Young People are an essential component of a nation’s development and the realization of Kenya Vision 2030, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will largely depend on the development of Kenya’s human resources, of which the youth are the majority. Regrettably though, they have been relegated to the backburners and are at the periphery of all major decision making processes.
Everywhere around the world, young people desire more access not just to job opportunities, but to a better quality of life. They resent being marginalized in government development process and are eager to have greater control over their lives. Youths participating in development plans have been left un-addressed; hence conflict, violence and a missed generation for global development are the costs of neglect that the society is paying one way or another. Oftentimes, problems facing the youth in Mombasa County have characteristically been narrowed down to a mere rhetoric of unemployment. How about the drugs menace? Non-inclusion by various stakeholders? Poor governance? Unemployment is a simplistic way of looking at challenges facing the youth. Aren’t there employed youths who are still disillusioned about the state of affairs in the country? The shrinking civic and democratic space has become a major governance issue for the grassroots community based organizations, Youths and other independent voices and actors, at all levels in the society. Youths have a major role in driving change in their community, but at times they lack the skills and the safe space to actually do anything.
Youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves. While there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth. Safe spaces such as civic spaces enable youth to engage in governance issues; digital spaces help youth interact virtually across borders with everyone; and well planned physical spaces can help accommodate the needs of diverse youth especially those vulnerable to marginalization or violence. Ensuring that safe spaces are inclusive, youth from diverse backgrounds especially those from outside the local community, need to be assured of respect and self-worth.
Similarly, without the existence of safe space, youth from different race/ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation or cultural background may feel intimidated to freely contribute to the community. When youth have safe spaces to engage, they can effectively contribute to development, including peace and social cohesion. It is through this background that as an organization we have been conducting a number of activities in Mombasa County to fully engage youths from different background/diversity on discussion around bettering the safe space for them to fully participate both at the County and National government development process and brainstorm multi-faceted strategies (sectorial and multi-sectorial) to address civic space restrictions.