International Youth Day 2020 was marred by the stark presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which for the most part limited celebrations to online activities. However, the resilient spirit of youth globally superseded the COVID-19 state of affairs as the positive noise dominated most social media platforms. 

One key highlight of the slated International Youth Week celebrations in Kenya was the launch of Kenya’s first ever Meaningful Youth Engagement Framework for Parliament by Y-ACT, Youth in Action in partnership with the Kenya Young Parliamentarians Association (KYPA) on 10th August 2020, at Safari Park Hotel. The launch of the MYE Framework could not be more timely, seeing as this year’s IYD theme was “Youth Engagement for Global Action” which sought to highlight how young people at the local, national and global levels are (and should…) enrich national and multilateral institutions and processes, as well as draw lessons on how their representation and engagement in formal institutional politics can be significantly enhanced.

The in-person launch event, graced by policymakers, youth representatives and media ensured equal representation and participation policymakers and young people from all 47 counties of Kenya who attended the event virtually. The engagement was live streamed on Y-ACT and K.Y.P.A.’s Facebook and Twitter pages to ensure the participation of as many young people as possible. If that isn’t commitment to meaningful youth engagement, we don’t know what is! Hon. Johnson Sakaja, the Chairperson of KYPA, while speaking at the event noted that the voice of young people is incredibly important for the transformation of this country. He also asserted that it is important for leaders to learn how to meaningfully engage young people at all decision-making levels. “Meaningful youth participation will require intentional investment that elevates policymaking that is youth-centered and youth-serving, having the youth as equal partners in decision-making with stakeholders,” noted Ms. Vania Kibui, the Policy Advocacy Specialist for Y-ACT in her opening remarks.

Being the first of its kind in the region, the Framework sought to address major challenges hampering the meaningful engagement of young people in policymaking in Parliament. For instance, a section of the youth feel that their input is not valued by lawmakers and do not believe that it would make a difference anyway, a factor that is compounded by the lack of feedback from Parliamentary committees to stakeholders appearing before them to present their input on Bills and other legislative business. Further, most young people are not aware that they can attend sittings of Parliament in plenary and in Committees, in addition to the options available to view the proceedings online.

To address these issues, the Framework pushes for the formation of an annual youth Parliament with defined working methods to ensure output that can be adopted by parliamentary committees and plenary for deliberation as well as the establishment of thematic youth working groups that would shadow existing Parliamentary committees, and engage them on a quarterly basis to share perspectives on legislative and other business under consideration by the respective Committees.

In a bid to advance meaningful youth engagement in Parliament, roles of the different entities have also been clearly outlined in the Framework. Y-ACT in partnership with K.Y.P.A hopes to make more sustainable efforts towards advancing meaningful youth engagement in Kenya’s Parliament. Young people are not just the future, they are the present and must be adequately empowered to take up their rightful space at all levels of decision-making. #2bongenaBunge!   

The National Meaningful Youth Engagement Framework can be accessed here.

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