Surrounded by music thumping from a nearby stereo, young men and women clad in light blue “G-Youth” t-shirts stood proudly before poster and artifact displays. Viewers filed by, learning from photos, readings, and the exuberant stories of the presenters how these youth had improved life in their communities. From the group that had planted trees to those who had improved waste management to those who had advanced HIV-AIDS prevention, the young men and women demonstrated their enthusiasm and some of their new skills.
The gathering was the culmination of months of leadership training for youth in the Garissa district of northeastern Kenya. Garissa Youth Days, a dynamic three-day event, involved over 300 youth, U.S. government officials, national government representatives, local organizations and many community members. The summit, designed to highlight youth potential and create a forum for youth voices, attracted media attention from Hiiraan, a Somali news outlet, and from K24, a national Kenyan television channel.
The summit began by showcasing youth-developed community projects created by participants in G-Youth, a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development and implemented by Education Development Center. Several hundred young men and women aged 18-30 demonstrated how, after receiving training from G-Youth, they had identified and tackled problems in their home villages.
Various forums were also held to build youths’ skills in speaking out about issues concerning them and to give adults an opportunity to hear these youth voices. A Young Women’s Village invitational event offered training to young women on how to develop their ideas and how to speak with confidence. A general youth discussion followed, creating a space for all participating youth to come together and discuss issues affecting them on personal, community, and national levels and offering training to youth on how to create action plans for community change around these issues. Finally, both youth and adult leaders came together in a National Youth Policy Forum to begin dialogue around a proposed new constitution for Kenya and the National Youth Policy.
In addition to activities for youth, Garissa Youth Days included lively entertainment from local musicians, actors, poets, and comedians. The U.S. Library of Congress sponsored a story hour featuring bilingual English/Somali books for community members with children in attendance.
G-Youth aims to empower youth to make sound career and life decisions as they transition to the next phase of their lives. The project offers youth a series of possibilities to build skills, make appropriate career choices, find employment and income generating opportunities, bridge technical and university education programs, build their civic engagement through community service, and enjoy fun and safe spaces for youth.
Visit the G-Youth website.