Youth Involvement in Leadership – The Kenyan Experience

Personal Statement

I am persuaded that what our country lacks as far as leadership is concerned, is transformed leadership. Whenever I look at our current leaders, I see well learned people who had the opportunity to acquire the best of education and life experiences. Talk of Mr. Mwai Kibaki, Mr. Raila Odinga and Prof. Anyang Nyong’o if I may just mention a few. These leaders had the opportunity to acquire higher education in foreign countries and lived in places where democracy, advanced technology, high standards of living and human rights issues were deeply entrenched in the respective countries where they lived and studied abroad.

However I always ask myself “Why then do these same fellows lead us like they have never stepped into a classroom nor have any clue what true leadership entails?” The logical conclusion that I can come up with is that these leaders fail because they do not practise transformed leadership.

Transformational Leadership

By transformed leadership I mean a leadership that begins with a mind and heart transformation. This transformation entails a leader putting his personal interests aside and sacrificially serving the people with one heart and mind. Such a leader does not use the position of leadership to their advantage by amassing personal wealth and using state apparatus or systems for personal gains.

In transformed leadership, I envision a change where a leader’s values are defined by being a servant of the people and by caring about the needs of the people first. In this leadership, the citizens are given the right to demand from the government the provision of jobs, security, basic education and their fundamental rights are respected and protected. This is the change that I envision in transformed leadership.

Another key component that I envision in transformed leadership is the youth involvement in issues of governance and social-economic activities in our country. Statistics have it that majority of the Kenya’s population is composed of young persons aged between 15 and 35. Most of these youths are faced with the challenges of unemployment, drug-abuse, involvement in conflicts as perpetrators of violence, high rates of HIV/AIDS infection amid a moribund of other challenges. It is important to note that the youth despite the challenges they face, have a kinetic potential of contributing to political and socio-economic development.

This can only be so if they are given ample opportunities and are included in the governance process as mentees if not equal partners. Given the experience of the post election violence in Kenya, where the youth were seen majorly as perpetrators of violence, it is important to note that these same youths could have been used constructively in conflict resolution had the conditions been different. Different in the sense that majority of the youth are unemployed and lack the financial and material resources to be self reliant.

In the transformed leadership, the youth ought to be provided with necessary resources for them to be self reliant where they can become entrepreneurs and innovators of solution based technologies which our country so dearly needs. We commend our government for staring the Youth Enterprise Fund through Ministry of Youth and Gender Affairs but there is a greater need for easier accessibility of these funds for the young people especially those living in rural and marginalized areas.

In 2008, I was part of a team that conducted a research on the Reformation of the Kenya Youth Policy. The research entailed interviewing various youths from different places of Nairobi such as Kibera slums and Kangemi area. From the research we found out that many youths at that time were not aware on how to access the Youth Fund and most of them did not even know that there is such a fund available to them. Dissemination of information beneficial to the young people should be a key strategy that the government should embrace in incorporating the youth in the agenda of economic and societal development.

Changing with the times

Another key component of transformation leadership is the ability of our leaders and individuals to embrace change in every sphere of our lives. In the day and age that we live in change is inevitable. Today the world is regarded as a global village thanks to globalization and proliferation of information networks which has made my neighbor not to be that person living within my neighborhood but rather a person living in a remote town in Kuala Lumpar, Madrid, Buan, California or Jerusalem.

The advancement of technology and the ease of transportation have further polarized change in our world. The best that we can do as individuals is to ensure that we change with the times and change for the better in that case. As an individual it has been my resolve to learn about the changes happening in my surroundings and the world at large. It has also been my resolve to see how I can make any small or big efforts with regards to the changes happening in the world and in my social sphere.

I am a firm believer in the saying that I want to be the change that I want to see in the world. For example today the world is faced with the threat of climate change and global warming and all over the world people are being encouraged to “go green” and adopt initiatives that would cut down on green gas emissions hence mitigate the effects of climate change. It has been my personal resolve to always use recycled paper more often or switch off unattended lights in buildings. It is my belief that such small efforts are what entails transformational thinking and positive change for our world.

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