Machua Stephen Njoroge

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The International Youth Day will be celebrated on 12th August in different parts of the world. Before the day, Governments, Private Sector, Development Partners and Civil Society actors are likely to organise a series of events and activities to highlight their milestones in youth empowerment and their promises to their respective countries’ future.

This year’s celebration is convened under the theme “Safe Spaces for Youth” with an aim to push for civic spaces for youth to engage in governance issues, public spaces for youth to engage in sports and leisure activities as well as digital spaces to allow youth to engage virtually across borders.

This theme comes at a time when there is a growing sense of disillusionment especially to young people who were publicly promised “heaven” before August 8th elections in Kenya.

For a long time now, youth empowerment has been ‘cosmeticised’ by different actors. It has been made to look like the only thing that young people want. The narrative on setting aside tenders, opportunities and spaces for youth is a guilt shielding strategy by systems who have messed up youth in pursuit of personal interests.

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate the honesty of youth development / empowerment programmes at two, perhaps three, maybe three point five.


Why am I saying so?

Most youth empowerment programmes are crafted from a reactive point of view, sometimes not well thought out and other times to meet interests or create milestones for the subject driver; does not matter whether it is the UN, local organisation, private company or a state department. They barely have impact in mind and their lifeline is as long as the subject driver’s existence.

Youth have to learn how to acquire a new trading currency! We are doomed if being young is the only negotiating factor. We have been held captive by transactional youth empowerment initiatives for long. Our silence over years trained the cosmetician!


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