Launch of Youth Engagement project with Kwale County, Kenya

Building trust between youth and local government can be a daunting task. The more local governments can create opportunities to support, partner and work with youth on the local issues that matter most to them, the better.  Our Young Cities program aims to do just this,  and in June we embarked on a partnership with a recent SCN member, Kwale County, to support grassroots youth initiatives in cooperation with county officials.

Kwale County has a population of nearly 650,000, and like the rest of Kenya a very high youth population. Kenya’s devolution process is presenting new avenues for local government stakeholders to engage its youth in economic and political decision-making processes, and provides County Governments with opportunities to develop innovative local mechanisms for collaboration.

Over the next six months, Young Cities will support three youth groups in the development of their social cohesion initiatives, while working with  the Government of Kwale County to  set up a youth engagement project aimed at increasing participation of youth in the County’s economic and political processes. This aims at enhancing collaboration and building shared understanding of local governance issues amongst youth and local government actors in Kwale County, including the devolution process.  We are thrilled to partner with the local civil society organisation, Human Rights Agenda (HURIA), who bring a wealth of local knowledge, having worked to promote human rights with youth, state and non state actors for a number of years.

From 22 -26 June, five groups  were brought together to develop initiatives  aimed at driving forward social progress. Participants were selected from a pool of 75 group applications, representing 849 individuals from all sub-counties of Kwale, each identifying a wide variety of issues, with civic education and discrimination being the post pertinent issues youth wished to focus on.

During the Youth Innovation Lab, groups were coached through a step-by-step process on how to create effective community projects – from an initial idea through to implementation.

During the Youth Innovation Lab, groups were coached through a step-by-step process on how to create effective community projects – from an initial idea through to implementation. Groups were also taught techniques on how to write proposals, pitch their ideas and develop budgets, alongside best practice in campaign evaluation. Through a competitive process, each campaign had the chance to receive funding and launch their campaigns in partnership with Kwale County.

The selected initiatives focus on preventing adolescents from joining juvenile gangs through trauma therapy and the creation of safe spaces through sports, increasing youth employability, and civic participation through education on devolution and County processes.

The workshop also brought together Kwale civil society and government representatives, to share best practices and brainstorm on potential youth engagement strategies, and how best to support the youths’ efforts. Based on these conversations, Young Cities will support the Kwale local government in the conception and implementation of a youth engagement project, aiming at increasing youth civic engagement and to build shared understanding  between local government and grassroots youth initiatives.

The workshop brought together Kwale civil society and government representatives, to share best practices and brainstorm on potential youth engagement strategies

The day was also an opportunity to discuss avenues of cooperation between local government and youth, as Kwale County will be following the development of the youth initiatives and providing tailored support and guidance to each.

To draw upon the work of their neighbouring county and fellow SCN member, delegates from Mombasa travelled to Kwale to share and reflect on their experience working with the SCN’s Young Cities programme, and spoke about their respective challenges and initiatives around social cohesion and youth engagement. Mombasa County was one of the founding members of the Strong Cities Network in 2015, and partnered with the SCN’s Young Cities programme last year, supporting the development of five youth-led initiatives, focusing on issues such as civic education and youth-police relations.

We look forward to sharing further updates from our Kenyan friends in the months to come, and also look forward to updating you on our continued project in Lebanon and our newest youth-municipal project in Dakar, Senegal in our next newsletter!

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