Young And Hopeful

Innocent Ngare Writes

We as young Africans need to begin having honest conversations with ourselves. A few days ago, an event dubbed the Parliamentary Youth Dialogue was held at the National Assembly Chambers. The theme was creating “safe spaces” for youth in public governance (whatever that means).

I talked to a few people who attended the event and it was clear that nothing concrete came out of it. There was no resolution that was passed, no ultimatum given to the government, no coherent roadmap on the way forward for Kenya youth. Nothing! The most pressing issues that affect young people, like unemployment, were not comprehensively tackled.

Instead, this was an opportunity for those who attended the event to litter social media with the pictures they took with Members of Parliament. If you ask them how that event would change the life of the 21 year-old Bodaboda operator in Kakamega, the 20 year-old fisherman in Karungu, or the 22 year-old tea picker in Kericho, they wouldn’t tell you.

Today, I’ve seen another event being hyped on social media. A group of Civil Societies have organized a march that will commence at the Dean Kimathi statue. And like one of colleagues has brilliantly captured it, a few will be paid a few thousands to run Twitter hashtags, the NGOs will pocket most of the donor money, and the participants will head back to their ordinary lives and wait for the same event next year.

I submit as follows:

If young people in this country think that change will be realized by putting on suits and heading to Parliament Buildings for photo-ops disguised as high-level youth deliberations, then nothing could be more foolhardy. If we think, even for a day, that Twitter hahtags can drive real progress, nothing could be more fundamentally wrong.

Real change can be realized first by disassociating ourselves from the notion that “safe spaces” have to be created for us in order to thrive. Secondly, we need to recognize that the real drivers of change are not the ones who strut to Parliament Buildings in designer heels. No!

They are the ordinary youth who are actively engaged in their local communities. And that unless we awaken their voices and mobilize them around a common agenda, then it doesn’t matter how many dignitaries we shake their hands. We will achieve nothing.

Finally, we must be ready to get our hands dirty. This means rolling our sleeves, putting away the customized suits and designer handbags and doing the heavy lifting. It means dismantling the status quo, disrupting public governance, and going head-to-head with the establishment.

Otherwise, you’ll keep on posting photos here acting so self-important with garbage results.



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