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Young Cities: Building Resilience and Supporting Peace through Youth-City Collaboration in Kenya

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— 2 minutes reading time

Above: Young Cities youth team Naivasha Young Turks meet with local partner Youth Bila Noma to plan their campaign against electoral violence.

Author: Jasmeet Sahotay
Manager, Strong Cities Network Communications


Author: Sameen Zehra
Coordinator, Young Cities

Strong Cities’ youth pillar – Young Cities – is entering an exciting new phase with projects in Belgium and Pakistan. Over the past four years, Young Cities has brought youth and city officials together in 14 countries across eight cities, enhancing the role youth play in driving forward solutions to critical challenges that face their communities.

During the past two years, Young Cities has worked with youth, county and national government officials in Mombasa, Kwale and Nakuru Counties to facilitate effective cooperation, driving collaborative solutions in building resilience in their communities. We are taking this opportunity to look back at the impact of Young Cities’ work in Kenya, and ways in which county government and youth have worked together to bring about more peaceful and resilient communities.

Youth-led Election Violence Prevention Campaigns in Nakuru County

Nakuru County, north of Nairobi, was one of the epicentres of political unrest in the aftermath of the 2007 elections in Kenya, where waves of violence shocked the nation, claiming the lives of thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands. Many young people were affected during that period – as victims and as perpetrators. Evidence of unrest and heightened anxiety surrounding the August 2022 elections prompted Young Cities to work with teams of local peacebuilders to develop campaigns that cut to the heart of the issue. The teams combined performative art – street theatre, parades, music videos and film – with traditional awareness-raising campaigns, strategically selecting target audiences that included motorcycle taxi riders, mothers and local influencers, to maximise  reach and impact.

Driving Youth-Inclusive and Youth-Representative Policies in Mombasa County 

The Young Cities programme goes beyond supporting young people’s projects, to ensure that the structures and policies that underpin youth inclusion, and those that impact youth, are themselves designed to account for youth voices. In June 2022, the Mombasa County Government adopted the Resilience and Youth Bill as law – a bill that Young Cities participants and the Young Cities team helped draft as part of our City Grants Initiative. The policy reimagines how youth should be engaged by different public services, the opportunities youth present when involved effectively, and the threats or challenges presented when not.

Positioning Youth as Active Drivers of Change in Kenya

In Kenya, Mombasa and Nakuru Counties went a step further than engaging youth in dialogue by actively positioning them as the drivers of solutions to extremism and hate in their communities. In 2020, Mombasa County, alongside national government representatives, engaged Young Cities participants and other youth to lead research into drivers of extremism as part of their national security bill and to shift to a more evidenced-based approaches to countering violent extremism. In January 2022, Nakuru County Commission created positions for Young Cities youth in their sub-County peace committees as members, offering them training and support. And, in May 2022, the Nakuru County government participated in a virtual city exchange with the city of Kristiansand (Norway). Together, youth from Nakuru County and Kristiansand shared perspectives, experiences and models for driving change through youth inclusion.