Giving young people strong advocacy skills and knowledge is one of the most exciting things about the youth and demographic dividend (PACE) project.  With just one year, we have produced over 25 strong, eloquent, passionate and committed youth champions.

These champions are drawn from nearly 22 counties in Kenya. Their team is rich in diversity. These young people brought on board a huge wealth of experience from young people working with grassroot organizations to bring lasting change. Despite this diversity, all this young people have a fervent desire to influence policy change in their counties. They clearly understand and can elaborately describe the demographic dividend agenda.

“When I first mentioned the term demographic dividend to our County Health Management Team, everyone was keen to listen. Some County officers even followed me outside the meeting so that I breakdown the jargon further” explains Collins Kibet from Bungoma County.

The youth and demographic dividend champions identified key issues affecting young people in their counties and developed key advocacy messages targeting policy makers in the county government structures. The young people aligned their advocacy objectives with the 4 pillars of achieving the demographic dividend which are health, education, economic empowerment and governance.

Lameck Mageto from Kwale County taking a radio interview with a local radio station in Kenya

Irene Mwangi, a champion from Murang’a County had identified agriculture as an economic activity for young people to engage in with the support of the County government.

“Our County Executive Committee member in charge of Agriculture was very happy to see a young person with great interest and recommendations on the Agricultural sector” says Irene. Many young people are struggling to get into the few white-collar jobs available. A possible solution to curb the high rate of unemployment is to increase innovation in agriculture and give opportunities to the youth.

Kwale County has been struggling with one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy. This situation has denied thousands of girls an opportunity to continue with education. Many of them have to drop out of school at a very young age. The level of literacy among women in Kwale is very low. Their youth and demographic dividend champion, Lameck Mageto decided to take up this issue with the education heads in the county.

“I screened ‘We are Kenya’s Future’ video to policy makers in Kwale.”

“The video sparked conversation on the challenges the county is facing to provide quality education for all including girls. The county team and civil society organizations in the room decided to rally Members of the County Assembly to commit more resources for education” explains Lameck.

In Kwale County, the youth and demographic dividend champion also advocated for full implementation of the return to school policy. Every adolescent girl has a right to go back to school after delivering their pregnancy. There was a lot of stigma in the county where girls feared ridicule and discrimination of going back to school after giving birth.

Across the country, the youth and demographic dividend champions are doing a great job. These young people have built relationships with policy makers. Some of the youth champions have earned their place to represent other young people meaningfully in Technical Working Groups, Health Management Teams and committees.

Moving forward, a new window of opportunity has emerged. With devolution taking its 2nd phase every county governments is drafting its County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) and the budget cycle is almost halfway. The youth champions have their work cut out to ensure that youth issues form the agenda and are given priority in allocation of county resources.

Listen to the Youth & Demographic Dividend Champions Radio Show on KBC Afya ya Uzazi Show here