We are the change that we seek

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By LILYS NJERU
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How do you define yourself?

I am a social entrepreneur in quest of solutions for global challenges. 

Your area is in Youth Development: what exactly is this and what role do you play?

Youth Development is a process that prepares the youth to identify challenges and create solutions to achieve full potential.

This is promoted through experiences and activities that aid this group to develop ethical, social, emotional, physical and cognitive competencies.

The social, political and economic aspects of it are interconnected. I am involved in policy advocacy and drafting, program design and review, as well as provision of advisory services in search for solutions to youth-specific challenges locally and around the world. 

It is an unlikely route for a 26-year-old to take – what is the motivation behind what you do?

There are things that happen innately; I could classify this as one of them.

While in primary and secondary school, I felt happy and contented actively engaging in community service activities, however, it was during my service as a student leader in 2011-2012, that I felt most fulfilled. My role involved linking up students with special needs with the administration and stakeholders that could help make their academic life. I also served as the Rotaract club president between 2012-2013 at the university. I realised that most people do not know how to deal with the issues affecting young people, such as unemployment and lack of structures needed especially in information and Communication Technology (ICT).

I felt the need to enlighten the leaders and decision-makers on such matters, and so partnered with a friend to found Change Mind, Change Future (CMCF) in 2012.

The organisation offers the youth a platform to share their challenges, seek solutions, share entrepreneurial skills and mentor their peers. Our offices are located in Pioneer House, Tom Mboya Street, in the CBD.

You have taken part in several youth development programs…

In 2014-2016, I was involved in the development of the National Volunteerism policy under the Volunteer Involving Organizations (VIO) society in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour Social Security and Services.

In July 2016, I was a facilitator for the first ever United Nations conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD Youth Forum. More than 250 youth from over 70 countries converged in Nairobi to prepare the UNCTAD Youth Declaration.

In August the same year, I was involved to help organise side events for the Tokyo International conference on African Development and contributed to the formulation of the TICAD VI Youth Declaration.

In the same year, I was part of a continental project, Road to Nairobi. We traversed the country collecting youths’ views on matters of unemployment and entrepreneurship and visited a selected number of young entrepreneurs.

Later, we formulated a report and handed it to President Uhuru Kenyatta during the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation Second High Level Meeting (GPEDC/HLM2) in December 2016, whereby I also had a brief opportunity to share my views on youth development with him.

In January 2017, I participated in Activate! Change Drivers youth workshop in Cape Town, South Africa, and returned to the city in March 2017 to take part in strategic review of the Youth Exchange Program through the invitation of Africa Unite. 

What challenges have you encountered as you go about your work?

The follow-up mechanisms for most policies are poor, and when finally implemented, often do not bear the vision we had when drafting them.

Another challenge is that some quarters look down on youth like me because according to them, we do not know what we want.

It is also worth mentioning that at times I have to cater for my expenses when I attend some meetings, especially those within Nairobi. 

Recently, we featured youths that have benefited as volunteers. Is there any achievement or benefit you can associate with your role?

I regard myself as a volunteer because I do not get paid to attend such meetings, however, I have received immeasurable exposure and the roles have been fulfilling. I am humbled to say that I have been selected by unleash.org as one of top 1,000 global talents in the world, and will attend the innovation Lab 2017 (August 2017) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I have also been selected as a continental think tank by the Mandela Institute for Developmental Studies – I will attend a training  this month that will focus on how I can build my capacity to facilitate youth participation in governance.

Besides my degree, I hold a Postgraduate Certificate in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise from United States International University Africa (USIU) which was sponsored by Colorado State University. This scholarship came through the networks I have created along my volunteer work. 

Unemployment is one of the major challenges that youth face in Kenya, how are you helping your peers to be part of the solution?

The government has a big role in tackling Unemployment; I am playing my part by creating awareness on factors that escalate unemployment, such as corruption.

I encourage fellow youth to start businesses with a global mindset as we push for better policies that will make export easier, open up borders and create the necessary support structures for the private sector to thrive.

Through CMCF, we are running a program in Mathare, where we teach youth how to make ecofriendly bags.

In August 2014, I founded Afrom Media, a digital media company based in Kenya that offers digital media trainings and social media activations for individuals and organisations, a startup that is working towards creation of employment opportunities for youth. See what we do on http://afrom.co.ke.

I also sit in the board of Cheza Sports Academy that seeks to produce disciplined and all round footballers.

Say something profound to the person reading this.

You need to step out of your comfort zone and be part of the solution. I echo the words of Barack Obama in his Super Tuesday Speech in 2008, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

His efforts have not gone unnoticed

  •   He has been selected by unleash.org as one of top 1,000 global talents in the world.

  •   He was recently selected as a continental think tank by the Mandela Institute for Developmental Studies.

  •   He is the founder of Afrom Media, a digital media company that offers digital media trainings and social media activations for individuals and organisations.

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