Meru, Kenya, May, 2018- Meru County, hidden in the slopes of Mount Kenya, recently launched a 5-year ambitious plan to bring hope to its youth who have been forced out of livelihoods after the ban of miraa export worth US$ 6 Billion by the European Union.
In a call to action to find a solution for the young people, UN-Habitat in partnership with Meru County Government held a joint youth empowerment conference in Meru Town. The two-day conference was held on 3rd and 4th May, 2018 utilized the theme “Build the Youth, Build the Future’.
The theme Build the Youth: Build the Future honors the spirit of inclusion, and leaving no one behind. The conference empowered young men and women to meaningfully engage and improve the social and economic life of Meru County. The conference identified solutions to tackle key challenges affecting young people including youth radicalization, poverty, unemployment and alcohol and drug abuse in an effort to rally the youth towards meaningful activities in governance and economic development.
A special focus during the conference was on the Meru Youth Service programme run by the county government. Launched in April, 2018 the Meru Youth Service (MYS) is the first of its kind in Kenya counties. 1000 young people drawn from administrative wards in the county were recruited to join the service and will receive training over the next year in fields such as agriculture, health services and urban regeneration.
“The urbanization rate in Meru is rapid with young people moving into the cities and towns searching for education and jobs. UN-Habitat is here to work in partnership with Meru to add value to young people’s lives by reaching out to the poorest of the poor and giving them a critical hand up through training and other supports.” said Douglas Ragan, Chief, UN-Habitat’s Youth and Livelihoods Unit.
“BUILD THE YOUTH, BUILD THE FUTURE”
Led by other youth leaders and role models from international and local communities, youth in groups discussed the social and economic risks and opportunities of young people in the county, and ways on how to improve the social capital and economic integration of youth. Youth in audience had a good chance to listen and learn from best practices and experiences of the distinguished panelists.
The breakout group sessions on Thursday led by high level panelists from the United Nations and other international organizations discussed possible solutions to challenges affecting Meru Youth by demonstrating and profiling best experiences from other countries that can be replicated to improve livelihoods. These discussions were later paneled to lengthy and intensive discussions leading to drafting of a Meru Youth Declaration, a document that illustrates best approaches in resolving challenges affecting youth in Meru.
“The outcomes of the Meru Youth Declaration will be used as a lead example to be replicated to other counties across the country,” said Linus Sijenyi, Youth Expert at UN-Habitat. The Meru Youth Declaration also marked a new phase for the beginning of the Meru Youth Programme been a partnership between UN-Habitat and Meru County Government.
In her keynote speech, Dr. Aisa Kacyira, Under Secretary General (USG) at UN-Habitat, expressed her approval to this programme and reaffirmed UN-Habitat’s readiness to support youth initiatives that promote inclusion and participation of young people in governance, post conflict management and public space making to improve youth livelihoods. In a tweet, Dr. Aisa Kacyira wrote saying she was “Very encouraged by the passion and commitment of Governor Kiraitu, and the Youth of Meru County in working with UN-Habitat to build the future.”
The conference was also graced with the presence of Professor Margaret Kobia, Cabinet Secretary for Youth, Sports and Gender in Kenya who emphasized the significance of localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Development cannot be actualize until it is seen as actual development on the ground,” Said Prof. Margaret Kobia. The Cabinet Secretary added that the Government of Kenya is also ready and open to partnerships that are driven toward Youth-LED-Development. “When we create opportunities for young people, we are creating a stronger country,” emphasizing that “It is important to encourage young people to develop a positive attitude toward governments in an effort toward including them in the process of achieving the set development goals on youth.”
In his speech, Abdallah Kassim, Human Settlements Officer in the Urban Economy Branch and who is also the Coordinator of the UN-Habitat Meru Youth Programme emphasized the need for inclusion, participation, dialogue and creating a sense of belonging to young people as key components to fostering a welcoming spirit of working together with other partners in building sustainable solution for the young people.
The conference was hosted by His Excellency Governor Kiraitu Murungi who emphasized that “The best approach to profile best practices of youth empowerment is to first overcome the unemployment situation. We want our young people to be prepared and ready to capitalize on all opportunities coming our way down here at Meru County.”
MS Vida Makena a young female graduate holds a BSC Degree in Agri- Business. She will be practicing advanced scientific agriculture toward improving sustainability of food in Meru County with assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) after successfully completing the initial training from the MYS. “We have been engaging in skillful training and competent exercises through the Meru Youth Service programme that will change the mindsets of young people in Meru County to utilize available resources to improve their own lives.”
UN Habitat is taking the lead in mobilizing partners as such as FAO, AMREF, Turkish Government and Echo Network Africa (ENA) to achieve access to education, a good learning and playing environment for youth and to create an environment that provides emotional support and social control – for young people engaged in drugs abuse and affected by the pressure to join criminal gangs and militia groups. While this is enacted at local level, it will have a great impact replicated globally. UN-Habitat is also working toward setting up a fully equipped One Stop Youth Resource Centre at Meru County.
View more : Highlights from Meru Youth Conference