Kenya: Urbanization, Health, and Human Rights

"My experience in Kenya has had a profound impact on who I am as a person, a student, and as an aspiring development practitioner. The SIT staff was instrumental in fostering my development by challenging me to think deeper, to ask more questions and to go beyond what is comfortable, and I am forever grateful to them."

-- Hailey Chalhoub, Stonehill College

Study the intersections of health, human rights, and cities at multiple sites in Kenya, where rapid urbanization is transforming access, equity, and well-being.

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This program examines health and human rights in Kenya through a complex constellation of urban issues including housing, urban infrastructures, land tenure, informal settlements, food (in)security in the city, and evictions.

Students consider demographics, public health education, HIV/AIDS, health issues of orphaned and vulnerable children, women’s healthcare needs, differential access to healthcare, and mental healthcare, among other topics, in various cultural contexts.

Students examine Kenya’s healthcare challenges, practices, and systems, in both rural and urban contexts, together with analyses of locally informed debates surrounding human rights.

Coursework Overview
The program consists of two thematic seminars; an intensive language course in Kiswahili, together with multiple homestays, to hone language skills; a course on research methods and ethics; and the opportunity to conduct in-depth, primary field research through the Independent Study Project (ISP). See course syllabi.

Orientation housing on Mombasa’s waterfront

Study in Nairobi, Mombasa, and elsewhere in Kenya.
The program has two bases: Nairobi and Mombasa. Students interact with a wide array of SIT partners and contacts in Nairobi, the regional base for numerous local and international nongovernmental organizations, and also in cosmopolitan Mombasa. Kenya’s second largest city, Mombasa is the site of emerging coalitions of Muslim and interfaith activists and civil society organizations challenging Kenya’s status quo on issues of health and human rights. Learn more about the program bases.

Students also have group excursions to Kisumu, a vibrant city on Lake Victoria, and Lamu, an ancient example of African urbanization on the Indian Ocean and a focal point for regional economic development, as well as a one-week rural stay with a Mijikenda community in Takaungu. Shorter excursions include Malindi and the future site of Konza Techno City. Homestays and educational excursions help illustrate the outcomes of differential access to healthcare and the attendant challenges to human rights throughout Kenya.

In-country resources and program partners typically include:

Spotlight on SIT Kenya Alumni

Jessica Posner Odede, co-founder of Kibera School for Girls Jessica Posner Odede, a Wesleyan University student and 2007 Kenya program alumna, was intensely moved by her experiences in Kenya. She teamed up with Kennedy Odede, the founder of Shining Hope for Communities, an organization that works to combat intergenerational cycles of poverty and gender inequality. Together they established the Kibera School for Girls, which has expanded to include a clinic, housing, and gardens. The school uses an innovative approach that provides education as well as essential health and economic services to the community, with a special focus on young women and girls. Watch Jessica’s TEDx talk on building community.


Check out Faces of Angels: Real Stories of AIDS-affected Children in the Kibera Slums, a unique photo book created by program alum Sandhira Wijayaratne (Johns Hopkins University), based on work completed during her ISP.

SIT Study Abroad alum studied self-esteem of Kenyan girls.
Wellesley senior Katie Bunten-Wren of Eliot, Maine, presented her research "Drawings of Dreams: The Power of Women's Education in Kakuma, Kenya," at the annual Tanner Conference at Wellesley College. Read article...  

SIT alum finds education scholarships for Kenyan youth.
Lydia Spitalny of Ohio Wesleyan University and a 2007 program alumna is currently the co-executive director of education for the Future Foundation, an education nonprofit organization in Kenya that is partnering with SIT Study Abroad Kenya. The partnership will allow SIT students to work with EFF to research issues of education as part of their Independent Study Project. Lydia has also completed SIT Graduate Institute’s CONTACT course in peacebuilding and conflict transformation.

This program was featured on the Abroad 101’s list of top non-traditional study abroad destinations. 

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Nairobi and Mombasa

Language Study: Kiswahili

Prerequisites: None

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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