Youth Work Together Across Political Parties to Achieve Common Youth Goals
Unity in Diversity is the motto of Kenya’s Inter-Party Youth Forum (IPYF). The Forum is bringing together young Kenyans to engage them in the political process and constructive problem-solving in a multi-party setting.
Youth comprise the majority of Kenya's population, however, this demographic has traditionally felt marginalized within the political system. Kenya’s new constitution provides new requirements for the involvement of youth in political processes. Kenya is preparing for general elections in March 2013 within a reformed legal framework. IPYF is assisting youth to identify entry points for participation and helping youth work together to become a cooperative force for positive change in the county.
The Forum is helping young people define their place within their political parties. Gloria, an IPYF member of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) party, says, “IPYF has been an amazing forum for me, both as a youth and as a woman. IPYF has boosted me in my political party. I have been able to stand as a representative of young women, as well as contribute to various policy issues.”
After helping to establish the IPYF platform at the national level, USAID and its partner, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), are supporting the expansion of the platform across Kenya by establishing forums in each of 47 newly created counties. IPYF has launched county-level forums in Nairobi, Kakamega, Eldoret, Kisumu, Nakuru, Isiolo, Mombasa, and Nyeri counties. The county forums will build momentum among youth party members ahead of the March 2013 elections, and focus on three thematic areas: the implementation of Kenya’s new constitution, which includes special provisions for youth; advocacy for credible and transparent elections; and, campaigning against negative, ethnically-focused politics.
County forums have been hosting outreach sessions. During an outreach in Kibera constituency in Nairobi county, one IPYF member explained the goal of the forum: “Our expectation is that all the youths [will] speak in one voice and have tolerance with one another irrespective of their party affiliation. Youth should understand what is in the constitution, as [it] pertains to youth.”
At an IPYF outreach event in Nyeri, participants discussed the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse among their peers and high rates of unemployment. The youth decided to initiate community meetings with elders to brainstorm ways to engage youth constructively. They also decided to identify local civic organizations to provide business training to young Kenyans and assist youth in identifying low-cost projects that would empower young people.
Kenyan youth are identifing priorities and working together to approach their respective parties with solutions that cross party and ethnic lines. This approach is establishing youth as a constructive force within their parties, and is developing a future generation of leaders that are capable of cooperating.
“We are glad this is not one of those forums that is established as a result of prevailing interest, but it was founded on seeing the youth take their place in building their country within political parties,” said one IPYF member.