In Kenya and since the passing of the 2010 constitution numerous Acts have been passed at both national and County levels and everyday new laws and amendments of existing laws continue to take place within the corridors of power. There is a provision for public participation but due to structural or design issue most bills are passed into law unnoticed especially by youth.
The national and county governments often have their own agendas that may not always be in sync with what young people need. As a result, they hurriedly pass these laws without actively engaging young people. While National government and Counties put invitations, public hearing and participation dates and advertise them in gazette notices they often do not put the bill in question on their websites and the time allocated is short.
This therefore calls for youth advocates to be vigilant in reading gazette notices and think about how the content affects them.
In this context, how can youth advocates then play a role in shaping the ever changing legal world that they are often not actively engaged about? This is a short guide to help young Kenyans to actively engage in the law making process at both national and county levels.
Where does one start?
As a youth advocate, begin by taking time to understand how laws are formulated at different levels and what happens at each level.
Taking stock of the laws passed in your county and at the national level can be a good beginning.
Head over to Kenya Law Monthly which has a Bills Tracker. Here’s a link: http://www.parliament.go.ke/the-national-assembly/house-business/bills-tracker
When are comments submitted?
- When amendments are made on existing laws.
- When new laws are being made.
- When regulations are being formulated.
How are comments on Bills submitted?
This varies on case by case basis, generally one should always look at how bills mirror what the constitution requires. Then see what sections rather than clauses are weak and how they can be improved or how bad they are and give suggestions on what they can be substituted with.
You should have a goal, then read the bill and provide comments on the bill in a way that helps you attain tour goals.
What should the youth look out for when reading a bill with the intention of submitting comments?
- How inclusive the bill is.
- Composition of committees or bodies that a bill suggests.
- Are any of the bills youth averse? Or suggesting avenues of cutting out young people?
Is your voice being heard? Key advocacy tactics in addition to lobbying
- Read the bill, hold a discussion through WhatsApp groups.
- Consult an expert for advice where necessary.
- Send your views to your MCAs via email, SMS, Call.
- Attend public participation sessions and read out your views.
Why is it important for young people to participate in a Bill making process?
- For inclusion into the decision making process.
- It is a step towards participation in other development decision making process.
- it’s a civic duty.
- Submissions of legal comments is a skill that all youth advocates should nurture even at individual level.
- Studies like the EIA for huge infrastructural development projects often have a public participation and public comments submission window and if youth concerns are not raised then it youth are affected negatively.
At what levels can one submit comments on Bills and Amendments?
- County through the county assembly, MCAs, Chief
- National level through comments, public participation Foras, MPs, CSOs,
How frequently should youth advocates participate?
- Needs based
- Whenever there is a call for public participation
- Depends on your relationship you form with elected representatives you can be called upon as a favour to shape the bill and give inputs.
Here’s a few tips on how youth advocates can engage:
- You do not have to be a lawyer to shape laws.
- Several civil society organisations are involved in the process of submitting comments. Kituo cha Sheria and Natural Justice are a few notable organizations.
- Not all comments provided are incorporated in a Bill and passed into law.
- Those who submit meaningful and comprehensive comments are invited to provide further input.
- It is important to note that while submitting comments, it is best to offer alternatives; one needs to go beyond mere criticism and rejection of sections of the law that are easy to incorporate as law.
Laws that empower the youth
- Access to information Act.
- Fair Administrative Action Act.
- Public Participation Act.