Viva! Youth are leaders of the future, and the future is here
What you need to know:
- There are some young people who dared to dip their feet deeper into the waters of national politics.
- The 2022 General Election saw several young people vie successfully for various positions.
- And ahead of the next contest in 2027, one question remains – will these young office holders fulfill the promises they made to their constituents?
While politics is not for everyone, youth in institutions of higher learning are known to be very active in both internal and national politics. But once they graduate, very few continue to pursue their political dreams. This is due to various reasons ranging from a lack of adequate finances, sheer inexperience in politics, and competing demands, such as starting a family.
Even so, there are some who dare to dip their feet deeper into the waters of national politics, even after campus. The 2022 General Election saw several young people vie successfully for various positions. And ahead of the next contest in 2027, one question remains – will these young office holders fulfill the promises they made to their constituents?
Erick Omollo, 30
Homa Bay Town West MCA
Joining politics has come with a great sense of responsibility. I now have to care about the welfare of my people. I know it will be a challenging five years, but the only way to learn and improve in life is to anticipate challenges. They make you stronger.
My journey has not been smooth sailing. I faced many challenges during campaigns. First, I was a young candidate, and I did not have a lot of money to woo voters. I am also unmarried, and for this I faced discrimination especially from older folk who believe that a leader must have a family and a home. But here we are. I made it!
So far, I have no complaints. I have delivered on some of my promises, and that is a great motivation.
Before I was elected, I was involved in projects to provide clean piped water to locals in Yimbo centre, Orego village, Loo Rateng village and Nyaw Primary, and that formed the basis of my campaign.
A few weeks after I was sworn in, we supplied piped water to Wangapala, Marindi, Kakuja and Majiwa Primary Schools. The number of schools that now have piped water in the ward has increased to 21 and I am only left with five schools in the ward which I am hoping to ensure have clean piped water by the end of the year.
Had I been unable to deliver anything within the first 100 days, I would have been very worried.
I am the chairperson of the Water, irrigation, sanitation, environment, energy, forestry and climate change committee. Two months after I assumed office, I tabled the Homa Bay County Climate Change Bill 2022 which aims to create a fund to be financed by the county budget. The Bill was passed by the Homa Bay County Assembly, and it will guide formulation of policies, regulations and a legal framework for climate action.
I also promised to award bursaries based on the residents’ needs, and last week I gave out 500 bursaries to students who scored 350 marks and above in KCPE and six full scholarships to bright and needy students.
I am confident that by the end of my term, the roads will be better, and we shall have built eight Early Childhood Development Education centres, and at least two health centres in the county.
My biggest challenge, however, is the expectations of the residents. Many think that once elected, you have all the money in the world and you can just dish it out. The constituents see you as a source of money and handouts, yet our job is to provide leadership.
The other challenge is that residents don’t understand the role of MCAs. They expect us to cater for all their immediate needs. I believe we need to do more long term projects which will serve even our great grandchildren.
The other challenge I face is that because I am closest to the people, they expect me to take on the responsibilities of other leaders such as the area Member of Parliament, Senator or Woman Representative.
Initially I thought that being an MCA is not too involving, but I am busy almost all the time. I also thought that by joining the county assembly, I could implement as many projects as I wanted, but that is not the case. You have to use the monies you are given very carefully.
Despite the challenges, however, I believe I am on course to doing more than my predecessors.
We, young people, are vibrant with lots of energy. I urge all youth to offer themselves for leadership. It may not be easy due to a number of challenges including lack of funds, but there is a need to believe in oneself and go against the grain.
Kariithi Wambui, 29
Nominated MCA, Nyeri County
The last four months have been extremely exciting and busy for me. My role in the Nyeri County Assembly is to represent the youth and ensure that their dreams and aspirations are safeguarded.
I spent most of my time attending sessions in Parliament and preparing debates and motions on issues affecting the youth.
Already, two motions that I tabled, one on mental health and another on the management of street children, have been debated by my fellow ward representatives.
The motion on mental health aims at ensuring that there are awareness programmes in every health centre. This will reduce the number of suicide cases among the young people in Nyeri.
The Street Children Management Project aims to providing the minors with basic necessities and remove them from the streets.
Being a first time MCA, I have been doing a lot of research, and I continue to learn the activities in the assembly, especially the budget cycle.
The biggest challenge I am facing is lack of funds and policies that are dedicated to the youth. I am however hoping to introduce more policies to bridge this gap.
I am glad for this opportunity to serve my fellow youth. I draw my inspiration from Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who I was priviledged to work under when he served as Mathira MP. During his campaigns, I worked as his social media strategist. It is while working for the DP that I gained experience and strengthened my resolve to join politics.
Besides his influence, I have always been a natural leader. I was a class prefect in primary school, then a headboy. I was also a scout leader. In high school, I served as the dining hall captain.
While in my final year at Moi University, I was elected the Student Elections Commissioner.
It is because of my experience in leadership, my mobilisation skills and knowledge in youth affairs that I was nominated as an MCA by the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Party.
My dream is to educate at least 1,000 students from needy families.
Fidelis Nderitu, 28
Nominated MCA, Nyeri
It has been four months of learning and unlearning. I come from a society that believes that politicians have solutions to every problem. This took me by surprise!
I have learnt that things don’t just happen, there are processes that must be followed in government.
My status in the society has also changed, I am now a leader with great influence, so I command some respect from people.
Being a public figure also means that I don’t have a private life anymore because the society is watching my every step. Nevertheless, I try to live a full life.
As a politician who is passionate about the environment, in the last five months, I have visited several institutions in the county to advocate for afforestation.
Through my organisation, Go Green Hub, which I started in 2018, I advocate for a clean and green environment and encourage the public to plant, grow and maintain trees, and to educate youth on the importance of conserving the environment.
I am using my position as a youth leader to empower the boy child and people with disability. I encourage them to plant fruit trees for commercial and subsistence use.
I am also helping the society navigate the climate change crisis through a project aimed at planting 10 million trees over the next five years.
I look up to Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga who has been like a father to me. He has taught me a lot on leadership.
My other role model is the late Professor Wangari Maathai who inspired me to become an environmentalist.
Interestingly, I only met the late Professor once, when I was a Grade Five pupil at Kaigonde Primary in Tetu Sub-County, Nyeri, where she hails from.
My interest in environmental matters started then, although I only got to actualise my dream of starting an environmental organisation after joining politics. This was in the year 2016 during the campaign for the late Governor Wahome Gakuru on the promise of delivering a clean and green county.
It is because of my contribution to the environment that I got nominated by the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Party to represent gender and youth.
My entry to politics has not only brought me to the lime light, it has also helped me reach a large number of young professionals who are skilled in matters of the environment, and gender issues.
Shalom Oduor, 30
Nominated MCA, Siaya
I have always had a burning desire to represent the youth in the County Assembly and even at a higher level. This is why I contested for the Ugenya MCA position in a by-election in 2018 following the death of our ward representative.
I was only 23 by then, and a fresh graduate from the Great Lakes University, Kisumu, where I had graduated with a degree in guidance and counselling. Out of the 17 aspirants, I came third and I took that to be proof that I could win in future elections.
I have been in office for only four months, and my journey has been pleasant. However, I have realised that the electorate, especially the youth, are too fixated on money.
Young people focus on handouts rather than long term projects that can benefit them. For me, the choice is between giving the residents money, and concentrating on empowerment projects. Many times, when you only deliver on projects, people will complain that you don’t give them money.
People will always say things like, “Mheshimiwa, we want you to continue leading us. Your opponent is trying to lure us. Remember we will be with you come 2027.”
Yes, I want to stay in office, and I also want to meet the needs of the voters, but I also want to leave a legacy.
I had to make the youth understand that the next elections is the least of my priorities at the moment, as I am determined to serve them first.
The other challenge I’ve encountered is that some people are very choosy when it comes to jobs. Everyone wants a white collar job.
As we speak, over 80 per cent of workers in the county are elderly, yet we have thousands of qualified youth wallowing in poverty.
I have four major goals I would like to achieve by the end of my five-year term.
The first is to nurture natural talent in Siaya, especially sports talent. I believe that young people in Siaya are gifted, and I plan to partner with the Cabinet Secretary for sports on this.
My other goal is to ensure the young people utilise the available job opportunities. Recently, the county advertised 366 job opportunities and I am glad 70 per cent of the vacancies have been reserved for the youth.
I also want to ensure bursaries get to those who deserve them, so that no young person misses a chance to join university due to lack of funds.
Lastly, I want to tackle the drugs menace in the county to ensure that the youth remain productive.
Young people understand and know what affects them. We are the leaders of tomorrow, but we must start acting now since tomorrow is not guaranteed.