FAWE through a partnership between UN agencies and civil society actors co-facilitated a youth-led conference 23- 25 October 2018. The Africa Youth Conference with the theme ‘Unleashing the Potential of Youth in Africa through Prioritizing Investment within the Post-2015 Agenda on Sustainable Development’ was held at the United Nation Complex in Gigiri, Nairobi Kenya. This convening was facilitated through a collaboration with UN Women working with FAWE, Africa Alliance of YMCA, UNDP, UN Environment, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNIC, UNICEF and Youth Agenda.
African Youth have for a long time been misjudged as being disengaged, passive and that they lacked the capacity to positively contribute to the continent’s development. It was therefore deemed necessary that an appropriate platform is given to these youth, in particular the young women, to share different interventions and initiatives they are involved in that seek to address the challenges facing their respective communities. The sharing of such innovative efforts by the youths themselves would help encourage and galvanize other African youth to become agents of change within their respective spaces both on the continent and across the world.
The conference was officially opened by Professor Margaret Kobia, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs. Also in attendance was Ms. Hanna. S. Tetteh, Director-General-United Nations Office in Nairobi. Ms. Tetteh urged the Youths to own their ambitions and not let anyone discourage them. She highlighted the importance of partnerships between governments and the private sector as a way of creating opportunities for the youth. She acknowledged the many obstacles facing youths in search for jobs and other economic opportunities but urged them to continuously invest in themselves through education, training, networking and the exploitation of their talents among others in order to increase their opportunities.
FAWE was well represented by Ms. Grace Nanyonga, Chairperson FAWE Alumni who was a panelist at a session discussion on preparing youth for employment and entrepreneurship. Ms. Nanyonga who is the founder and CEO of Granafish Supplies in Uganda urged the youths to embrace a positive attitude towards entrepreneurship instead of simply waiting to be employed. She noted that in as much as many youth in Africa were well educated, there was still a very huge skills gap which needed to be addressed through practical training. Concerning lack of capital for a business venture, Grace emphasized on the need to save and re-invest in the business before trying to seek external financial aid. She encouraged youths to exploit the market around them before thinking of exporting. She also urged government representatives in attendance to promote the consumption of locally produced goods and services as such investments create opportunities and therefore increase the market for youths. In urging the stakeholders present to give opportunities to girls and women to access education and training, Ms. Nanyonga said “I am proud of the far I have come, as a youth, I am able to employ up to 15 women and enable them provide for their families. This was made possible because FAWE gave me an opportunity. When we give opportunities to the youth, especially women, we help reduce poverty and dependency in the community.”
One of the key outcomes from the conference emphasized the need to promote youth rights, effective participation and inclusion in governance and decision-making processes. The meeting also considered the promotion of sustainable livelihoods and wealth creation through employment and entrepreneurship as well as the promotion of inclusion and the recognition of diversity in the generation of research, full disaggregated data and statistics on youth. The youth also identified peer to peer learning, intergenerational dialogue and mentorship as an important take away from the meeting. While youth action was identified as paramount in ending violence including harmful practices, the promotion of gender equality and inclusion of youth living with disability was also considered as equally important.
At the close of the conference, the youth committed themselves to continuously engage the African governments to involve youths in policy formation and legislation. They called for deliberate investment in the generation and management of data and statistics to reflect the diversity and differentiated challenges faced by youth in Africa. The youth also challenged the UN to widen its scope and activities for youth in Africa beyond capacity building initiatives and shift its focus towards building champions from the grassroots. They committed to initiating and promoting dialogues to raise their voices and take action to prevent all forms of gender-based violence as individuals and as a collective, including sensitizing each other on technology-assisted violence against women and girls among others.
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