This study looks at how poverty and gender roles form structural constraints that dictate the daily lives of those living in Kibera and how these individuals are able to exhibit agency in spite of the inequalities they face. While staying with a host family in Kibera, I collected data for this study through formal interviews, informal interviews, and a questionnaire. Drawing on Paul Farmer's concept of structural violence, I show how girls and boys in Kibera must deal with lack of educational opportunities, lack of sanitation and health care, unemployment, and gendered marriage practices. At the same time, I use Pierre Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital and the work of Philippe Bourgois and Donna Goldstein on "agency" and urban poverty to illustrate how individuals find their own means of survival and try to take control of their lives through membership in churches, support groups, and gangs, as well as substance abuse and sex work. Sometimes these expressions of agency have positive outcomes, but more often than not they are self-inflicting and only further the marginalization of the individuals. In spite of the many obstacles and hardships they face, the individuals I interviewed still call Kibera their home.


McConnell, David


Sociology and Anthropology


Gender and Sexuality | Social and Cultural Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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