In the past decades Kenyan politics have been dominated by men and few Youth and women could be seen actively involved in this crucial sector. This environment provided opportunities for several actors to push for the inclusion of youth and women in the politics in an attempt to increase voice for each population sector. The efforts were further strengthened by the new Kenyan constitution 2010 which provided requirements for gender balance in all positions making sure no single gender exceeds two third of the total.
Similarly, there is constant effort by various bodies to advocate for youth inclusion at national and county government elective and appointment positions to amplify youth voice in decision making.
Siasa Place is among the civil societies in Kenya running interventions focused towards youth empowerment through capacity building in leadership and governance to enhance accountability at county level. Additionally, Siasa Place is implementing a one-year program in Busia County, which commenced on August 2018 under the DFID/DAI-funded KAIP program on accountable service delivery. One of the key areas the project is focusing on is to enhancing the capacity of youth legislators at county level to ensure improved responsiveness of youth MCAs to constituents and increased oversight on the CIDP and the annual budget process.
Immediately after the 2017 general election, Nancy Okademi was lucky to be nominated as the women member of Busia county assembly. “After nomination I realized have task of representing women and youth voice in Busia County”, Nancy narrated during interview. She noted that in initial stages there was no structure within the entire county for the youth and legislators to engage constructively in addressing various issues affecting young people.” When I joined assembly members had fear to engage youth because they were antagonistic and hostile” Nancy stated.
The youth legislator had an opportunity to attend the Siasa Place Youth MCA training in Naivasha from 28th to 30th March 2019 where the youth MCAs were equipped with the knowledge and skills to enhance oversight on the CIDP and the annual budget process and establish or enhance youth caucuses to represent the need and demand of their constituents.” “Through the Siasa Place training I was able to learn oversight roles of MCA and interact with some members of Busia youth steering committee which has made it easy and simple to engage youth using such already established structure” said Nancy.
As a result of the training and engagement with youth from various constituencies within Busia County she was able to develop and sponsor two motions; County youth service bill and Access to information” Establishment of big digital screen for information sharing” .She explained that the ideas to develop these important motions was fueled by youth ideas and thoughts after interacting with them through Siasa place platforms and as such the aim was to ensure every need of Busia county residents is addressed via establishing the appropriate policies”
Additionally, the youth legislators have never been left behind in fighting for youth involvement in county affairs. During the interview she revealed how she has been actively involved in analyzing and interrogating the county fiscal strategy paper for the financial year 2019/2020 to guarantee youth inclusion. She also stated that one of the issues she was able to lobby for in the estimates for the above financial year includes allocation for the youth empowerment centers worthy five million Kenya shillings.
Nancy sees the need to keep youth on their toes through constant engagement and communication with the county law makers. “If youth continues with the same trend of constantly engaging duty bears and more specifically members of county assembly, more youth friendly policies will be constituted within Busia County and I thank Siasa Place for playing a key role in linking the youth and MCAs” said Nancy.
Through establishing a good communication and engagement structure between youth and young members of county assembly there has been a deliberate effort to form new policies aimed at addressing youth concerns because both parties can now lobby and advocate for positive change. In addition, youth legislators are actively pushing for youth inclusion in county budget allocations since they have now established good working relations with youth leaders which enables them engage in a structured manner.
By Patrick Wabwire & Charles Kithinji