Christine Magoma
August 12, 2022

How to Bring Young People to Participate in Actualizing a Sustainable Future

The International Youth Day is commemorated in recognition of the role young men and women play in positively impacting the world. Various actors have used this day, in the past, to draw attention to pressing issues that affect the lives of young people and limit the realization of their rights and aspirations.

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages”. It focuses on ensuring all generations, including the youth, participate and are involved in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while also raising awareness on barriers to attainment of these goals.

Globally, there has been demonstrable appreciation of the demographic dividend, value and potential young people hold, particularly in recognition that more than half of the world’s population is under 30 years. In 1995, the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) was adopted by the United Nations, which lays out a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people around the world. It is also inclusive of fifteen youth priority areas such as participation, education, girls and women, and employment and further contains proposals for action in these areas. The Africa Commission also launched a report in 2009 titled “Realising the Potential of Africa’s Youth” to address significant challenges and opportunities for promoting growth in Africa.

These provided a framework for mainstreaming and infusing the voices and input of youth into the global development agenda, particularly in participating in advancement of democracy and leadership.

As is globally, majority of the Kenya’s population is youthful. According to the 2019 Population Census, individuals below 35 years make up to 75%, 43% are below 15 years and 25% are between 18-34 years. This implies that the youth bear the power to influence the country’s development agenda and steer Kenya towards realization of its development goals. It also implies that the challenges, needs and aspirations of the youth deserve commensurate attention not only by government but also by other actors like private sector.

Yet, the greater proportion of the youth remain largely marginalized or insufficiently incentivized to take up an active role in advancing the country’s democracy and development agenda. This is best reflected in the patterns of participation in electoral processes in the country.

According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), youth only made up 39.84% of the 22.1 million registered voters for the 2022 general elections. This represents a 5.27% drop compared to the 2017 polls. This reflects poor participation of youth in critical democratic processes as elections and other public policy processes and threatens to reverse the gains made in positioning young people at the core of the country’s development agenda.

A woman casts her ballot during Kenya's general election on Aug. 9, 2022 | Source: VOA

Low participation of youth in electoral processes, just like in other public policy processes like planning and budget making, is attributable to a number of issues, core to it despair from failed past political promises and weakening of the economy that continues to limit their access to economic opportunities and jobs they so desire. This is exacerbated by information asymmetries that put off young people and limit their ability to hold their elected leaders accountable on their promises, and ignorance and lack of interest in seeking and exploring the already existing resources and opportunities at their disposal.

Without immediate intervention and change of heart, this pattern spells doom to the country. There is need for concerted efforts by various stakeholders, primarily the youth themselves, to ensure they are represented and their voices are heard in the governance of the country and implementation of the development agenda.

The journey towards this transformation begins by the youth first understanding the opportunities and platforms established by law for their participation in governance and demanding accountability from the state officers. They also should recognize the roles and responsibilities accorded to them in the constitution. This awareness will then pave way for further efforts and actions towards better representation, leadership and governance. They must recognize opportunities and platforms for participation and pursue them. Without their appreciation and participation in the same, the youth risk remaining marginalized and their issues unaddressed by government.

Government and political leaders must be challenged to open up more appropriate and youth friendly policy making spaces to promote more meaningful youth participation particularly in operationalizing provisions for public participation. Articles 10 and 232 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 provide for the right to public participation in governance at both national and county levels. Article 118(1) (b) requires the parliament to facilitate public participation and involvement in legislative and other business of the parliament and its committees. Unfortunately, this provision is yet to be fully and effectively operationalized. Even in instances where public participation happens, the modalities are often unfavorable and discourage participation of citizens, especially the youth. In other instances, public participation is merely a formality rather than a process that will inform the shape and form of legal and policy instruments.

To remedy this and promote meaningful participation, government should demonstrate their commitment to upholding the provisions of the Constitution by streamlining the guidelines and modalities for public participation to ensure the youth and other members of the public can easily infuse their voices into the various governance spaces.

Other stakeholders must also support efforts to amplify voices and participation of young people in the county’s governance and development agenda. Civil Society and Media could support in enhancing and disseminating information to young people using appropriate channels and amplify civic education. With their linkages and influence with stakeholders in government, civil society could also support efforts to ensure the development agenda adopted by the country incorporates the views of youth, by providing for youth participation in their development, implementation and oversights.

To ensure that youth participation is meaningful in these spaces, civil society, in collaboration with the government and other stakeholders could organize and facilitate regular capacity building forums for the youth to enhance their knowledge on key issues such as public finance, governance and proper representation of youth voices. The media could also play a critical role in delivering civic education and capacity building to the youth, especially those that are extremely marginalized. This can be achieved by delivering information in simplified formats and, possibly in local language.

Capacity Strengthening Session for Youth hosted by Pathways | Source: Pathways

Across the country, as in the rest of the world, there have been substantive efforts by both state and non-state actors to amplify the voices and participation of youth in development and governance. The Kenyan government in partnership with civil society, development partners and others have made strides towards inclusion of Kenyan citizens and youth in participatory decision-making processes through initiatives like the World Bank’s Kenya Accountable Devolution Program (KADP). There has also been an increase in number of youths taking up leadership roles. The Political Parties Act, 2011, and the related amendments, Elections Act, 2011, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Act, 2011, National Gender and Equality Commission Act, 2011, and County Government Act, 2012, enumerate mechanisms and processes to ensure compliance with the constitutionally mandated participation requirements for youth and women. However, these efforts continue to be dampened by the dwindling interest of youth to participate in leadership.

As we celebrate the International Youth Day, and as we transition to a new regime, it is imperative that the voices and participation of young people are mainstreamed across all governance processes in the country. This must begin with youths rising up and claiming their position in Kenya governance and development agenda.

Happy International Youth Day!

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3 comments on “How to Bring Young People to Participate in Actualizing a Sustainable Future”

  1. Now this, is spectacular. Well researched and we'll written. It educates and informs all at the same time.
    Great work and Happy International Youth Day!

Christine Magoma
August 12, 2022

How to Bring Young People to Participate in Actualizing a Sustainable Future

The International Youth Day is commemorated in recognition of the role young men and women play in positively impacting the world. Various actors have used this day, in the past, to draw attention to pressing issues that affect the lives of young people and limit the realization of their rights and aspirations.

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages”. It focuses on ensuring all generations, including the youth, participate and are involved in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while also raising awareness on barriers to attainment of these goals.

Globally, there has been demonstrable appreciation of the demographic dividend, value and potential young people hold, particularly in recognition that more than half of the world’s population is under 30 years. In 1995, the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) was adopted by the United Nations, which lays out a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of young people around the world. It is also inclusive of fifteen youth priority areas such as participation, education, girls and women, and employment and further contains proposals for action in these areas. The Africa Commission also launched a report in 2009 titled “Realising the Potential of Africa’s Youth” to address significant challenges and opportunities for promoting growth in Africa.

These provided a framework for mainstreaming and infusing the voices and input of youth into the global development agenda, particularly in participating in advancement of democracy and leadership.

As is globally, majority of the Kenya’s population is youthful. According to the 2019 Population Census, individuals below 35 years make up to 75%, 43% are below 15 years and 25% are between 18-34 years. This implies that the youth bear the power to influence the country’s development agenda and steer Kenya towards realization of its development goals. It also implies that the challenges, needs and aspirations of the youth deserve commensurate attention not only by government but also by other actors like private sector.

Yet, the greater proportion of the youth remain largely marginalized or insufficiently incentivized to take up an active role in advancing the country’s democracy and development agenda. This is best reflected in the patterns of participation in electoral processes in the country.

According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), youth only made up 39.84% of the 22.1 million registered voters for the 2022 general elections. This represents a 5.27% drop compared to the 2017 polls. This reflects poor participation of youth in critical democratic processes as elections and other public policy processes and threatens to reverse the gains made in positioning young people at the core of the country’s development agenda.

A woman casts her ballot during Kenya's general election on Aug. 9, 2022 | Source: VOA

Low participation of youth in electoral processes, just like in other public policy processes like planning and budget making, is attributable to a number of issues, core to it despair from failed past political promises and weakening of the economy that continues to limit their access to economic opportunities and jobs they so desire. This is exacerbated by information asymmetries that put off young people and limit their ability to hold their elected leaders accountable on their promises, and ignorance and lack of interest in seeking and exploring the already existing resources and opportunities at their disposal.

Without immediate intervention and change of heart, this pattern spells doom to the country. There is need for concerted efforts by various stakeholders, primarily the youth themselves, to ensure they are represented and their voices are heard in the governance of the country and implementation of the development agenda.

The journey towards this transformation begins by the youth first understanding the opportunities and platforms established by law for their participation in governance and demanding accountability from the state officers. They also should recognize the roles and responsibilities accorded to them in the constitution. This awareness will then pave way for further efforts and actions towards better representation, leadership and governance. They must recognize opportunities and platforms for participation and pursue them. Without their appreciation and participation in the same, the youth risk remaining marginalized and their issues unaddressed by government.

Government and political leaders must be challenged to open up more appropriate and youth friendly policy making spaces to promote more meaningful youth participation particularly in operationalizing provisions for public participation. Articles 10 and 232 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 provide for the right to public participation in governance at both national and county levels. Article 118(1) (b) requires the parliament to facilitate public participation and involvement in legislative and other business of the parliament and its committees. Unfortunately, this provision is yet to be fully and effectively operationalized. Even in instances where public participation happens, the modalities are often unfavorable and discourage participation of citizens, especially the youth. In other instances, public participation is merely a formality rather than a process that will inform the shape and form of legal and policy instruments.

To remedy this and promote meaningful participation, government should demonstrate their commitment to upholding the provisions of the Constitution by streamlining the guidelines and modalities for public participation to ensure the youth and other members of the public can easily infuse their voices into the various governance spaces.

Other stakeholders must also support efforts to amplify voices and participation of young people in the county’s governance and development agenda. Civil Society and Media could support in enhancing and disseminating information to young people using appropriate channels and amplify civic education. With their linkages and influence with stakeholders in government, civil society could also support efforts to ensure the development agenda adopted by the country incorporates the views of youth, by providing for youth participation in their development, implementation and oversights.

To ensure that youth participation is meaningful in these spaces, civil society, in collaboration with the government and other stakeholders could organize and facilitate regular capacity building forums for the youth to enhance their knowledge on key issues such as public finance, governance and proper representation of youth voices. The media could also play a critical role in delivering civic education and capacity building to the youth, especially those that are extremely marginalized. This can be achieved by delivering information in simplified formats and, possibly in local language.

Capacity Strengthening Session for Youth hosted by Pathways | Source: Pathways

Across the country, as in the rest of the world, there have been substantive efforts by both state and non-state actors to amplify the voices and participation of youth in development and governance. The Kenyan government in partnership with civil society, development partners and others have made strides towards inclusion of Kenyan citizens and youth in participatory decision-making processes through initiatives like the World Bank’s Kenya Accountable Devolution Program (KADP). There has also been an increase in number of youths taking up leadership roles. The Political Parties Act, 2011, and the related amendments, Elections Act, 2011, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Act, 2011, National Gender and Equality Commission Act, 2011, and County Government Act, 2012, enumerate mechanisms and processes to ensure compliance with the constitutionally mandated participation requirements for youth and women. However, these efforts continue to be dampened by the dwindling interest of youth to participate in leadership.

As we celebrate the International Youth Day, and as we transition to a new regime, it is imperative that the voices and participation of young people are mainstreamed across all governance processes in the country. This must begin with youths rising up and claiming their position in Kenya governance and development agenda.

Happy International Youth Day!

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Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 comments on “How to Bring Young People to Participate in Actualizing a Sustainable Future”

  1. Now this, is spectacular. Well researched and we'll written. It educates and informs all at the same time.
    Great work and Happy International Youth Day!

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