INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY

Young people must fight for their safe spaces

They need to rise up and seize the moment.

In Summary
  • Efforts such as creation of a ministry of ICT as well as youth, Youth Enterprise Fund, Uwezo Fund, Biashara Fund and initiatives such as kazi mtaani are commendable.
  • An ambitious plan to have at least 30 per cent of all government tenders allocated to the youth is yet to be realised.
Migori Youth players warm up at Awendo Green Stadium
Migori Youth players warm up at Awendo Green Stadium
Image: Migori Youth

Every August 12, we mark International Youth Day to draw attention to youth issues worldwide.

This year’s theme is ‘Youth engagement for global action’. This is timely since with the vast majority of challenges faced today worldwide, young people need to be involved and engaged effectively so they can be part of the solution.

Recent statistics on the world’s youngest population by Euromonitor International show that people under the age of 30 account for more than 50.5 per cent of the world’s population. This is a substantial number whose contribution to the global action cannot be disregarded or overlooked.

In Kenya, the youth account for more than 70 per cent of the total population according to the US-based population reference bureau and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. However, even with the large numbers, the youth are still disenfranchised and face challenges such as unemployment, marginalisation, generational poverty, profiteering, lack of access to higher education and exclusion, especially in the national sphere of leadership and governance.

The 35th president of the United States of America, John F Kennedy, in his historic inaugural speech, urged Americans to equally contribute to the national agenda and not only rely on the government. Equally, the youth should rise up, seize the moment and fight for their safe spaces.

In 2018, the International Youth Day theme was 'Safe spaces for youth'. The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, specifically goal 11, promotes the provision of youth safe spaces by ensuring that young people can come together and participate in decision-making processes and governance issues, among others.

The 2010 Constitution, which is very progressive, promotes and protects the youth by creating affirmative action. Article 55 stipulates that the state shall take measures, including affirmative action programmes, to ensure that the youth access relevant education and training; have opportunities to associate, be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life; access employment; and are protected from harmful cultural practices and exploitation.

Efforts such as the creation of a ministry of ICT as well as youth, Youth Enterprise Fund, Uwezo Fund, Biashara Fund and initiatives such as kazi mtaani are commendable.

However, an ambitious plan to have at least 30 per cent of all government tenders allocated to the youth is yet to be realised. This is according to the latest report compiled by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

We must continue to invest in the youth and equally the youth should utilise the opportunities at their disposal. For instance, the Big Four agenda—affordable housing, manufacturing, food security and universal healthcare—requires a lot of manpower. The youth should grab such opportunities and be involved in nation-building.

National coordinator, Youth Senate Kenya