Press Release :The Longing to Rise of the Kenyan Youth- Unfulfilled Potential.

By celebrating the 33rd International Youth Day today, we are affirming the role and significance as well as the contribution of the youth in national development. There is no gainsaying of the role the the youth in shaping Kenya present and future development. The Youth Agenda in its work continues to call for more accountable and inclusive governments, meaningful economic empowerment of young people and continuous engagement of young people through skill building and access to information to develop the enlightened citizen.

The theme for this year’s International Youth Day is “Safe Spaces for Youth” Forward-looking towards creating inclusive spaces where young people can harness, channel and expend their creative and innovative energy. Young people require a space where they can be part of decision making, where they can freely play their role in bringing about service delivery through holding the state accountable for citizen resources, space where young people can take up decent work and build enterprises that flourish, where in their own ways they can be part of and deliver the post 2015 agenda for this and future generations. For far too long young people have been told to wait their turn, and that the are the leaders of tomorrow, they have been made to feel as strangers in spaces that have been and still are equally theirs in politics, business and society. Young people are looking outwards needing to be seen for what they really are, not a problem that needs addressing but a demographic dividend that can be cashed in for the flourish of a nation. Failure to make deliberate and actionable attempts in creating spaces for the youth we will continue to ask ourselves “where did we go wrong?” as those that will have done so thrive.

In Kenya, the youth population (18-34 years) is estimated at 35.1% of the total population; this is almost half of the adult population and yet we are not reflective as a nation of the great resource in our possession. Reaping the demographic dividend can only be realized when we make adequate and appropriate investments in our young people. It is unfortunate that even as we aim to push forward as a nation towards realization of the Big 4 Agenda, Vision 2030 and the

Post 2015 agenda, too many young people are being left behind. They struggle to have meaningful participation and representation in their governance as evidenced by the low numbers of youth representatives in parliament and county assemblies and the glaring absence and almost deliberate exclusion of youth county planning processes; to access decent jobs and livelihoods and to gain the skills and information they need to turn around their fortunes as evidenced by the high rate of unemployment and low transition rates from primary to high school and high school to teriary education. We call upon government, even as they formulate and implement policy to address these challenges to make the requisite effort to ensure that the current infrastructure is prepared and equipped to implement.

In the recent Next Generation Youth report, young people intimated that their opinion is hardly ever taken seriously even though they have significant contributions to make. In order to create a system of service delivery for the people, it must be made in consultation with the people; Devolution has provided us with an opportunity to include young people’s voice in the governance of their counties. We call upon County governments, The Council of Governors and the County Assembly Forum to take center stage to expand spaces for youth toward the full realization of devolution by embracing public participation and providing inclusive platforms for young people to meaningfully engage in planning, budgeting, implementing and monitoring county resources. This can be done through demystifying technical policies and plans for youth to be able to digest and engage on, genuinely listening and integrating young people’s thoughts and involving them hands on in the implementation of the plans. This will guarantee that the youth will play their role in delivery of services to the community and have a sense of ownership that will inspire success.

While there is no shortage of young people with innovative ideas that may give birth to huge economically innovative models, there is unfortunately a shortage of young people that hold viable economic currency. 85% of the unemployed population is youth and many of those employed are underemployed. According to Youth Agenda’s Youth Situational Analysis report Of the approx. 1Million youth that turn 18 years every year, only 100,000 will secure employment, leaving 900,000 youth economically challenged. Youth want decent jobs with decent wages that provide them with an opportunity for a better life. We must create safe spaces for youth in the world of work as a key step in creating an environment where young people can tackle challenges of employability, entrepreneurship, access to market and financing head on. Legislation and policy directives on youth funds, and tender reservation scheme have

taken a turn in the right direction in creating this environment, however a lot still remains to be done by way of implementation to ensure that these spaces remain safe for young people.

And while we set the stage for the success of the youth it is important that we create safe and appropriate channels of communication for young people. We need to broaden spaces for SMEs, Tech Hubs all of which are a hive for young people’s creativity and innovation in arts and enterprise; we need to re-evaluate the tax regime and how this is negatively impacting youth start-ups and those who are unemployed. By providing platforms for youth to share and contribute to such pertinent issues we will be programming with the youth and not just for the youth. And as we continue to laude peer to peer learning, we must realize that even as its breeds out of the box ideas from the youth, it is the intergenerational learning that will make these ideas viable and sustainable. We cannot underscore the importance of mentorship and dialogue across generations enough; it is only in this way we can be assured of passing the baton from generation gaining the lessons that have come before us and addressing the present situation and finding solutions that are aimed towards addressing the needs of young people.

Governments, Private Sector and us as the community can do plenty to support and develop spaces that present youth with an opportunity to learn, innovate and share ideas and experiences that will see us harness the ‘youth bulge’. In this regard, we as Youth Agenda,

a) Call for safe spaces to participate within the electoral and governance spheres, becaue the youth have much more to offer as agents of political change.

b) We call for political parties to step up and scale up the involvement of young people in decision making organs of the parties, as well as consider them as able leaders within party structures.

c) We call on President Uhuru Kenyatta and H. E Raila Odinga to fully incorporate youth leaders in the Building Bridges Initiative, because the youth are essentially the fulcrum of nation building, and the future of the nation belongs to them.

d) We call on Parliament to increase budgetary allocation to the Youth Fund, so that the youth can explore their potential within SMEs and Start-Ups, inclined to the Big 4
Agenda.

e) Fully affirm our support for the Big 4 Agenda, and call on the government to fully incorporate the young people in driving the implementation of that noble agenda for the greater good of our nation.

Join us in making a commitment to step up our actions in creating and promoting safe spaces for youth to enhance their civic, economic and social development.

Happy International Youth Day 2018!

SIGNED: Mildred Nzau, Programme Officer Youth Agenda
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For Further information, questions or interviews you may contact Mildred Nzau on
0725748572 or email mildred.nzau@youthagenda.org

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