Don’t Agonize, Organize.

The title of this article is a widely used slogan and is credited to the Afro-American woman civil rights activist Florence Rae Kennedy, its popularity stems from two realities; on the one had we cringe at the pain, suffering and indignities afflicted on us, while on the other hand we are challenged as to what we can do in response.

Agonizing is a much-taken path by the youth since its easy to complain, to talk ourselves into believing that nothing we do can bring about any change, and most times we wait for the “right moment” (whatever that means). Constantly procrastinating action and rationalizing it with the fear of timing – news flash; the right time is NOW, if you choose to make it one.

Proper and collective organization is the key to the 75% of youth in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa turning their potential power into REAL power that will end historical political and economic marginalization. There is a lot of talk that the political class should hand over power/ include young people in government, but truth be told, power is hardly ever given on a silver plater, leaders have to EMERGE and EVOLVE over the period of organizing, and it is these leaders who then champion for the beginning an era of youth participation.

In Kericho county for example, a group of young people has started the journey of organizing themselves to engage fellow young people better and to participate in the governance processes of the county. What started in 2017 as a group of fifteen youths identified, trained and sent out by Emerging Leaders Foundation to start meaningful engagement with the county government and move from noise to voice, has now grown into a formidable youth working group. As of last month, the group had brought together representatives from 27 of the 30 wards.

The purpose of the newly formed Kericho Youth Leadership Network is to be the umbrella organization for all youth groups/organizations in the county for effective driving of the youth agenda, enhance youth participation in governance processes and foster attitude change through capacity building and opportunity tapping for the youth of Kericho. In other words, the vijana of Kericho want to mobilize around issues, they are tired of being on the periphery and being turned in mere spectators and cheer leaders in their own territory, they have realized something which I hope resonates with young people across the country; that yes, we can! (Tunaweza) That we are the captains of our ships; masters of our destinies and for change to occur we must desire it, we must trigger it and we must sacrifice for it.

Three key lessons from the youth of Kericho;

  1. Collective action is stronger than individual action – mobilization, clarity and strategy.
  2. We need serious organization to get things done – commitment, effectivity and inclusivity.
  3. Alternative to elected leadership is unelected leadership – leaders without titles.

Agonizing never got people anywhere, it only maintained the status quo. Our aspirations will be met depending on how well and fast we ORGANIZE!

 

90% of Life is About Showing Up!

There is an old saying most often attributed to Woody Allen that “90% of life is showing up.” Actually, it turns out that the number is somewhere between 75 and 90, depending on the recollection of the person reciting the quote, but either way, the balance of life is about following up. Allen’s point is a good one. Just get involved, make the call, or introduce yourself. The results will astonish you.

My colleague always reminds us that we are the finest humans to ever walk the face of the earth; our great grandparents were not as smart and did not have as many opportunities as we do today. We have evolved into the ideal humans that our ancestors could not even dream about, in fact, should some of our ancestors rise from the dead today, they would go bonkers over what they would see. What sets us apart from other animals, is that we are story telling animals with the ability to organize ourselves.

In view of the foregoing, young people do not have the luxury of feeling hopeless or powerless today, across the country the chorus is the same “my governor hasn’t done …. Things cannot be done”. There is a feeling of indignation to a point where the youth even seem to think that voting will never change much.

But think about this; what hope or power did our fore fathers have when they were fighting the colonialist, the odds were against them, they did not have the numbers and neither did they have weaponry to face the oppressor. Yet against all odds a few men and women organised themselves and showed up for battle, thanks to them today we are a sovereign nation.

Better still let’s bring it closer and think about the second liberation; when young politicians and members of the civil society were demanding for political inclusion through the repeal of section 2A of the constitution, what power did they have? They were lone voices, strange voices demanding the unthinkable. But they dared to dream of a different society, the looked beyond themselves and reached out to a higher purpose, and look at us today? We have 63 political parties and across the country we can freely assemble to express our political beliefs.

Had these women and men given up or chose to dwell on what was not impossible, I doubt I would have even had the freedom to write this article, but because they dared to think and organise differently, we are where we are.

Fellow young people the onus is on us, things will only get better if we think and act differently, we must organise around issues and build teams in every county and sub-county to engage strategically with duty bearers, we must be willing to sustain the murmur long enough. Nobody understands youth issues like the youth themselves, hence we are best placed to do youth advocacy. Society always turns to young people in its hour of need, can we be counted on; because truth is, things are messed up all around us.

To the youth of Kilifi, who are the inspiration of this post; thank you for showing up for the Tunaweza training, we have built your capacity and we believe that you guys have assembled the best team to start meaningful engagement with your county officials. Don’t tire! And never loose sight of the antelope because of a dashing squirrel. 

 

 

Written by Jim India

Communication Officer

Emerging Leaders Foundation