“You guys are going to run this thing” UN Resident Co-Ordinator Chats with Shujaaz Fans

  • 22 Jul 2021

On 21st June, the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, Dr. Stephen Jackson joined over a thousand Shujaaz fans in a ‘Mic Yetu’ (Our Say) live chat, about youth participation and the role of the UN in ensuring young people play a meaningful role in the development of their communities.

In our 2019 national survey, 88% of 15-24-year-olds in Kenya said they feel they have something to contribute to their community and the world, but in an SMS survey last year only 36% said they feel they’re able to make a big impact in their community. During the Mic Yetu discussion, young people shared their experiences with Dr. Stephen, highlighting that all too often young people are sidelined and deprioritised – leaving many young people feeling unheard and frustrated.

During the live chat, Dr. Stephen assured Shujaaz fans of the UN’s commitment to engage young people directly: to listen to their thoughts and ideas on how UN agencies can engage and support them. He commented: ‘We should have realised a long time ago that young people are really the key to the equation. Look at Kenya, two thirds of the country are youth. Literally, you guys are going to have to run this thing. So, it has been obvious for the UN for a couple of decades now that we have to put youth and youth engagement at the centre of what it is that we do.’ Today, 59% of Kenyans are under 25 – that’s three in five people; young people aren’t ‘the future’ – they’re the present…

Our Mic Yetu moderator Okoth Opondo led the conversation and was joined by a panel of young leaders: Eddah Komen, a student University of Eldoret, Ezra Yego, a youth representative of the UN’s ‘Generation Unlimited’ and Ikhwan Omar, an IT student at Mt. Kenya University and an advocate for young people living with disability.

In the conversation that lasted slightly over an hour, the young panelists shared their experiences with UN programmes like ‘Generation Unlimited’ (Gen U) and what they’d learnt about how change happens. Ikhwan highlighted the urgent need for young people to be at the heart of the decision-making process, saying: ‘Whenever there’s anything happening that involves young people, we need to be part of the whole journey and be involved from the beginning.’

Whenever there’s anything happening that involves young people, we need to be part of the whole journey and be involved from the beginning.

Looking back at the session, the panelists called on their peers to mobilise in small groups and work together to realise the change they want to see. Yego commented: ‘What I’d say is take your frustration and come together and build a community of young people where we’ll say there’s this problem in our community and we’ll think together about how to solve it. We have the ability to pioneer new things and ways to ensure our communities are better.’

Contributing to the conversation on Facebook, one Shujaaz fan said: ‘If the youths were given such platforms, I believe we have enough energy to mobilize ourselves compared to those above our age group.’

This Mic Yetu session is part of our on-going daily live online event series, designed to connect our 3m online fans directly to local leaders and decision makers; to spark vital conversations and elevate the voices of young people. Going forward, we’re working to hold more sessions with key stakeholders to create spaces for honest, open engagement between young people and key decision makers.