Kenyan youth have been largely excluded from meaningful political participation in the past so, leading up to the 2017 general elections, a Manifesto was collaboratively written to outline the views of the nation's youth and demand the establishment of a National Youth Policy.
Problems and Purpose
The majority of Kenyan youth has traditionally been excluded from meaningful participation in civic processes. Since youth are a key asset in any working democracy, the Coalition for Kenya Youth Manifesto convened by The Youth Cafe felt it was important that their perspectives, needs and aspirations be brought together in one united philosophy. This was accomplished during the 2017 Kenyan general elections through the collaborative writing of the Kenya Youth Manifesto: which forwarded a proposal to place youth issues and perspectives at the heart of Kenya’s 2017 elections agenda and advance and enrich the current the National Youth Policy. The Manifesto contains the views of its young writers, their aspirations, perspectives and issues, and covers a wide variety of contemporary youth development issues, taking into account the existing Kenya National Youth Policy, the 2010 Kenyan Constitution and internationally agreed frameworks such as the World Programme of Action for Youth, the African Youth Charter and the East African Community Youth Policy. It is the project of The Youth Cafe, the implementing agent of the International Youth Council in Kenya.
Background History and Context
An initial youth online survey was organized in October 2016 which helped to frame the major topics to be covered in the Manifesto. Between January and April 2017, the core Manifesto team widened the project's scope to include individuals and youth-led organizations with a history of political advocacy and a demonstrable interested in the initiative. 35 individuals formed the Coalition for Kenya Youth Manifesto and work began on reaching out to the country's youth to draft the final document.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Making a Manifesto representative of an entire country's youth was an ambitious undertaking so the Kenya project recieved help and support from numerous individuals and organizations. The initial 2016 online survey was prepared by Queen Elizabeth Scholars on internship in East Africa from Fraser Valley University of Canada. Calls for members of the Coalition for Kenya Youth Manifesto were sent out between January and April of 2017, eventually totalling some 50 organizations. Contacts were sent out to 300 talented youth advocates and champions to lead the Drafting and Coordination Taskforce whose work on the outreach process included social media engagement, resource mobilization, Manifesto manuscript designs, peer review, participants recruitment, networking, media connections, etc. Siasa Place helped lead the social media discussions while Afrika Nasaha oversay consultations with educators, schools and young people from across the country. In addition, Global Youth Voices helped aggregate the voices of young Kenyans from a diverse range of sources.
The Kenya Youth Manifesto was thus an outcome of young people's own interconnected efforts and those of various stakeholders in youth development in Kenya. It is non-partisan, created and owned by all Kenyan youth and domiciled at The Youth Cafe, a multi-award winning pan-African youth organization headquartered in Nairobi. During the drafting and after its pulication, the Manifesto raised over $300,000 through a mix of grants and individual donations.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participating organizations and individuals had backgrounds in youth participation and empowerment. Organizers attempted to ensure consultation participants represented the full diversity of Kenya’s youth. The ideas, proposals, and opinions that made up the Manifesto were sourced through face-to-face and online methods of engagement all of which were open to any young Kenyan.
Methods and Tools Used
Ideas, opinions, and view points of the nation's youth were sourced through consultations with youth groups, expert-led and youth-moderated Twitter chat sessions, and short mobile-based messages. Online engagement was a particular focus of the intiative with proposals and ideas sourced through various partner social media platforms mainly in the form of written submissions. While the project team put out direct call for proposals, they were also open to spontaneous messages and general feedback.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
A core drafting team comprising 5 experienced youth workers with diverse backgrounds oversaw the development of the Manifesto from start to finish, from the development of a framework for preparing the Manifesto, to the designing of the format and processes for collecting input from youth and other stakeholders, to the summarizing and collating of all feedback.
Tours led by Coalition member Afrika Nasasha provided an opportunity for students and young artists in tertiary institutions and high schools to contribute to the Manifesto. Conscious efforts to engage political parties and, in some cases, their youth wings, ensured that politically active youth were not left out of the process. A dedicated team of youth research volunteers combed through documentation on existing youth policies and state-led interventions to assess their impacts and integrate their experiences into the Manifesto.
Twitter chats were held every Wednesday at 6.00pm during the month leading up to the publication. The chats brought in key experts to speak and responde to question on pre-selected topics including the relevance of the East African Community Youth Policy to Kenyan youth, the nexus between young people and economy, the wellbeing of youth and, youth and society.
The draft went through a three-stage review process. The initial Manifesto was drafted by the core 5-member drafting team with the support of the Coalition for Kenya Youth Manifesto Steering Committee. This draft was "subjected to thorough review by young people through various platforms, including an online consultation [which] led to the development of a second draft." The second draft was then proofed by various experts, development practitioners, and English-language specialists from the United Nations and local civil society groups, academics and researchers, and public sector representatives. The final document was prepared for release by members of the steering committee with expertise in development, outside technical experts, and experienced copy-editors and designers.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The publication of the Manifesto took place at Zetech University, Ruiru, and was attended by over 1,200 young people, youth leaders, invited guests and two presidential aspirants. The project raised over $300,000 through a mix of grants and individual donations and was presented to the leading 2017 presidential aspirants, major political parties, county governments, groups in the private-sector, and other development partners. Over 3,000 hard copies have been distributed and over 10,000 have been downloaded online.
Thanks to the document, The Youth Cafe have seen an open interaction that has fed into the general democratic scene and stimulated proposals of transformative solutions, marking a departure from past elections. Some of its provisions, like a call for free universal secondary schooling and the increased allocations of funds for youth enterprises, have been adopted by the two frontrunners for the presidency. It has yet to be seen if the winner of the election - Uhuru Kenyatta - will adopt or act on the Manifesto's proposals now that he is in power. However, with its high level of publicity and Mr. Kenyatta's public expression of support, it is likely that the Manifesto's calls will be answered in some way, shape, or form.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Through this collaborative initiative, The Youth Cafe has helped to overcome historical patterns of communal violence and marginalization with a Manifesto reflective of the wants, needs, and desires of all young Kenyans - regardless of class, place of residence, or political persuasion. The non-partisan, collaborative, and inclusive writing process challenged Kenya's norms and practicises with respect to youth engagement, especially during elections. However, much needs to be done for elected leaders, both the executive and legislature, to act on the Manifesto. While the writing of the document can be seen as a victory of participatory democracy, continued mobilization and action is required for the Manifesto to become political reality.
Twitter Chat (tool)
Social Media (tool)
Kenyan Constitution http://www.kenyalaw.org/lex/actview.xql?actid=Const2010
The East African Community Youth Policy http://meac.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/EAC-Youth-Policy.pdf
Africa Youth Charter http://www.un.org/en/africa/osaa/pdf/au/african_youth_charter_2006.pdf
The United Nations World Program on Youth https://www.un.org/development/desa/youth/world-programme-of-action-for-youth.html
Kenya Youth Manifesto:https://www.theyouthcafe.com/kenya-youth-manifesto
The Youth Cafe are currently working to continue this body of work through structured youth policy dialogues at the local County Governments through channels provided for by the constitution on public participation of citizens in public affairs. This is with the aim of promoting better understanding of youth priorities,tracking progess, promoting responsive policies, and ultimately influencing more investments on children and youth programmes. For enquiries, contact The Youth Cafe at [email protected]
Lead image: One Young World https://goo.gl/N7qhvW