Youth must rise up, begin to drive desired change

Kenyan youth have in the past faced various obstacles in their path to claim successful spaces after clearing studies. With statistics indicating that more than a million youth enter the job market annually after graduating from various institutions of higher learning alone, calls for every effort to be made to create an environment that creates economic opportunities for them.

Of this huge number of youth seeking their spaces, some achieve their dreams, others face challenges as many try to find solutions to their predicament. It is for such situations affecting that youth that the UN General Assembly has designated August 12 as the International Youth Day (IYD). It is a day set aside annually from 1999 to commemorate the efforts of the youth in making the world a better place.

In Kenya, IYD will be celebrated today, with theme: “Safe Spaces for Youth.” Youth require safe spaces to engage in their diverse interests including education, sport, enterprise, work, religion, governance and generally safe spaces for the youth to express themselves.

For the whole week preceding the IYD, Kenya has been observing the National Youth Week where the government, development partners and the private sector celebrate the Kenyan youth in line with the set theme.

However, it is important to note that our celebration as a nation is not in vain. The government has taken bold steps to empower youth through various initiatives including free secondary education, provision of higher education loans, renewed focus on affordable Technical Vocational Education and Training, a revised higher education curriculum to improve employability.

It has also enhanced youth involvement in enterprise by providing affordable loans to young entrepreneurs through the Youth Fund, Uwezo Fund and Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) that reserves provision of certain products and services to the youth.

Through the Directorate for Youth Affairs, numerous youth empowerment initiatives have been carried out including promoting art and culture, entrepreneurship training and the Kenya Youth Employment Opportunities Projects.

The observation of this day comes at a time when the government has prioritised Food Security, Affordable Housing, Manufacturing and Universal Health Coverage as the Big Four Agenda for this country. With the political support the Big Four has in the country, it is expected that the youth will be the biggest beneficiaries through job opportunities.

The Executive arm and the Youth departments have demonstrated their determination to ensure that the youth are meaningfully engaged. However, there exists numerous opportunities which can be exploited to increase youth participation in claiming their safe spaces. These include increased campaigns to create more awareness and impart knowledge amongst the youth on the available opportunities and call them into action.

Further, there is need to revise regulations, especially those touching on statutory licences youth require to engage in entrepreneurship while collaboration with other stakeholders is required to carry out research to develop policies that improve the welfare of our youth. Taking advantage of the benefits associated with ICT to foster youth development and financial independence is equally important for the youth. Most vijanaa must now liberate themselves from their victim mentality and begin to drive the desired change in our society through a disciplined effort and dedicated focus to claim their existing opportunities.

-  Anthony Kibagendi is the Secretary for Youth Affairs in the Presidency

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