Nothing for us without us! Engage youth in policy development
It is believed that 70% of the African countries population is made up of youths. In Kenya 25% of the Kenyan population comprises youths aged 18-34 years old, 43% of the population falls below the 15 year old age bracket. It is imperative that youths play a central role at the decision making table. As it is always said there is nothing for us without us.
Meaningful youth engagement is the intentional partnership between youth and the government where young people are involved in every part of a policy process or program from identifying the problem, setting the agenda, finding policy options, decision-making to implementation and evaluation. By doing so, everyone feels involved and they get to own the process. It includes efforts by young people to organise around issues of their choice.
Recently, while reviewing the National Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Rights policy 2015, with youths drawn from across different counties. Young people identified gaps and provided recommendations that existed in the policy. Young people are an asset in this country. It was interesting to hear from the diverse group how much information they harbored and how resourceful they were.
Amongst the issues highlighted were lack of awareness or little or even no information on the existence of the policy. Lack of meaningful engagement among young people and other populations including teenage mothers and adolescents. This only serves to show that it is not enough to have critical information that could help the common mwananchi contained amongst few people.
It is very vital for the Ministry of Health to find ways of having such vital information penetrate deep into the villages of Kenya. The National Adolescent is no exception. Kenya has many policies that young people do not know about and during formulation few or none of them were involved in the development process.
These youths also spoke to the issue of lack of exhaustive implementation of the policy. There is a very disheartening culture that is deeply ingrained in Kenyan systems. We have very good policies on paper that have hardly been implemented or have been implemented haphazardly. It is not a wonder that neighboring countries will visit Kenya for benchmarking purposes and actually do better than us tenfold.
Meaningful youth engagement fosters transferable non-cognitive skills and competences, improves decision making abilities, develops a positive sense of self-awareness which increases resilience and well-being. It also increases the ownership of policies and initiatives, and improves transparency and accountability.
The future of Kenya lies with the youth. We are the friction that causes any lasting political fire, we are the engine that roars the economy of any country alive, we are the oars that row the social boat. Anyone who undermines the role of the youth in the society undermines the future of that particular society. We therefore call upon the Ministry of Health to ensure that young people are meaningfully involved in policy development and are at the fore- front of making decisions regarding issues affecting them.
Youth Changers Kenya, Reproductive Health Advocate