Youth should take ownership of their future By Levin Banns Ouma

Talk of youth as future leaders may sound so novel. This is despite the fact that it has always been the case all along- it has, for the longest time, been said that the youth are the future, or leaders of tomorrow if you may. The current crop of leaders, together with the government of the day, has time and again peddled this narrative through the various platforms and channels available to them. However, there has been very little, if any, development over the years to promote the realization of youth leadership. This, therefore, begs the question: Is this merely a simple, empty, and overused cliché?

The youth form the bulk of not only our country’s population but also the electorate. A lot of young people are enthusiastic and eager to be involved politically and to shape their destiny and society(ies) in which they live. The youth are, thanks to their visibility, exposure, and progressive ideas, better placed to assume higher, more effective political and leadership roles. Despite their qualitative and quantitative visibility, the sorry state of their inclusion/ involvement in the management and development affairs of the country is deeply troubling. There are numerous factors that have stood and continue to stand between young people and their quest for leadership. Among the notable obstacles and challenges that make it difficult (or nearly impossible) for young people to lead include; suppressive government structures, corruption, poverty, lack of education, and unemployment. These factors significantly muffle and/or even extinguish their voices, thereby making it imperative that they seek and adopt strategies targeted at making the much-needed change. 

Current leaders have also gone to great lengths to cast the youth in a bad light and to portray them as immature and having negative idealistic attitudes that taint their reputation. This should not necessarily be a bad thing. Why? Rather than trends, youth are largely moved by ideas, which they have the potential of staying true to and not giving up on despite the cost, challenges, and obstacles they’ll come across. While this idealistic attitude could earn them a bad reputation in the eyes of veteran leaders, it is precisely what will see them as being good leaders. The veteran leaders have also argued that this digital age has reduced the youth into a mere generation of followers only moved by trivial pursuits, not leadership. In this regard, the youth should remember that social media has been used the world over by other young people to bring about change, lead, and hold the government to account. Through social media, youth have been able to organize unprecedented change in, for example, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and so on. Youth have also used social media to get their messages across and to drive various causes- such as human rights, unfair or discriminatory policies, injustices, and climate change- which have been responsible for various historical developments in the world. 

It is, thus, all too clear that the youth are the ones best suited to drive positive change and pave the way for the future. Without youth empowerment, the country cannot thrive. While the country is led by veterans, its future is highly dependent on the youth and young leaders who remain highly disenfranchised and excluded despite their having the skills, ideas, motivation, and power to lead. The youth should, therefore, rally together, remind their leaders of their duties and responsibilities, take it upon themselves to demand good leadership and accountability, and take ownership of their future by pushing for the change they’d like to see. 

Written by Levin Banns Ouma

Profile: I am a Kenyan youth who is interested in and closely follows politics and governance issues in the country. Facebook: Levin Leweezy Ouma

 

Kenya needs Kenyans, now more than ever by Kibet Brian

“Will we succumb to chaos, division, and inequality? Or will we right the wrongs of the past and move forward together?” the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres posed to global leaders in the 18th edition of the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture. The lecture was given as part of the celebrations of Nelson Mandela International Day which is celebrated on the 18th of July every year to honor the legacy of a global icon whose values continue to inspire many seven years after his death.

The question above resonates well in the Kenyan context we find ourselves in today. Many Kenyans feel the supplication in our national anthem, “O God of all creation bless this our land and nation”, has gone unanswered or the blessings have been few, with the rest praying for more blessings upon the few. It is worth noting that we are in the middle of a global pandemic whose effects on the economy have caused untold suffering to countless Kenyans. Declining income, closure of businesses, and the loss of jobs only reflect the tip of the iceberg. The political climate in the country, however, seems to suggest otherwise. One would be forgiven for thinking we are months to a general election with the novel coronavirus already contained.

The political doldrums in the midst of a pandemic make one wonder whether it is a blessing or a curse to be born in this country. It seems this quagmire is what made a netizen to hilariously assert that this country should be closed for repairs.

However, all is not lost. Amidst all these, we are given a chance to correct mistakes and build a future while appreciating our not so memorable past. It is while we are down that we scratch our heads for the way up. It is no longer tenable to remain in the trenches and complain about poor governance and corruption in government. It is time to advance against the ills that bedevil our societies and stand to be counted. After all human history is replete with circumstances where the unfathomable has been achieved by the unexpected.

In this sense, rising up means fighting the undoing that fan negativity and embrace those that bind us in unity and form the hegemony that Kenya should be. This means extending our arms to the less fortunate in our communities and demanding action from authorities where we feel there are issues. It also means the citizenry making an effort to become more informed on how they are and how they should be governed. Above all, it is all about raising the political cautiousness of the people to enable them to make decisions that benefit them in post-COVID 19 elections.

Finally, it is also about our leaders owning up to the great responsibility bestowed on them by leading from the front. It is a great dereliction of their ordained duties to be the ones leading in subverting laws which are meant for the good of the people to oppress and deny citizens their right. Politicking on succession politics in these extraordinary times is at best pharisaical of them.

The good for all is a prosperous country where unemployment is eradicated, healthcare accessible by all, housing no longer a preserve of a few, food security attained, and where the rule of law reigns. Now is the time to begin the actualization of this, because this is what we signed up for.

 

Written by Kibet Brian who is a Student at the University of Nairobi – School of Law in Parklands. He comments on topical issues with a bias for Tax, Social, and Administrative Justice.

Twitter – @Kibett_Brian
Facebook- Ki-Bett Brian

What is so public about participation when youth are not involved? by Stephen Gathaga

Considering the fact that the youths are the future and the representation of any nation, Kenya is not exempted from such a fact due to the high number of youth in the country. This is because these are the people who are mainly engaged in any nation-building process or any destructive process due to the high levels of energy that they have and the capability of them adapting to new environments. In recent years, we have seen youth being engaged in certain reforms of our nation. The latest has been witnessed during the Kazi Mtaani Project that has seen the cleaning and rehabilitation of our environment. This was a great boost to the youth since to some extent; the levels of unemployment and poverty were reduced. However, there is much that needs to be done to counter the unemployment notwithstanding the fact that most of them have attended institutions of higher learning. Though most of them are now being encouraged to attend technical institutions so as to create self-employment, the government should feel the urge of providing sufficient capital to them after successful completion of whatever course one has engaged in. Also, there is a need to engage the youth in administrative processes such as governance and policy implementation. As stated earlier, the youth are the future of any nation and in regards to this, a generation of responsible youth will be raised and this will create a stable transition of them from junior to some of the senior positions in governance. This will help our nation avoid going into a governance crisis.

Public participation
In Kenya, the executive, legislature, and any other administrative bodies have been given the power to come up with legislation and policies. However, any undertaking that these institutions do engage in should be in the best interest of the citizens and through their involvement.

According to Article 1 of the constitution, the Sovereign power belongs to the citizens and hence the need for the citizens to be engaged in public participation as guaranteed in the Constitution of Kenya in Articles 10 (2) a, 69(1)d, 174(c), 184(1), 196(1)b and 232(1)d. The government usually uses the Kenya Gazette to present any issue that needs public participation. The question that arises is: how many Kenyans are able to access the Kenyan gazette and fully air out their views? How many Kenyans are able to read and fully comprehend whatever information has been placed before them in the gazette? Are the timelines provided for public participation regarded as sufficient? Despite the fact that public participation is guaranteed in law, the government of Kenya has not yet reached the threshold that is required for sufficient public participation to be stated to have taken place. This is clearly seen in instances whereby the public is not involved and if they are involved they are not given enough time to participate. Recently, it was witnessed when there was a transfer of functions from the county government of Nairobi to the national government.

The deed of transfer of functions was rendered illegal by J. Hellen Wasilwa in Petition 52 of 2020. This is because the county assembly was not involved in the process which was a clear violation of the constitution. In such a case, public participation would have been conducted by the members of the county assembly who are the representatives of the citizens of Nairobi County. In conclusion, public participation remains not to have been fully implemented and hence the need for the government to institute measures to ensure the same will be conducted fully in the coming instances.

Written by Stephen Gathaga Mihang’o, a student at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa

Facebook: Stephen Gathaga
Twitter: @gathagastephen

Repeated lies and accepted truths by Barbra Ouma

There are always two sides to a story. A story is never complete if you don’t listen to both sides. This is especially where there are controversies or disputes but especially when it involves the death of a person. In case of an accident, if the victim survives and lives to tell their tale then that’s okay and great as well. At least the family of the victim will know what really happened and if there are things that can be avoided as well as lessons learned from the accident. But what happens to the victims that die instantly…who lives to tell their story? Who can attest to what really happened that led to the death of the victims? Their story will always be forgotten tales. No one will ever know what really happened that led to their demise.

When one loses a loved one, there are more questions than answers. Questions that only the dead can answer. Questions we carry for a lifetime. Questions that do us more harm than good. These questions hurt so deeply, pierces the heart like a knife. The questions lead us to a place that no one wishes to be in. One is left in limbo. It is hard to move away from such thoughts and only God can give you peace of mind, serenity, and tranquility that you so badly need.

COVID 19 for instance came with a bang. Like the uninvited guest, the virus came unnoticed, settled among us, and set the pace and tune which everyone dances to at the moment. The tunes may not be melodious as we all wish it should be but we forcefully have to listen to it and settle with the rhythm however boring. Every nation worldwide has been affected by the virus, so many have died and Kenya has not been spared either. There are those who have died as a result of the virus. There are those who suffered from mild headaches and died from it. There are those who have died from childbirth. At the same time, there are those who have suffered from major and minor accidents and died at the hospital, there are those who have had heart failure and died as a result. Some of these cases have been reported as COVID 19 cases thus creating stigma on the bereaved families.

Unfortunately, the dead cannot speak for themselves. The living is the one left to defend the dead. It is only the victims that can truly tell their tales but it is unlikely that anyone would listen because they cannot speak nor can their voices be heard. The stories of their struggle, suffering, and the feeling of loneliness and abandonment by their loved ones will remain untold. Only the ones who have survived the ordeal can narrate their survival journey. Sadly, the dead will always keep the pain and agony they went through when they were sick when they suffered when their heart failed. They cannot tell the world they are not COVID 19 victims as it is claimed by others. Theirs will always remain to be so only to be forgotten by others with time.

Forgotten tales are stories worth listening to and sharing the pain of the victims, but mostly it is never the case. The owners travel with them to an unknown destination and no one will ever know what truly happened. Their stories are in a safe haven but forgotten by many.

Written by Barbra Ouma from Kisumu county
Twitter: @barbaraouma18
Facebook: Barbara Ouma

Sadly, ten years later after the promulgation of the Constitution, these basic rights are still a dream for the girl child.

Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Kenya is an ambitious aspiration that is meant to promote equality, equity, inclusion, and non- discrimination based on gender, race, and ethnicity. The Constitution has presented an occasion where women and girls have over time experienced historical imbalance. Systemic challenges have made it difficult for women to not only access political leadership but also social and economic rights. The right to safe abortion, right to menstrual health hygiene, female genital mutilation are some of the issues that women and girls among other things fight every day.

Image by Hanna Barczyk for NPR

Menstruation is a biological process that transitions a girl to womanhood. Some girls experience it earlier than the age of ten, others experience it way later. This biological process is characterized by pain, some women experience extremely heavy bleeding, premenstrual syndrome, and amenorrhea. However, this biological process which forms a critical component of sanitation, health, and education has been compounded by taboos and cultural practices. Silence or discussion of menstruation hygiene in hushed tones has curtailed women’s and girls’ ability to express their sexuality and this hinders their participation in matters that concern them. The silence has been worsened by existing gender and social norms, societal restrictions, predominant patriarchy, and gender inequality.

Kenya has made some significant strides in addressing menstrual hygiene. Water and sanitation sector is key in implementing menstrual hygiene management, hence Article 43 of the Constitution has given a right to all to enjoy access to clean and safe water in adequate quantities. Menstrual health is a reproductive matter, the same provision guarantees all women and girls to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health which includes reproductive health care. However, these rights have not been fully achieved as far as menstrual hygiene is concerned. Most girls and women in low- and middle-income areas still face challenges relating to access to sanitation facilities and lack of proper avenues for disposal of menstrual waste. Disposal of menstrual hygiene products is not only a waste management problem but a health issue as well. Poor disposal of menstrual products may act as a breeding ground for infections and diseases. On top of that too, sanitary products not disposed of well can be an eyesore. Most school latrines and public toilets lack free-flowing water, lockable doors, good lighting, and privacy in general.

And to mention accessibility, the prices of sanitary towels are outrageous. Girls and women who cannot afford this commodity have been forced to improvise the sanitary products. Tree barks, socks, tissues are some of the improvised products. Even though these go a long way, they pose a challenge and could lead to infections. Some young women in rural areas are known to sit on small holes they have dug as their menstrual cycle passes.

The Basic Education Amendment Act, No. 17 of 2017, provides that the government shall provide free sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every child registered and enrolled in a public basic education institution who has reached puberty and provide a safe and environmentally sound mechanism for disposal of the sanitary towels. This has kept many girls in school but in areas where negative gender-based practices continue to prevail that limit access of girls to education, girls have missed out on this which has spiked the rise of early teenage pregnancy due to transactional sex and in some areas early childhood marriages.

The Menstrual Health and Hygiene Policy is a landmark Policy that was approved by the Government of Kenya in November 2019. It contains five policies that the government hopes to include in existing programs like the anti-FGM campaign. The policies which include the establishment of an enabling legal and regulatory environment for women and girls, eradication of myths, taboos, and stigma around menstruation, ensure women and girls have access to safe and hygienic menstrual products, safe and appropriate menstrual waste management and maximum accountability in the policy will go a long way in ensuring that women and girls enjoy this reproductive health right devoid of stigma and shame.

Written by Mercy Chepkemoi who is a lawyer by profession. She is particular with issues affecting women’s rights.
Twitter – @masiememo
Instagram – Masiememo
Facebook – Mercy Chepkemoi Chebett

Image courtesy of People Daily.

Teenage pregnancies are still on the rise, are we doing enough about it?

As the country struggles to curb the spread of coronavirus, teenage pregnancy has also starred as another outbreak that has raised alarm all over the country. It has been weeks since the media reported data that is said to have been from public facilities, even as stakeholders continue to debate on this matter and blaming each other, the big question remains, how do we liberate our girls from another pandemic called teenage pregnancies?

The magnitude of the problem extends to the social, mental and economic wellbeing of the pregnant girls as most them are not able to complete their education despite the existence of policies that support them to resume school after delivery; Important to note is that complications relating to pregnancies and childbirth are the leading causes of deaths for girls age 15-19 (WHO), therefore this pandemic exposes teenage girls to even greater risk. Their limited capacity to negotiate for safe sex, school closure, sexual violence, and perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic might have been the leading causes of teenage pregnancy. 

Urban informal settlements have mostly been affected by the surge of teenage pregnancies with teenagers being left at the mercy of quack doctors procuring unsafe abortions, while those who choose to keep the baby have limited access to essential healthcare. Doreen is a thirteen-year-old girl living in Mukuru slums, she is four months pregnant from a 23-year-old man, Doreen has since faced rejection from her parents and the man who impregnated her. She expresses her dissatisfaction with the antenatal care she has been receiving from a nearby facility. Doreen represents thousands of girls across the country who are facing tough times in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enough said, if the issue of teenage pregnancies is not addressed then we might end up having more teenage pregnancies than COVID-19 cases; so how do we sustain the gains made over the years as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic? Stakeholders including parents, the government, and Non-Governmental Organizations should promote comprehensive sexuality education that will help learners make informed decisions concerning their bodies and health. There is also a need for continuous advocacy to address policy barriers that limit enabling legal and socio-cultural environment for accessing Sexual Reproductive Health Services and information

Finally, it is imperative to note that the root causes of teenage pregnancies are complex and to be successful, there is a need for comprehensive, multi-pronged, and multi-sectoral approaches and integration of the approaches in COVID-19 response especially at the County level.

 

BIO

Steve is a passionate Reproductive health advocate who has a reputation in the youth sector when it comes to reproductive health and rights.

He is a youth health advocate from Nairobi Youth Advisory Council championing for the rights of youth and adolescents, sexual minorities to access to comprehensive and age-responsive sexual reproductive health knowledge about their sexual and reproductive rights.

SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLES 

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Kenya’s Big Win; What does this mean for the common mwananchi? By Mukanda Asha

On Thursday the 18th of June as the world slept, world leaders convened virtually to cast votes for the UN Security Council non-permanent membership 2021–20202. Kenyan won. This was after it garnered129 votes against Djibouti’s 62 in the second round of voting at the UNSC headquarters in New York City. Kenya won largely due to its support for refugees from Somalia and South Sudan, as well as to its support to the two countries’ fragile governments. The win came at an opportune time, this is because Nairobi’s latest international bids had largely been unsuccessful. Kenya had lost a bid to host the secretariat of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement to Ghana. She had lost her bid to have one of her own as Chairperson of the AU Commission. It also failed to host the regional offices of the Afrexim Bank. This means that Nairobi can, from January 2021, return to the UN’s most powerful organ after 23 years where it will be part of key decisions on global peace and security.

As a Kenyan and a patriot, my heart was filled with joy and I couldn’t help but smile as I read the news. I did not know what this meant for the country, but my ignorant self was aware that being the UN Security Council, this meant that it was a huge deal or so I thought. But what does this big win mean? How does this major move translate to the life of a Common Mwananchi? Does it trickle down to Wekesa or is it just an icing on the cake? Are there perks that one can ride on or is it another foreign concept one that is of no benefit to the citizens?

The win wasn’t devoid of issues, it later came up that none of the East African countries voted for Kenya a move that left most of us questioning our rapport with our neighbors. Observers said Djibouti’s race against Kenya may jeopardize working relations in regional blocs the two countries belong. According to Dr. Mustafa Ali, “having two entrants from the same region was also a pointer to weak multilateral diplomacy in Africa and a possibility of external influence.”

The fact that two countries from the IGAD region were competing for a non-permanent member seat at the UNSC left us wondering if this was a pointer to deep divisions between countries at the sub-regional bloc~ Dr. Mustafa Y Ali, Chairman of the Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies.

 Speaking during a press conference Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Racheal Omamo alluded to the fact that with the new platform, Kenya will articulate the issues that shaped its campaign for the seat. These issues include regional peace, Justice and Human rights, Climate Change, and youth empowerment. She mentioned that the opportunity will allow Kenya to join the world in dealing with issues that are critical for every human being.

“It is essential that Africans are at the table, that our ideas, our decision making, our thought processes visions and are laid on the table for all to see, for all to hear and for all to engage with that is why we were endorsed by the African Union to speak for Africa without hesitation, trepidation and without fear.~Racheal Omamo Cabinet Secretary Foreign Affairs.

The big question is can Kenya and  Africa as a whole make its global point or influence as an independent entity without being infiltrated by external power interests? 

Mukanda Asha is a bibliophile who is passionate about youth, women, policy, and data and the effect that the four have on each other.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/asha.mukanda.1 | Twitter https://twitter.com/mukanda_asha | IG-https://www.instagram.com/mukandasha/

 

 

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