In Kenya, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) established a Youth Sounding Board in 2020 to include youth in decision-making. Through the platform, UNDP is developing an inclusive approach that integrates diverse perspectives and represents the interests and aspirations of youth.
Samuel Kimani started as a national UN Volunteer Youth Leadership Coordinator with the Youth Sounding Board in May 2022. As part of the board, he helped establish the youth marker, which offers tools for mainstreaming youth across programming. One of these is a scale that rates progress in building youth confidence and establishing inclusive spaces. In the past, youth mainstreaming was simply about ticking a box. Now, youth working groups conduct a thorough analysis of all initiatives.
Through my role, I ensure that youth are fully engaged in finding solutions to their issues. To prosper, it's not just a seat at the table that youth need, but the whole table. --Samuel Kimani, UN Volunteer Youth Leadership Coordinator with UNDP, Kenya
Seventy-five per cent of Kenya's population is under the age of 35. Empowered youth have a stronger voice. In July 2022, Samuel supported the training of 150 young people in Tana River County. This expanded the capacity of youth-led enterprises and facilitated their access to local and regional opportunities, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Youth in Kenya, like in many other countries in the region, face many challenges related to their economic, political and social integration in society. They also represent great, untapped potential for driving development and change in the region. Volunteering is a means through which we can engage them and deliver results on the ground. --Julius Coredo, Portfolio Analyst for Inclusive Growth with UNDP in Kenya, and Samuel's supervisor
"With Samuel's support, we have built some of the most dynamic networks of young people in the country, employing tools of innovation for sustainable development," Julius continues. "Our mission is to work with a wide range of partners to unleash the potential youth in Kenya to become entrepreneurs, innovators, leaders, and a powerful force for change, also as volunteers."
Samuel Kimani (first from right), national UN Volunteer Youth Leadership Coordinator with UNDP Kenya, interacting with participants in Youth Enterprises Training at Tana Youth Innovation Center in July 2022. @UNV, 2022
To influence the broader national landscape, Youth Sounding Board members and UNDP Kenya joined the Let Peace Win Campaign. Organized ahead of elections in 2022, the campaign underscored the participation of young people in politics.
Involving youth beyond elections requires structural decisions, such as allocating funds for youth programmes and linking them to county integrated development plans. Together with the National Youth Council, the board mapped the youth ecosystem and organizations serving youth in the country.
As a Youth Leadership Coordinator, Samuel believes the Youth Sounding Board gives youth a prominent voice to set and run the agenda, and, in doing so, provides an impetus towards the desired change in Kenya and across Africa.
Volunteering is the means through which so much can be achieved on the ground. Youth Sounding Board members and I serve as volunteers to propel this important collective action within our communities. Through our mandate, we instill a sense of purpose and agency in youth, co-create solutions and come up with ideas to deal with our own challenges. No one can do this as effectively as youth. --Samuel Kimani
Samuel Kimani (second row, fifth from right), national UN Volunteer Youth Leadership Coordinator, with Anthony Ngororano (first row, third from right), UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya, and other Youth Sounding Board members. @UNV, 2022
During the YouthConnekt Africa Summit in Rwanda in 2022, other African countries expressed their interest in replicating the Youth Sounding Board.
The Youth Sounding Board complements the work done by YouthConnekt Africa to improve the socio-economic situation of youth. The solutions generated through the board will feed into the broader YouthConnekt framework and further develop youth capacities.
Samuel Kimani (second from left), national UN Volunteer Youth Leadership Coordinator with UNDP Kenya, during the YouthConnekt Africa Summit 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda. @UNV, 2022