Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe recently urged the youth to be part of the solution in the fight against COVID-19 in Kenya.
This could have passed as one of those hasty statements politicians are wont to make for the cameras but the good CS seemed to have been speaking from a deeper conviction going by the references he made. He drew parallels with the fight for independence when the generation of young people then, convinced they had much more to lose if they didn’t step up their game as leaders of the moment, stood up to be counted.
Separately, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has told the youth this is their chance to be the country’s new soldiers and new saviours.
As if reading from the same script, President Uhuru Kenyatta recently directed Sh100 million be provided to help local artistes to deal with the effects of Covid-19 and an additional Sh200 million every month through royalties.
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Although he did not mention the young people directly, it is common knowledge that this is one industry that appeals to the aspirations of many young people.
The President’s directive, therefore, can be seen as a purposeful engagement of the youth around their aspirations and intentions. A more likely path for creating engaged citizens and a more likely way to get people around young people to support their efforts.
Whereas these can be viewed solely through political lenses, we at Ashoka know better. We understand where this urgency is coming from because we have been saying it and doing something about it for years.
Young people need to become self-empowered to lead and to live for the common good of all; to self-identify as change-makers. By linking past, the present and the future, the three leaders have injected urgency into an otherwise lethargic discourse on the role of youth and the skills they need to thrive in today’s change-driven environment.
This, at a time when old ways are getting extinct and occurrences such as COVID-19, with the potential of creating a broader revolution, is catching us by surprise.
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This new environment can be scary and cause huge divisions if the world does not act now and fast. Greater responsibility lies with parents, the entire spectrum of institutions of learning, leaders in public and private sectors, religious leaders, influencers and the media — indeed everyone and every institution interfacing with young people.
It is time to show greater responsibility in inspiring and supporting young people to up their game. It is in laying ourselves as bridges over which young people will find the skills, networks and other resources to crossover to a new reality of everyone —a changemaker world.
A world where solutions outmatch challenges; where cognitive empathy, inclusive leadership, collaborations and creative problem-solving are answers to hatred (self or directed towards others), disproportionate allocation of power and influence, destructive competition and scarcity of resources.
The current Covid-19 situation is showing us in “real-time” that no one should be left behind in the efforts to create more changemakers and in supporting them.
The country needs everyone to understand that there are many ways young people can bring about change for the common good of all; that taking responsibility and leading to ensure this happens is not a preserve for just a few; that though collaboration between sectors; national and county governments, the governing and the governed, rural and urban; the old and the young, we manage tough situations better for ourselves and make it better for our families, friends, communities, humanity and this global village.
It is the reason why young people must take up the challenge and the rest must begin to offer the much-needed support.
Everyone must see their capacity and find their place to make a contribution now and post-Covid-19 for a better world where young people are more empowered and engaged.
Vincent Otieno Odhiambo is the Regional Director, Ashoka East Africa