“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” — Anne Frank
International Day of Peace observed each year on September 21, is devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace among different communities, nations, and its people. It seeks a cessation of conflicts within the communities, to create more tolerant groups, leading to social, economic and political stability. In support of this theme, “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All”, each individual has a role to play, especially the youth, who constitute the richest wealth of the country. With an entire future ahead of them, we see every youth’s promise of creating meaningful change if they are just given access to quality education.
Evidence of the importance of education in maintaining peaceful engagements was witnessed during the Kenya elections earlier in August this year. Concerned about the potential luring of Kenyan youth into pre and post election violence by local politicians, former death row inmate and Crime Si Poa (CSI) co founder Peter Ouko embarked on an awareness campaign. Ouko targeted Nairobi’s informal settlements, populated by unemployed youth, to dissuade them from falling victim to the allure of quick money by unscrupulous politicians. Ouko opines that from 2007/2008, Kenya had experienced the worst post-election violence in its history during which over 1000 people lost their lives and 500,000 were displaced in spontaneous violence that rocked the country.
The 2013 general elections experienced little if any post-election violence, while the 2017 election would have even less. Immediately after the second and last phase of voter registration in Ouko, Kenyans on Twitter (KOT), who are educated youth with access to internet, sought to educate their contemporaries from engaging in politically instigated violence. Kenyan youth sought to be proactive in spreading peace and unity messages especially on social media which is popularly becoming the best platform for the over 12 million Kenyans — mostly youth — online. In their campaigns, youth especially in universities noted that they are strategically placed to serve as unifying groups through hosting students from different ethnic groups that are more often than not considered elite members and opinion shapers in their communities. The youth set up hashtags like #TribelessYouth, #Chills4Peace, #ChangamkiaVote Yako engaged people in civic education and in telling youth what to expect at the polling stations. On the other hand, CSI sought youth out in Nairobi’s informal settlements specifically. “We sought to teach them values, to learn to respect themselves in order to be respectful in their actions. The youth lack role models and people to look up to in the political realm. We noticed that although most youth have smart phones and access to the internet where ethnic bigotry is spewed, there was a need to engage them in activities that would keep them away from politically instigated violence,” Ouko said. No violence was reported following the campaign. And to prove their resilience, youth that participated kept peace in their respective areas of residence and even engaged in clean up exercises to show that they could avoid ethnically motivated violence.
Organizations like Asante Africa work towards ensuring each member of the community is involved in the process of a youth’s overall development. We understand that for a girl to feel safe from the fears of early marriage and domestic violence, the boys need to be educated as well. For youth to be aware of the world outside and be prepared for it, they need to be given tools and taught how to use these tools in the classroom. Youth need to understand that change does not happen with one person. They need to teach what they have learned in order to transform communities inside out.
The world is ready for a change; change that must begin with the transformation of youth that will allow them to face the challenges as one caring community.
Join our campaign to send more kids to school. Click here to know more.