International Youth Day 2020: Kenya Interfaith Youth Network Breaking Barriers

Kenya has been often referred to as a youthful country, as the youth are the bigger percentage. Research, publications and surveys have shown that despite the large representation there remains persistent challenges and risks that the Kenyan youth face; “The youth are, and will remain, a significant share of Kenya’s population for the foreseeable future. Developing and implementing appropriate strategies, policies and programs to mitigate the risks and challenges they (the youth) face must be much more of a priority for the government than it currently is. – [https://doi.org/10.1080/02673843.2012.657657]

The International Youth day 2020 theme was “Youth Engagement for Global Action”, which partly aimed at highlighting the ways in which engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels was enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes.

At Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, the commemoration of International Youth day just like different aspects have been affected by the pandemic and embraced the new norm, the Interfaith Youth Network across the country took up this change. Youth from the different interfaith networks convened a webinar where they shared experiences, show-cased their talents, shared their challenges and encouraged each through their life stories.  

Watch the Webinar: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=334110234424566&extid=n9C9aebw6agPfyAs

Dialogue Diariez highlighted a few of their stories:

He was an orphan, he had lived in the streets for 3 years, a Good Samaritan took him in but life would have it he also passed on. He moved to his village and despite all odds managed to finish school. He used to double up as an artist as well as cooking bhajias to survive. This is his say:

“I believe in the power of prayer and hard work. Success does not choose only the privileged; NO. It’s meant for all those who remain focused in life.” – Lameck Onoka

I lost my parents when I was so young. Life dictated my privileges and luck would have it, I found myself in the streets. I love how strong and brave I became as a result of the streets.

One chance I got from a well-wisher opened my ways. I went back to school despite not doing other classes but today I’m happy that I’m a professional teacher. From the streets to an office of a deputy principle at an international school is God’s grace. Life is what you make it.” – Lameck Onoka is a youth representative from SDA (Mombasa Interfaith Network)

“Since 6th June 2020 I was a Covidian Boy and had tested 5 times as asymptomatic COVID positive. ” –Ravi Shah

“ Finally after 6th Test on 28th July 2020 I turned out negative. Though Corona attacked my body it was unable to enter my mind and soul. So, during almost 2 months in isolation I managed to interact and engage in different online youth activities and groups.” –Ravi Shah is youth representative from the Hindu Council of Kenya and Kenya Interfaith Youth Network Executive Committee member.

“I come from a very humble background. It was so humble that my mom left when I was four. My mum left us because life was so hard for her to handle. She left my elder sister, me and my kid brother alone with our father. Our relatives tried to help us by taking us in, this separated us since we each went to live with different relatives.

My mum at some point came back but I never went back home, as I continued living with my aunt in Mombasa. I was brought up in a very strict but religious family. As much as I felt welcomed and loved with my cousins I still longed for my siblings. The family took me to school but under strict conditions that if I should ever misbehave in any way I would be taken back home. Since I knew there wasn’t much of a future if I went back home, I lived in fear all the time and was never myself when growing up, which interfered with my self-esteem and ability to make friends.

Having taken community development, I joined some of the youth groups within my community. Through that I helped people out in my community and got some allowance which kept me going.”

After high school I had to work as a house help for my cousin in order for her to pay for my college but later cut me off, by then I was at Moi University in Nairobi. In order to survive I started going to Gikosh with some little cash I had saved up to buy some clothes for sale and I also taught myself bead-work to increase my income.

Having taken community development, I joined some of the youth groups within my community. Through that I helped people out in my community and got some allowance which kept me going. By this time I had reconciled with my mum and understood why she did what she did and had taken up responsibility of taking care of my family.

My dream is to elevate my family from poverty. I have worked with children homes i.e. helping by finding donors to help educate and provide for the children; helped women in my community who have formed women groups…”

My dream is to elevate my family from poverty. I have worked with children homes i.e. helping by finding donors to help educate and provide for the children; helped women in my community who have formed women groups by liaising with the county government and having their business registered and finding markets for them to showcase and sell their products. Through that the women have been able to increase their clientele and businesses by a great margin.

Doing what I do brings me joy and a lot of satisfaction knowing not only am I helping my family by doing so I also get to make a difference in other people lives.

I appreciate Maskani and the Inter-Religious council for providing such forums for people to get to share their experiences and success stories.

I call this a success story because on the surface it may seem nothing but if one goes deeper and into details, I have gone through a lot and I never gave up or chose the wrong path to be where I am today. I am grateful to God for always providing and never letting me down.” – Metrine Wambulwa

Maskani InterFaith Youth during unveiling of a ‘wall of peace’ mural

IRCK celebrates and acknowledges the barriers these youth have overcome and the lengths they have had to go to. The interfaith youth network recognizes that the youth are the future and building up the capacity to be able to make their own decisions and to take responsibility especially on their own life is key.

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