to express our sincere gratitude to the Government of Kenya for so graciously donating the 55 acres of land for UN-HABITAT’s Sustainable Neighbourhood Programme.
I would also like to congratulate the Government of Kenya and all Kenyans on the new Constitution. I am delighted that it expressly provides for the empowerment of women and youth.
I would like to end by encouraging all of you to become ambassadors for youth and women’s empowerment.
And so as I prepare to step down from a decade at the helm of UN-HABITAT, I congratulate you all and I salute you for the steady progress we have seen in the fight against urban poverty in this country!