In traditional African set-up, children and women were relegated to herding and kitchen duties, while serious decisions concerning the family and community were a preserve of men, older men for that matter. One was considered a child until marriage and even then, the number of children (especially male children) and livestock, determined how much say you had in the affairs of the community. This highly patriarchal and institutionalized marginalization seems to have permeated every sector of society even to date, little wonder that women and youth, despite forming the largest constituencies in Africa, still lag behind in inclusion at the decision-making table.
While I could go ahead and give a historical account of failed policies in Kenya from independence, starting with the famous sessional paper No.10 of 1964, which effectively locked out most parts of this country from development, and even point out at the most recent Vision 2030 and Big Four Agenda. I will not belabor obvious points any further, a clear partner arises from the examples stated, the government, with total disregard for the populace, but only out of “the goodness of their hearts”, come up with well written policies, which are not implementable in our contexts. The projects are hurriedly conceived and implemented without going through the full cycle of project implementation, thereby creating loopholes for itchy fingers.
An ideal policy should not fail unless there are unavoidable circumstances like unforeseen disasters.
An ideal policy should not fail unless there are unavoidable circumstances like unforeseen disasters. The only way to explain the failure of most policies in our country is under-representation, lack of key stakeholders and lack of proper public participation. Young people are historically and frequently absent from development of national policies and programs that impact them; except as a potential source for data collection. In retrospect, other actors in the agenda-setting stage of the policy-making process like interest groups, influence policy directions to favor their interests which sometimes are not at par with public good. In other words, if the interests and thoughts of particular groups of people in the society are not addressed or accorded the necessary attention, the policy or program at hand is likely to sail.
The constitution of Kenya entrenches public participation at all levels of government planning. There however exists a gap on how to legislate and implement public participation with different agencies having their own version of it, for more effectiveness parliament must pass the public participation Act. The constitution also has several affirmative action clauses for youth, women and persons with disabilities. And whereas the political parties Act calls for the establishment of youth leagues in all parties, most these are not well structured and are poorly funded. Young people are also victims of unfair nomination rules and processes which bar them from ascending to elective positions, there is need to amend the 2013 elections Act to provide for a specified number of slots for the youth. Young people should also be included in the political party’s leadership structure.
For a policy to contribute to sustainable, inclusive and equitable development in local and global contexts, it has to meet standards for quality dimensions such as utility, feasibility, propriety, accuracy, and policy accountability. In this regard, the need to include youth and young people in policy processes raises a primary challenge for worldwide policy makers and those who commission and use policies. The pool of skilled policy experts is shallow and demands for exceed supply. It is therefore a clarion call to all government and non-governmental stakeholders to focus on training and capacity building of young and upcoming policy experts who can speak for and represent young people in public and private institutions. This action will in turn advocate for the inclusion of the voices of young people in the policy making process.
Nevertheless, in as much as political parties and other institutions need to open up to the youths, they too, should be more proactive by moving from the fringes of political parties as mere supporters and into institutions and organs that are capable of influencing policy formulation and discourse. Only then can they be engaged in high-level decision-making processes at the national level and beyond. Affirmative action policies will not come easy, young people must strategically approach every election as an opportunity to infiltrate the system.
Miriam Beatrice, ABLI 2019.