2017 has been a heady year for Kenya. The country has witnessed two presidential elections that haven’t been any less polarising.
If the past is anything to go by it is almost certain that politics would lead to chaos. In their own selfish ambitions politicians have been known to pay jobless youth to carry out criminal acts: a strategy to win by hook or crook.
“As soon as they win the seat they will dump us and move on with their fanciful lives,” says Salim Ahmed, 29, from Mtopanga in Mombasa.
With Kenya recording 39.1 percent unemployment rate, according to recent report by United Nations, many young people have found themselves on the fringes of the economy: a situation that that sly politicians with filthy lucre exploit.
“A young person looks at the offer and wonders, ‘What do I have to lose?’” Salim says. Being an electioneering year 2017 has had its fair share of mayhem. Pundits had already projected an increase in crime and similar shenanigans.
To counter the prospects of youth being misused in this manner Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) partnered with Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) to prompt peace and economic development.
Christened ‘Mkenya Daima’, the partnership promoted co-existence and economic prosperity for young men and by extension youth. KBA, the umbrella body of the banking industry, gave a cheque worth KES. 4 million for the project which was to be actualised in Nairobi and Mombasa.
“The goal is to provide them with a sense of purpose, community and bond them to the Mkenya Daima ideals,” says KBA CEO, Habil Olaka. Months have gone by now since the program was first implemented in April 2017 and the results are interesting.
In Mtopanga, an informal settlement, in Kisauni, KCDF partnered with DAYO (Dream Achievers Youth Organisation). Seif Jira, the Executive Director at DAYO, ascertains that the project has had profound effects in uplifting youth in the area.
“We called the program ‘MEN’ because it was targeted to young men who are often misused by politicians,” Seif says. The program was three-pronged. “First, we wanted to train these young people on entrepreneurship, financial management and computer maintenance,” Seif shares.
Incorporating feedback from the youth after a skit session in Mtopanga. The young men identify the problem during the skit and brainstorm on solutions after which encourages ownership of the process. The skits are pegged on issues young men and youth face in Mtopanga area.
The program then provided mentorship, coaching and linkages to potential employers. In Mtopanga, 173 young people went through the MEN program. All of these participants were either put through apprenticeship or sponsored to start off a business.
The third – and most critical gong in the project – was community outreach. DAYO’s style was to organise a performance every Friday during the month of April.
“We identified a location; did groundwork talking to community elders on possibility of holding a performance. We created and practiced a skit. Then performed on the actual day,” says Almasi, a DAYO member in charge of Performing Arts.
After a performance the cast would engage the public through a debate; a discussion based on the skit; one that gives direction to the youth.
In Nairobi’s Huruma area, adjacent to Mathare slums, we find Huruma Town (H-town) youth group working hard to succeed in urban farming. Kevin Oduny, leader of H-town, attests to the fact that young people from the area have been misused before by sly politicians.
Kevin Oduny, member of H-Town youth group feeding chicken and goats at their group farm based in Huruma town
Huruma was heavily affected during the 2008 post-election violence and young people played main roles in the skirmishes. KCDF’s implementing partner in Huruma, YADEN (Youth Development and Entrepreneurship Network), saw it fit to involve youth groups from the slums.
Doti Family from Kayole, Ghetto Marvellous from Mathare and H-town were some of the main beneficiaries of the program – which YADEN coined the ‘HE’ program. The objective of HE was to put young people into economic productivity.
H-Town Youth Group during their progress group meetings
“This way they are busy building their own lives and therefore out of reach for politicians with sinister motives,” says Sammy Gathii, YADEN’s Director.
Both MEN and HE programmes received KES. 1 million each to implement the first phase of Mkenya Daima which dealt with education, community peace outreach, coaching, linkages and apprenticeship.
The second phase – loans to ambitious ventures by the youth – will see both organisations receive KES. 500, 000.
According to Seif, in Mtopanga, and Sammy, in Nairobi, Mkenya Daima contributed greatly in keeping young people away from political strife during the electioneering period this time around.