Empowering youth in Kenya:  Why engaging youth is vital when combatting violence

Kenya has a challenge with youth violence. If the youth is included in the discussions about peace and security this challenge can be turned into an opportunity, says Joseph Omondi, Executive Director of DIGNITY’s partner MIDRIFT HURINET in Kenya
Joseph Omondi, Partner from Kenya in black, white and orange strokes
Joseph Omondi, Executive Director of MIDRIFT HURINET
Joseph Omondi, what are the largest challenges you see for MIDRIFT in 2024?

»This feeling of marginalization among the young people is further compounded by economic, social, and political marginalization, where the youth feel left out in making decisions that directly affect them. This problem is more acute in the major cities in Kenya such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru«.

Why is that?

»A part of the reason is that the growth of these cities has not provided enough employment and livelihood opportunities to match the youth bulge. This urban development has also brought with it the growth of informal settlements, that are faced with inadequate provision of essential services like education, healthcare, water, and sanitation, resulting in an increase in urban crime and violence.

This includes sexual and gender-based violence, proliferation of organized criminal gangs, radicalization and recruitment into extremist groups, drug abuse and increase in mental health challenges.  These challenges have been compounded by the current high cost of living that has disproportionately affected households, including youth, in the informal settlements. Informal settlements in the three cities have also been cited as being the most politically volatile«

Can you elaborate?

»The vulnerable youth are being used by politicians to incite the public, create fear, and participate in political violence, especially during political campaigns to settle political scores. This was evident during July 2023 when the opposition, Azimio La Umoja Kenya One Alliance, called for weekly demonstrations against the government. Scores of youths in the informal settlements of Kibera in Nairobi, Nakuru Town West in Nakuru and Kondele in Kisumu participated in the demonstrations and destruction of property. This is an indicator of a population that is highly vulnerable, and a small political trigger influences their negative actions. Their vulnerability to this manipulation can be attributed to high levels of poverty, unemployment, and high cost of living«.

What are you doing to address these challenges?

»In 2024, we are planning to continue and scale up our work, that help create informed and engaged communities, that can contribute to building safe, secure, and peaceful communities. We are doing that by creating a pool of youthful peace and security champions and increasing communities’ resilience against gang violence, gender-based violence, and other forms of violence including politically instigated violence and intercommunal conflicts«.

What gives you hope?

»What gives me hope is that MIDRIFT HURINET has encountered remarkable political will from key duty bearers in the implementation of our projects in addition to a committed, dedicated and passionate staff, developed leaders and capacity -built communities ready to engage and scale up best practices«.

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