The Paradox of the Excluded Majority – The Case of the Kenyan Youth.

By Edward Kipkalya

Despite Kenya being a very youthful country, a large percentage of the so-called excluded majority (the youth) is unemployed and feels marginalised in terms of access to opportunities, representation, and participation. According to research done by Emerging Leaders Foundation – Africa in 2019, the top 3 impediments to prosperity of the Kenyan youth are unemployment, lack of mentorship and limited access to information.

Never before have so many youth been hungry for change. We have seen them take to online social networks and communities to connect, express their voices, and campaign for change. We have also seen them protesting authoritarian regimes, corruption, and inequalities. We have also seen them fighting for sustainable development and a better future for current and new generations.

However, the political representation of youth remains limited, yet they are the majority. They are increasingly demanding more meaningful participation in decision-making processes, so they can have more control over how their lives and futures are shaped. Although youth are involved in activism in the digital space, protesting, volunteering to improve their communities, and innovating for social good, their participation in and influence on formal politics is limited. Voter turnout is in decline in all democracies and is concentrated among youth. Youth are underrepresented in political decision-making positions and their involvement in political parties is dwindling.

Why is this so?

Putting into consideration that the current Kenyan youth is grouped into two generations – some of the Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995), and all of Generation Z (born between 1996 and the early-mid 2000s), their needs are not truthfully or effectively reflected in policies related to them. This is because the policymakers do not understand the youth, and the target group’s apathy toward anything as serious as politics or policymaking exacerbates the problem. In Kenya, the millennials are called ‘The joking generation/Unemployed youth’ those who behave in a way that their precedent generations find it strange, bizarre, and disrespectful. Unknowingly criticized now, millennials grew up being heard and praised (Leaders of tomorrow tag). According to Kenya’s Central bank’s financial report 2019, the biggest priority of millennials by education, wealth, sex, and residence was putting food on the table. This is not only their last straw but also a means to their end. On the other hand, Gen Z commonly referred to as ‘digital natives’ are characterized by less reading as compared to other generations. Their desire to learn is limited to our current teaching model which bore them to sleep. It’s a generation that learns differently. Therefore, until we recognize this difference and conceptualize our way of teaching and learning, we will turn them off to education. They prefer learning that is relevant, useful, instantly useful, active, and fun.

These are just but a few differences to show that the youth are not a nameless, faceless mass as they have been treated. Portraying youth as a homogenous group fails to recognize their complexity. It may also be counterproductive to solving key global issues such as fragility, lack of meaningful work opportunities, inequity, and violence even with substantial youth leadership.

Most Kenyan youth in their 20s or 30s are not “active citizens.”. When the government and policy makers ask them to take part in public participation opportunities that might help create policies helpful to people in their age group, the answer tends to be, “Sorry, I am not interested” or “I’m too busy.” Thus, only a handful of those youth insiders are included in the policy process. Is it, then, acceptable to let the majority be excluded? The answer is an emphatic “NO!,” because any policy solution should meet the needs of majority in the target group, not just those of a few individuals. However, since most of this generation is not engaged in policymaking, it continues to be difficult for policymakers to understand their needs and develop effective policies to resolve them. The paradox of the excluded majority is a wicked problem, indeed.

According to a study by Well Told Story, the Kenyan youth can be segmented in 5 categories each with different information needs and different perceptions of government.

First, we have the insiders – these are the youth referenced in policy and government reports, they appear at events to “represent the youth”. However, they are the chosen ones with contacts and access to the right channels of information. They are benefitting from government because they win contracts and tenders and have influence amongst their peers.

Second, we have the professionals – they blindly hang around politicians, serially attending rallies, workshops. They do the dirty underpaid work of those tenders that are given to youth and the “Insiders”. They are benefitting financially in a small way from government. They think they have influence, but they don’t.

Third, we have the disengaged – this is a large group made up of those who feel excluded but still feel that it matters that they are not part of the system. They had hopes in all the government promises but these hopes have gone and now they’ve given up, they are looking elsewhere for help and inspiration.

Fourth, we have the disgruntled – they represent vijana wapotovu, a smaller group of ‘angry’ youth, with skewed or no information, feeling excluded and voiceless. They feel their vote meant nothing and they’ve been let down by a government who cares nothing for them and just sold them lies. This group may be tempted by any offers of structure and opportunity like radicalization by extremist groups such as Al Shabaab.

Fifth, we have the disenfranchised – in politics there has been a biased notion that ‘youth’ = ‘male’. Most young women fall into this category of the disenfranchised. They ‘don’t even know if they care’ about politics. They make no assumptions about their ‘rights’ in the political space and get on with their lives with little thought of governance and certainly none of participation.

Despite multiple policy statements that acknowledge profound differences in youth, there is no widely accepted organizing framework that shifts the perspective from seeing youth as a homogenous mass, to thinking about how we address specific challenges and opportunities. When we talk about youth development, youth is as unique as the issue we’re trying to resolve, and the context in which it occurs. We need an issue-focused approach, in which youth is not labelled indiscriminately, but seen as people with a specific problem they need to solve. Youth are a key piece of the puzzle to solve global challenges. But a more effective approach, and the real solution, lies in narrowing in on the problems that affect them and forging specific, contextualized solutions to those problems.

As a Kenyan youth, I am optimistic that they youth of Kenya will one day claim its meaningful role as equal partners in the development process. That day will draw closer by registering as voters and voting for the the leaders who are ready to invest not only in us but our future generations. All this is possible if we act. Talk is cheap, voting is free; let’s take it to the polls. Vijana Tunaweza!

The writer is currently the Program Officer in charge of Governance & Civic Engagement at Emerging Leaders Foundation – Africa (www.elfafrica.org). You can connect with him via Twitter: @Edward_Kalya

Women’s untapped leadership potential an unexplored resource

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid19 world. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have seen women all over the world standing fearlessly at the front lines, working tirelessly as health care workers and caregivers.

In countries like Denmark, Finland, Germany, and New Zealand where there has been effective, rapid and sustainable response to the pandemic are headed by women. This goes to show that women have untapped and unexplored leadership potential.

Gender inequality has contributed majorly to the lack of representation of women in leadership positions as it is in only 20 countries worldwide where women are the heads of state. Despite the already existing Barriers to women’s leadership like cultural norms, new barriers have emerged during the pandemic. There has been an increase in violence against women and denial of their Human rights. This in turn leads to unemployment and poverty and results in them being unable to realize their full potential.

Education also plays a key role in ensuring that women are empowered hence preparing them for leadership roles. But unfortunately, girls are still unable to attend school due to lack of sanitary towels, harmful cultural practices and poverty. This instead leaves women and girls vulnerable and uneducated, hence unable to know and understand their rights, fight for them, and make informed and empowered decisions. All these factors prevent women from getting into leadership positions.

I urge governments globally to fully leverage on women’s leadership potential and have their voices represented and integrated into decision making processes. Girls should be empowered at an early age while they are still in school on the importance of partaking leadership roles so that they may be accountable leaders in the future.
Let’s break all barriers.

Written by: Esther Aoko, My Sisters’ Keeper Alumni, Husika Fellow & Sexual and Reproductive Health Youth Advocate

OOOH POLITICIAN!

Never seem to do what you say

With our minds you choose to play

You speak of this only today

But to seize only power you may

…………………………………………………………

Funny how desperate you look

When you feed with lies you cook

And your words like a hook

We could never read your book

…………………………………………………………

To you our hope we placed

When trouble is what we faced

Beautiful lies we embraced

Oh how that was to be erased

……………………………………………………………..

I hope you find pleasure in all you steal

I hope you’re able to pay that bill

I hope your bell you ever fill

I hope it haunts to your last meal.

Written By: Perpentual Wangari.

SCORCHED LAND

This is the land where the people’s tears are heavy rains that bring bumper harvest to some of us, our leaders, and our heads. The land where the people’s mouths are deserted and have no good and sensible words. The land where the people only get to smile when they see innocent lives go miles under the ground. The land where people are hands up with some tired of the sum up of their years and now have their hope on the rope with their heads up. The scorched land.

The land where leaders have betrayed us. Leaders who are not ashamed of melting our ice block of opportunities for their personal gains. The leaders who have melted ‘OFF ICE’ of opportunities inside those ‘OFFICES’. The ice block that we thought we could get an opportunity to earn something from and cool down our hot living down here. The ice that should be provided to our sunken youths. Youths who lack jobs to do, they only relieve themselves by getting kids and naming them ‘Job’ just to get comfort to.

The land where politics has become a ‘pool of ticks’. Leaders who re-group themselves into groups where they feel good when they salt up’ things to the people to reap ‘assault’ and ‘insult’ amongst the people. Leaders that have built up “pool ticks” that depend on human blood to stand. The land where leaders have taken advantage of the unemployed youths, blown up the ‘violence’ trumpet only for the youths to exchange blows.

The land where corruption has become a diet. A diet that is body building, for we can see the body size of the participants. The diet that is protective, for we can see how serious corruption cases are being diluted. The diet that is repairing tissues, only repairing fake smiles, fake relationships to the wrong people. The people whose aim is to keep the poor down and in a poor state inside a poor state.

The land where the ‘evil is shaking the world before use’. Using the jobless and lazy youths who have flocked themselves into cults and evil worship, come out with war ships from the seas and decided to put down innocent lives in mysterious ways. The youths who have given out their ‘father’ in order to have their fame go ‘further’. The youths that have decide to give out their ‘mother’ in order to be great and be ‘more than’ others in terms of fake richness.

The land where the men in uniform are never uniform. They only have brutality in their mentality. Have rods for keeping peace and security turned into roads for bringing pain and agony. The bullets for the enemy is now like a ‘bull let’ to put down, silence and stampede innocent people.



Written By: Nthusi Brian

UNITY IS STRENGTH

Someone once said that we share the world for a short time. The question is do we spend that time looking at what pushes us apart or do we give ourselves to look at the future we want for our children?

As human beings, it is only natural that we disagree and have conflicts amongst ourselves. But of what benefit is all this? We spend a lot of time arguing and disagreeing. Time which could have been spent building us is wasted on bringing others down. What does one gain by bringing another down? Is it fame, popularity, pride or what feeling do you get while watching another break?

It’s sad, really sad to see people disagree and fight because of differences that do not even change who we are. Whatever one gains by bringing another down only lasts for a second. The effects, however, can last a lifetime. In the long run, we all need each other. Each of us contributes to another’s life in one way or another, whether it’s clear or not. What would you do if you woke up one day and you found yourself alone in this world? Or even worse, what would you do if you woke up one day to a world that does not hear you, one you are absolutely invisible to?

We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. Let us teach ourselves to focus on the positive side of each one of us. The negative side is of totally no benefit to any of us. Do not protect yourself by a fence but rather by your friends. True friends will stick by you and offer help that you may need along the way. But only if you let them. Don’t be that kind of person that just pushes people out of their lives.

Ever heard of the proverb that goes ‘Two heads are better than one’? Our strength lies in our differences and no one gets to where they desire to be absolutely on their own. If we were all the same then the world would probably be the most boring place ever. Imagine the rainbow, what makes it so unique and beautiful is the fact that it has multiple colours. If it had one colour, it would probably not be as significant.

We are all angels with one wing and we can only fly by hugging each other and flattering our wings in unison and order. Alexander Dumas once said ”All for one and one for all.” We were all created to serve a purpose in someone else’s life and be there for each other, the same way we need others to be there for us.

We need to stick together, appreciate each other, through good and bad time. Never forget, UNITY IS STRENGTH!


Written By: Perpentual Wangari.

NAVIGATING THE “GLASS CLIFF”

What do YOU stand for? There has to be something that you stand for in life. That’s exactly where leadership begins. Mhh…quite evidently, my leadership journey began way long before I ever thought of it as such.

Although I did not hold a leadership position for a long time in life, the qualities of leadership have been at work in my life since childhood. Now that I know so much more about leadership, my definition of it is more sophisticated and detailed and I no-longer see it as something on the other side of the barrier of natural talents. I strongly believe that ‘You do not have to hold a title to be a leader.’

My Sisters’ Keeper has taught me that leadership is not just about title but service.

The main reason I enrolled for the MSK 2020 training was because I had always wanted to learn how to be a leader for years. However this is just not any leader, but a leader with a difference, who stands for principles, purpose, people, and performance and speaks for the voiceless. I wanted change but I didn’t know how to go about it. I kept going round and round in circles not knowing how, what and when to do it. All this was in a bid to improve my ability as a young woman to analyze policies that inform the relationship between communities and workers in order to improve services rendered to the citizens of my country. Thanks for the admission to the program because it has enabled me to unravel the complexity of my myths’ and subsequently been able to get more than what I expected. Emerging Leaders Foundation, the blessing, gave me what I was looking for in the midst of a global pandemic.

But how?

I have learnt a lot of things in the program .The three major segments were on self-discovery, how to connect and eventually create impact which were facilitated by various speakers. After taking the classes on Ethics, Integrity and Values according to the Bill Of rights, Article 10 and Article 232 of the constitution I am now able to give leadership in my field of service with dignity, ensuring that there is justice for all and excellence in service without discrimination of anybody whatsoever. In addition to that, I have been equipped with the skills and knowledge on the face of challenges that young women face as they try to rise in leadership and know how to tackle issues that I face along the way.

The lessons on personal branding changed my general outlook of how I get to present myself to the society. This is because I got to learn that making a name for myself can be tough and sometimes frustrating .It requires a lot of patience and effort in some cases. Image may just prove to be everything. Lisa Gansky once said that ‘Your brand is your public identity, what you are trusted for and for your brand to endure it has to be tested, redefined, managed and expanded as markets evolve. Brands either learn or disappear.’

The training has been so important to me since it has taught me how to be my own brand  as I embrace leadership because if I don’t actively build my brand, other people will build on it by forming their own beliefs on what I stand for.

My Sisters’ Keeper has taught me that leadership is not just about title but service. By getting involved in the community service, I was able to get in touch with the community, understand their needs and able to look at life from their point of view.

This is what I want to propagate and demonstrate in the future ‘Servant leadership’

 

Written By: Martha Murunga- #MySistersKeeper Fellow, 2020

MY SISTERS KEEPER PROGRAM; A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE

For the longest time, I thought that you must have a position for you to be considered a leader. I thought that leadership roles and responsibilities belonged only to the ‘leaders’. I used to try so hard to change my behavior so that I could fit in, never believing in myself while constantly letting other peoples’ opinions inform my decisions. All these beliefs and doubts prevented me from doing the things I loved. I was lucky enough to find light at the end of the tunnel.

In the past few weeks, I have been attending MY SISTERS KEEPER, a training program by Emerging Leaders Foundation. The goal of the overall project is to promote accountable leadership among young women in the health sector. Being chosen for the program was a complete honor.  I remember the mixed emotions I had at the time; excitement, hope, gratitude and even anxiety compounded by self-doubt on whether I was good enough for the program.

I especially enjoyed the first session on different human personalities. I realized that our personalities make us stand out. I finally understood that there was nothing wrong with me, I just had a different way of viewing life and it was okay, I never needed to fit in.

The second session on self-awareness made me realize that I did not know who I really was. I remember the speaker saying that we need to be our own cheerleaders. It was at this point that I remembered the many times that I had self-sabotaged by doubting my abilities. I learned that I should constantly live within my own parameters so that I would finally stop letting external factors define me.

As a health advocate, the program has also equipped me with knowledge on social accountability, public participation, advocacy and personal branding. Courtesy of the training, I have managed to change my views on leadership, and I am fully aware that a leader is anyone willing to take a stand. I am very grateful for the opportunity.

My Sisters’ Keeper was heaven-sent, a life changing opportunity.

 

 

By: Esther Aoko – #MySistersKeeper fellow, and  Sexual and Reproductive Health Youth Advocate.

 

 

 

 

Alumni of the week: Wendy Omanga

Wendy Omanga is a graduate from the university of Nairobi with a B.A in Political science and communication. Additionally, she is the founder of Moonlight Initiative which is a youth lead sustainability and circular economy consultancy which has specialized in Bamboo consultancy. The initiative also sells bamboo products through her ecommerce site called Bambooka. In August this year, she was awarded the Top 35 Under 35 Youth of the Year award for her environment, conservation, and advocacy on bamboo consultancy.

She was an alumna of the first Husika program, Axelerataz movement, where she had a capacity building training on Digital Advocacy and learnt on the power of social media and opportunities that exist in it. “The knowledge and skills I gained from ELF have positively impacted my advocacy of Bamboo at national level and grassroot level.”

“One of my major interest in life is being at the forefront of the Bamboo policy, especially now that it’s considered a cash crop. The digital advocacy training is helping me in creating platforms to discuss the bamboo policy and the way forward as a country.”

Wendy holding her Top 35 under 35 award

Her most difficult part of her journey has been being a youth in a space where most youth are rarely found. Being in the environmental conservation space has been hard for and pushed her to tougher and consistent as she engages her peers on the same.

“Moonlight Initiative has begun planting Bamboo along river Nyando. With the digital advocacy training I got, it helps me run good campaigns on social media. This has earned me an award with Top 35 Under 35 Youth of the Year: Environment, Conservation, Advocacy,” Wendy.

Wendy has picked several lessons along the way but has three key lessons:

  1. Discipline: As a young leader, having personal principles is key to longevity in any industry. It takes extra ordinally discipline to stand out in a crowded industry. It helps in dealing with compromising situations.
  2. Consistency: Time is a huge factor to success. This separates passionate people from people with a ‘get rich quick scheme’ mindset. Giving up is not an option when you have identified your calling in life.
  3. Mentorship: it saves time and helps one avoid mistakes they would otherwise not known without a mentor.

Moving forward, Wendy plans to establish a bamboo cottage industry at grassroot level in Kenya. “I also encourage my peers to follow the right role models and mentors. Its key to success.”

Never underestimate the power of dreams- George Kombe

George Kombe Kagohu currently works with the county government of Kilifi as a Medical Social Worker and attached at Malindi level 4 hospital. He is also an environmental conservatist working with youth in his community in tree planting and environmental cleanups.

Since his time with ELF as a mentee in 2019, he has been able to engage in a number of forums, online and offline with his new found knowledge.

Before joining ELF, Kombe had no idea of how being a what being a leader was all about, what Africanism was and what roles am he to play in the society as a young person.

His greatest take from the ELF was the great knowledge and skills that he acquired from the ELF which have in turn led him to be elected as a coastal regional chairperson in the association of social workers.

“I tried advocacy before joining ELF though had little knowledge on leadership. I tried to assist a friend clinch an MCA’s position. We lost the position but didn’t loose on hope.”

“ELF has had great influence on my life. I was recently voted as a representative at UNDP- REED+ project, this goes back to the power I got at ELF. I have managed to influence several youth groups in my region to start and implement programmes on environmental conservation.”

His most difficulty moments in his journey so far go back to his time as a mentee at ELF. “I used to travel every weekend from Malindi to Nairobi which was a bit expensive for me, bearing in mind I was a family man at the time. I tried my best to involve the political class in my area I managed to get an assistance on the fee required and some part of transport expenses.”

After his time with ELF, George went back to his society and ventured into business, where he registered his own company. Currently, he runs a business, selling cleaning detergents to institutions and individuals. He has managed to create employment for three young people and offered training to many more in the community. His lessons at ELF have helped him earn from a side business despite having a full-time job.

Three lessons that I have learned

  1. Illiteracy can only be defined by those who refuse to learn, unlearn and relearn
  2. Leadership and governance are living subjects that tend to change with time and to some depending with the environment.
  3. Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried a new thing.

His next goals is to make sure that more young people acquire the knowledge and skills that he got from ELF and encourage them to put into practice.

“It is my responsibility to change this world and if can’t change 100 people then let me change only one. But again I ask them to start where one is.”

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit.”

LETS EMBRACE CLIMATE ACTION AS A BUSINESS

Life is a long journey, and if you have an idea of where you are going, finding the right mentor or platform can be a gamechanger. I recently got hitched to one which changed my perspective for the foreseeable future; a 3-day stakeholders convening by UNDP that sought to engage young people in the environmental space on Redd+ readiness and nature-based entrepreneurship. Gladly, I would say sometimes an ember is all we need. A trigger of some sort, a spark. Somehow, we became more confident of the possibilities of the future.

The forum was largely centered on the environmental ecosystem, biodiversity, and entrepreneurship in nature-based businesses. Youth entrepreneurship, investment in the forest value chain and incentivizing climate action as a business were drummed up as a possible buy-in for the youth. Top of the objectives was to scale up climate change projects ran by young people and make them commercially viable. To that end, various partners including Ministry of Environment, Kenya Forests Research Institute, Kenya Forests Services, Net Fund Green Innovation and Youth Enterprise Funds were netted in to demonstrate the massive scope of potential and opportunities that were up for exploitation by young people. Sadly, despite the youth being the future of our country, youth remain absent in the environmental sector or at best limited.

There is need to challenge the idea that Africa’s extraordinary biodiversity and wildlife is a diminishing resource that needs to be protected because conservation efforts need to generate wealth for local people from sustainable businesses based on natural products.

World over, climate change is set to become the most fatal crisis of our time!  While climate change remains irrefutable, we are not too late to stem the tide, and this requires fundamental transformation in all aspects of our society. From how we power our economies, use our land, grow food and the transportation modes we adopt. Trees are finally getting the international recognition they deserve, thanks to their potential as a natural climate solution for absorbing carbon, restoring vital ecosystems, and helping humans adopt to a rapidly changing climate. In a perfect storm that includes Covid-19 and the intertwined crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, we need bold moves to build back better. Conserving, restoring, and growing one trillion trees all over the world by 2030 can help anchor our recovery, delivering equitable environmental progress and livelihood opportunities for the people who need them most.

In Kenya, forests remain the best opportunity to mitigate climate change. The Kenyan government aims at achieving a 10% tree cover by 2022, a rather ambitious fete. That means a whooping 1.8 billion trees must be grown, not planted. Statistics have it that only 10% of the trees planted survive. Tree growth, being an enabler of the Big 4 agenda, is an opportunity for young people to create green jobs through activities such as seed bulking, nurseries establishment, reforestation, afforestation, agroforestry, and sustainable forest management. Another sector to benefit massively from forestry is manufacturing as Kenya is a net importer of forest products. Plantations of Bamboo, Melia tree, sandal wood, and jojoba remain lucrative options for young people in considering forestry as a business. The future of forests in our country lies in investing in commercial forestry outside the gazzetted forests. Honey farming and butterfly farming are other worthwhile projects that promise decent livelihood opportunities for young people.

You see, nothing makes happy than being part of a resilient community that works too hard to fight for mother earth. A clarion call by the young people who attended the UNDP Stakeholders Forum was that time was nigh to swim with the sharks in the climate action. The youth do not know enough to be cautious and therefore they should attempt the impossible-and achieve it, generation after generation. The key to 1.8 billion trees? Many hands. This ambitious goal can only count on power players to deliver the actions that are needed. We must get all hands-on deck, including community groups and the young people of our beloved nation. This dream will require us to dig deeper than we ever wanted, always a little further! 10% tree cover can become a reality.

It became our audacious dream. We are the ones we have been waiting for!

 

By: Marvin Kimani, ELF