Volunteer in Kenya, Raabia Hussain, during the deafway project community awareness parade in Nandi town, Kenya.
VSO/Paul Wambugu

Establishing youth platforms to amplify youth voices in Machakos, Kenya

We see youth engagement as a true partnership that entails engaging youth from the start of any initiative - from agenda setting and decision-making, to implementation and evaluation – to achieve a shared outcome in development. It is an intentional process that empowers youth with the aim of creating inclusive, accountable and enabling environments where young people’s voices are unified, valued, heard, and acted upon.

We strengthen and support youth platforms at community and national levels to expand conducive spaces for youth leadership, to influence decision making positively, and to expedite the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

National volunteer Asha conducts an aspirations analysis with young female applicants to the Lake Zone Youth Empowerment project.

Youth networks

Our youth networks are unifying and amplifying the voices of young people.

In Kenya, VSO conducted a youth-led participatory action research in 2017 to understand why young people were not employed or in businesses in the Machakos county. The research was conducted by youth selected from the county who were supported through training, guidance and mentorship from a Youth Participatory Research Specialist (volunteer), Global M&E Advisor and VSO Kenya staff.

The youth researchers comprised of ICS alumni and community volunteers with an interest in research. In addition to not having a safe platform for youth voice, the findings from the research evidenced lack of finances for education and skill development, lack of capital to start businesses, limited access to government opportunities, lack of youth friendly services and programmes among others as key challenges faced by young people.

In response to the research findings, and the action plans that followed the consultation forums, the Machakos Advocacy Taskforce Team was formed in October 2017 to provide a safe space for youth voice, influence & leadership.

The task force (TF) comprised of 12 youth who included community volunteers, primary actors and 12 ICS alumni out of which two had physical disabilities. The team was assigned to represent the youth in Machakos, to work with Civil Society Organizations, government, community, and other stakeholders in advocating for meaningful youth engagement and spearheading implementation of the recommendations emerging from the Participatory Action Research.

What challenges were faced?

The taskforce had challenges linking with and gaining recognition by duty bearers especially the government as it was set up as an informal group. This pushed the group to formalize through registration as a community based organisation.

Through consultations, guidance and training by VSO, Youth for Sustainable Development (YSD) Machakos was registered in 2018 as a community-based organisation in Machakos and became part of the National Advocacy Task Force Team with six member counties in Kenya. The aim was to formalise youth engagement and sustainability and gain recognition by the government, other duty bearers and youth as a legitimate platform for harnessing youth voice and advocating for action.

Advocacy strategy

Capacity training

VSO has been actively involved in building the capacity of the youth in subsequent years through training and referrals to other opportunities, which the youth have been applying to advocate on issues and bring development in their respective wards. Some of the training areas are leadership and social accountability, youth-led advocacy and lobbying strategies, social inclusion and resilience, resource mobilisation, proposal development, entrepreneurship and employability.

Inclusiveness and advocating for the most marginalised groups were at the centre of the capacity development approach. It provided an excellent means for youth to clearly identify social exclusion factors, discriminatory systems and practices, and created a safe space for engagement.

“We have been empowered through trainings. The trainings have opened our eyes to identify resources that are available locally. We are good communicators and we now address issues everywhere.

Edward Ndari,
Chairperson of the Youth for Sustainable Development

Use of effective advocacy strategies

The youth in Machakos effectively applied participatory advocacy approaches to secure responses from the government. The approaches included securing places and actively participating in policy development and implementation processes, community-led monitoring, use of petitions as an evidence for youth voice, campaigns, and lobbying key personnel within relevant departments.

Strengthening the representation of the youth platform to amplify voice

The Task Force in Machakos has promoted inclusion and has supported other young people within their county to participate and influence county deliberations on issues of youth unemployment and accessing technical training.

Through a mixture of trainings, mentorship, resource development and forums, marginalised young people have been able to use platforms to enhance their engagement with duty bearers, contribute powerfully in county deliberations helping to push for better accountability and transparency at all levels of government to improve economic and social opportunities.

Outcomes achieved

In addition to the multi-faceted gain from this progressive initiative, some of the successes include are noted below:

  • From the lobbying done by the Youth for Sustainable Development (YSD) on technical and vocation education, the Ministers of the County Assembly (MCAs) approved a bill seeking rehabilitation of rural polytechnics to equip youth with technical skills and create more jobs and opportunities. A budget was set aside by the county government and the YSD is continuously following up on the implementation.
  • YSD were able to influence Youth Enterprise Development Fund, a government led initiative to make it easier for young people to access their financial products. They were also able advocate for a youth representative (the deputy of YSD) to sit in the county budget and economic forum and influence the County Integrated Plans and the Annual Development Plans. The youth representative coordinated and collected youth views on the budgeting process through public participation and use of Social Accountability tools. She also represented Machakos County in the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) workshop which developed strategies for curbing crime and enhancing youth and community empowerment in the county.
  • YSD organized the first agribusiness conference in collaboration with other organizations in Machakos through which 180 youth entrepreneurs showcased their business and the county government committed to have this as an annual event during the international youth week and to sponsor 20 youth to showcase in the Agricultural show of Kenya.
  • As a result of YSD active contribution in bridging the gap between youth and the county government, they were able to mobilise other stakeholders and were sponsored by Caring Hands to take part in Toastmasters International classes where they were trained on public speaking and leadership.
  • Together with other YSD chapters, the youth network has been promoting volunteerism as an effective youth engagement pathway contributing to the official recognition of it by the government. In recognition of the value of volunteerism in the country, a budget of 50 million Kenyan Shillings (about USD 500,000) was allocated under the Ministry of Education for developing country volunteering policy and to set up structures at county level.
  • VSO supported active youth members from the YSD Network to represent Kenyan youth and share their advocacy experience and learning to youth networks across the globe during the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Forum in 2020, taking the engagement of the youth network to the next level.

Impact on the lives of youth

The programme has allowed young people in Machakos to meaningfully engage with duty bearers and key stakeholders to voice their concerns, propose alternate solutions, and to advance their economic opportunities.

As a result of the task force’s effective representation, marginalised young people in Machakos, including those with disabilities, vulnerable girls, and those who would not have been able to fight individually for good governance, were supported, mentored, coached, and better accessed financial resources, skills and economic opportunities. There has been improved service delivery in the Machakos specifically for youth around access to quality Technical Vocational Education and Training that translated to acquisition of relevant skills for the job market.

UK aid logo

The youth within the taskforce have developed personally and their assets and capabilities through the different capacity building opportunities and advocacy experiences. This has been evidenced through their proactive advocacy for inclusive and accountable government responses to protect highly marginalised communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This work is funded by UKAid under the ‘Volunteering for Development’ programme which seeks to improve access to basic services and opportunities, increase the agency of extremely poor and vulnerable people and build their resilience to the shocks and stresses that threaten their advancement from poverty.

Find out more

National volunteer Asha conducts an aspirations analysis with young female applicants to the Lake Zone Youth Empowerment project.

Youth networks

Our youth networks are unifying and amplifying the voices of young people.

Two people, one in a VSO t-shirt, survey a camp for internally displaced people
VSO/Suraj Shakya

UK Aid Volunteering for Development

Driving volunteer impact to deliver improved health, education and livelihoods outcomes for two million people.

Children at Ngwino Nawe school in Rwanda | VSO

Influencing and advocacy

VSO influences policy at national, regional and international levels. We bring the experience of volunteers, partners and marginalised people to decision makers.