This year’s theme for International Youth Day — "Safe Spaces for Youth" — is a call on us all to protect and enable opportunities for young people to develop.
In Kenya this is important to national growth and cohesion.
The nation’s future rests on the next generation’s livelihood, skills and sense of personal security.
The Aga Khan Foundation, GIZ on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Kenya Red Cross Society and RUSI have come together to implement a European Union-funded programme to improve inclusive economic and other opportunities for more than 20,000 young people across 11 counties in Kenya.
Together we are working in partnership with the national and county governments.
FOR THE YOUTH
As a result of the programme, youth are developing vocational skills to support economic livelihoods, participating in dialogue to tackle critical issues and develop solutions, and improving their decision-making and life skills.
We believe it is impossible to find the right answers — for Kenya's future and for the present — if we don't work with and for young Kenyans.
Speaking about the global importance of youth in all of the European Union’s engagement with Africa, the Foreign Affairs High Representative, Federica Mogherini made it clear:
"It is not just one issue among others. This is not just one priority among others. It is the centre, the lens through which we see all the different initiatives we are taking.
"So, when we work on investments, on job creation, on migration, on e-governance, on climate change action, this is the work we do with and for our youth."
Today, our online campaign, #NafasiKwaVijana (OpportunitiesforYouth), is being matched by a youth gathering in Mombasa in partnership with the County Government.
It will provide a platform for youth to speak and opportunities for dialogue with young people.
They will receive information and become involved with a range of skills, support and opportunities, as well as sport and entertainment.
This event will reflect a theme that is being marked around the world.
Safe spaces are about opportunity, security and inclusion of youth. These are themes in which everyone has a role to play.
Our four organisations want to help all generations understand more about the young people in their community and how to support them.
That Kenya’s youth matter is obvious. By whatever measure you choose, the youth make up the largest proportion of the Kenyan population.
Together with their energy and optimism they represent a demographic dividend.
A successful handover to the future generation will ensure continued success for this country, a process in which young people need to feel that they are active participants in.
As the youth grow they will take up the reins of responsibility across national life - in economic growth, Kenya’s vibrant political life and the country’s values.
Our programme works on the principle that all young people have an equal role in that national story.
Inclusion and equitable access to opportunities means all can contribute, benefit and belong to the country as it progresses.
To ensure no one is left behind, the programme is focused on marginalised youth who have less opportunities, do not have any sort of regular income and are more likely to engage in violence.
According to a survey released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in March 2018, seven million Kenyans are unemployed.
The largest unemployment rate is among 20 to 24 year olds, at 19 per cent.
Our joint programme aims to provide marginalised youth with support in different ways, including relevant vocational and life skills, to enable them to improve their own livelihoods and that of their community.
We are working with young people in Garissa, Mandera, Wajir and Isiolo in the North East; Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, Taita Taveta and Tana River in the Coast; as well as urban areas of Mombasa and Nairobi.
We treat each young person we work with as an individual with their own needs and humanity, regardless of their background.
When we designed our programme we spoke to government, employers, leaders and young people to understand what skills and training would be most useful in the local market and adapted our support.
This process of consultation and feedback has been critical to working with the young people and community members.
Being a youth is a time of change, when experiences are explored and values are taken on board.
Individuality is formed but it develops as part of the community.
Dialogue with and guidance from the older generation and leaders is critical and is a key part of our programme.
Young people must not feel alone and need to be wholly included by their families, community and nation.
By Atrash Ali of the Aga Khan Foundation, Aregash Asfaw of GIZ, Elijah Muli of KRCS and Martine Zeuthen of RUSI