Youth are the largest demographic group of the Kenyan population. One in three Kenyans is aged 10 – 24 years, according to data published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in October.
Yet, Kenya’s youth are also marginalised in development planning and decision making.
They are more often than not missing from decision making spaces, which are dominated by middle aged and older people.
Consequently, the needs of the young people are rarely met by both national and county governments. A good example of public services not meeting the needs of the youth is in sexual and reproductive health services.
According to the Kenya Service Provision Assessment Survey of 2010, only seven per cent of public health facilities have the capacity to offer youth-friendly services, yet all data show that they are sexually active.
The marginalisation of youth in decision making and development planning is something that we can change because our governance system gives us the tools to work with.
The Constitution of Kenya in Article 10(2) mentions participation of the people and inclusiveness as one of the national values and principles of governance, which bind all state organs, public officers and all persons.
Besides, the public finance management and governance system is designed to be participatory. Section 137 of the Public Finance Management Act 2012, provides for one avenue that can be employed to include youth in development planning - the county budget and economic forums.
Every county is required by law to set up a county budget and economic forum.
The county budget and economic forum is designed to coordinate and collect views from the public during budget making. It is meant to function as a financial and economic management think-tank for the county government.
The county budget and economic forum is a great platform for counties to identify its priorities and budget for them.
The forum also provides an opportunity for the counties to bridge the gap between citizens and government as envisioned in Article 174 of the Constitution and improve the harmonisation of project implementation and funding.
The county budget and economic forum is constituted and chaired by the governor. It also includes all the County Executive Committee (CEC) members, and the deputy governor, up to a maximum of 11 members.
An equal number of non-state members, drawn from various organisations, including those representing professionals, business, labour issues, women, persons living with disabilities, the elderly and faith-based groups at the county level.
Therefore, the county budget and economic forums, present an excellent starting point for counties to involve the young people in charting the course in development planning and decision making.
The youth of Kenya, being the majority population cohort, have an interest and a major stake in all the aspects of the county from the construction of roads to trade and the provision of health services.
As they set up their county budget and economic forums, the governors ought to invite the young people to be part of the forums alongside other key stakeholders.
It is only by doing so that youth can be represented in decision making and development planning, thereby improving their socio-economic status.
It is only by this that the voice and needs of the young people can inform and effectively influence decision making and planning.
Ms Samba is the Kenya country director at Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW). [email protected]