Youth in Kenya have been challenged to be job creators rather than wait to seek for employment with focus on white collar jobs only.
The call was made during a youth forum dubbed "Safe Spaces for Youth" on Friday at the United Nations headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi, which attracted participants from within and without the country.
This comes as the country is preparing to mark International Youth Day tomorrow in Kisii County to celebrate the youth and their contributions to development, which will be graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
It was recognised the youth have built a momentum, with the rise of social media and other forms of online communication, in exploring new opportunities for engagement and are using their innovations to create both virtual and physical spaces.
All these coming as the world experiences drastic changes, such as climate change, deepened social and economic inequalities, political and humanitarian crises, which have contributed in limiting safe spaces for the youth.
Public Service, Youths and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia said having a space that feels safe can empower both rural and urban youth by providing them with the opportunity to gather and participate in activities such as sport, or talk and engage in meaningful dialogue in light of thinning spaces to meet, interact and socialise outside of their family environment.
Prof Kobia challenged the youth to come up with youth-led and youth-focused organisations to utilise safe spaces to meaningfully engage with local, national and global decision makers on issues including youth civil rights, voting, democracy and governance.
BIG FOUR AGENDA
“Participation in civic engagements can engender a sense of belonging and provides opportunity for power sharing for many youth who often feel excluded from governance issues and civil matters,” said Prof Kobia.
The Youth CS called on those present to come out and grab opportunities provided for by the government. She said through the Big Four Agenda, particularly the one on manufacturing, employment opportunities are set to be created.
“Manufacturing agenda is set to create jobs as it will need 350,000 skilled people to achieve the agenda. Safe space for the youth can only be there when there is good health, food, affordable housing, environment, water and sanitation,” she said.
Prof Kobia said the government is committed to empowering the youth to get meaningful employment.
The government, she added, has invested in technical and vocational training to equip the youth with the necessary job skills, noting the government is also giving the youth Sh30,000 as stipend when joining the vocational training institutes.
They are also given access to higher education loans and has also changed the curriculum to competence based, all aimed at equipping the young with requisite skills to be job creators.
“Participants will consider ways in which safe spaces can promote an inclusive youth engagement in the 2030 Agenda and also identify challenges and opportunities for using available spaces in their communities, including participating in decision making processes,” she said.
The CS said the global commemoration has been preceded by a National Youth Week (NYW) aimed at showcasing the contributions of youths in all sectors as well as creating awareness across the entire population on the need to bring young people to the centre of social-economic and political development in the country.
“On August 6, we launched a national tree planting in Makueni County and on August 8 held a peace caravan in Nairobi before holding a youth dialogue at the National Assembly on August 10,” she said.
She pointed out that this year’s theme is line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal number 11 which emphasises the need to provide inclusive and sustainable development.
Prof Kobia said as the youth continue to grow in a technologically connected world, they aspire to engage deeper in political, civic and social matters, and the availability of spaces becomes even more crucial to make their aspirations a reality.
“As a ministry, we have domesticated the global theme through the slogan "Nafasi Ni Safe - Husika". We plan to focus our commemoration in order to build momentum on the creation of space for our youth to be involved in the attainment of the national priorities within the Big Four Agenda,” she said.
She appealed to the youth to take an active role in the activities in order to voice their concerns, learn and participate in matters that affect them, share examples of positive spaces and the role that they played in enhancing the lives of young people.
The CS urged partners and stakeholders, including county governments, to organise activities within their localities bearing in mind this year’s theme adding that the activities should be aligned to the Big Four Agenda and youth inclusion and participation.
“I want to also challenge the United Nations to give tools for measuring achievements so that we can see the progress we have made. To the county governments, they should integrate their development plans with the national government,” she said.
UN Habitat executive director Maimunah Sharif said the international agency is committed to working together with the youth to create liveable cities by giving them a chance to take part in their design saying that by 2030, 70 per cent of people will be living in urban area. She said youth friendly spaces can be planned in such a way to accommodate the needs of the youth, creating an open and accepting environment and ensuring that the spaces appeal to the youth from diverse backgrounds.
The executive director explained the physical space should be designed in a way to deter gender-based violence, harassment, and marginalisation, while the virtual space should adopt anti-discriminatory policies and identify norms and values to be respected.
“The design of such spaces should be inclusive and accommodate their various needs, interests and activities,” she said.
Meru County Youth Affairs and Sports executive Daniel Kiogora implored the government to make laws that take care of the youth while also setting aside finances to empower them to make sure they are also part of the economy.
Shamoy Hajare from Jamaica School for Social Entrepreneurship pointed out that youths face challenges rising from mismatch in education system where skills being trained for now are obsolete and not applicable in the current job market.
She said that youth entrepreneurship must be mainstreamed to encourage them to be job creators, stating that it is estimated that in 2030 at least 1 billion new jobs will need to be created to cater for youth coming out of school.
“The jobs will not only come from the private sector and the government but from the youth themselves,” she said.
Cassia Moraes of Youth Climate Leaders said that the organisation is building safe space for young entrepreneurs to give them the opportunity to lead the needed change while also giving them a chance to get training on climate change.