Realizing New Development Goals In Kenya Require Paradigm Shift

As a young person living in Kenya today, I’m confident of the potential in me. While I’m aware of the current challenges facing the young people of my generation, I’m optimistic about the future.

I’m excited because of the numerous opportunities that have been presented to me to be part of the next phase of global development agenda. I’m prayerful that my needs and the needs of other youth throughout the world are taken into consideration. But interests and development sometimes are not about democracy. Even though young people comprise of over thirty six percent of the Kenyan population and an equally huge percentage globally, sometimes their interests are the least served. Talk about high unemployment rates, talk about high burden of lifestyle and communicable diseases, talk about occupational hazards, it’s the young people who contribute heavily to the agonizing figures.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Young people can be more than statistics. Young people can be more than just numbers affected by Female Genital Mutilation, Early Marriages, getting new HIV/AIDS infections in yet another new study. Young people have a potential to be more. To do more. But there has to be deliberate effort. There has to be access to information. There has to be appropriate services. And this two must be supported by an enabling environment as is envisaged in the theory of change.

The global discussions on the POST 2015 Development agenda provides an opportunity to bridge that gap between the blissful dreams of the future and the depressing challenges of our current times. They provide an opportunity to go the Singapore and the Asian Tigers way or to continue the path that has brought us to where we are. It provides us with an opportunity to sow the seeds that will yield the fruits of demographic dividends or an avenue to do what we have been doing the same way we have been doing it while expecting different results. It’s yet another opportunity to remember the letter and the spirit of the progressive International Conference on Population and Development that’s hailed as a landmark in human rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights and ask ourselves what went wrong with the script.

That the proposed sustainable development goals were arrived at after negotiations and input among United Nations member states as opposed to the top down nature of the soon concluding Millennium Development Goals is just but the surest sign that’s it’s not going to be business as usual.

However, as we step into the era of the POST 2015 Development Agenda, there’s every need to take care of the global youthful population to reduce death and disease now, to reduce burden of disease later in life, as an investment, to protect human capital and to promote human rights. That the seventeen proposed sustainable development goals lack a standalone youth goal may be saddening, but the discussion on indicators provide an opportunity for the world to do right by its youth.

It’s time nation said no to ignorance. It’s a high time the world reiterated that nobody should be sick or die due to lack of information. It’s time countries implemented and fully funded quality, evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programs that provide accurate information on human sexuality, gender equality, human rights, relationships, and sexual and reproductive health for both in and out-of-school youth that is relevant to each specific age group. Such programs in schools should be intra-curricular and examinable wherever possible.

It’s time the nations of the world embraced technological advancements to answer the double burden of old challenges and the emerging reproductive challenges facing the young people. Whereas the world has registered major leaps in reproductive technology, governments’ response on issues such as assisted reproductive technology and surrogacy remains shrouded in uncertainty, not backed up by appropriate legal and policy environment and at times antagonistic.

It’s time we removed all barriers to uptake of reproductive health services by the youth, and ensure access to youth friendly reproductive health services. The services must be in the right place, at the right time, at the right price (free where necessary) and delivered in the right style to be acceptable to young people.

It’s time we said no to doing things randomly and Invest in data revolution, information management, research and further disaggregation of data by age, sex and other categories as the basis of empirically founded programming and planning.

It’s time we invested in young people’s health by increasing budgetary allocation to health to a minimum of 15% of national budgets as per the Abuja Declaration. In line with program based budgeting, there should also be deliberate efforts to allocate 15% of the health budget to family planning and address all demand and supply oriented barriers of access to, and use of family planning as per the Maputo Plan of Action.

We have an opportunity to get closest to the Biblical Canaan but the foundation must be skillfully and intentionally laid block by block. We must not behave like the proverbial Kimani who continued fetching water in a leaking basket and expected to go home happy.



ROBERT ASEDA is the Partnerships and Policy Officer at the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa-Kenya Chapter, a youth led advocacy network that does sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy. He has a BSc. Population Health from Kenyatta University. He has undergone training on budget advocacy, policy advocacy and media advocacy by Planned Parenthood Global and Choice for Youth and Sexuality of the Netherlands. He has been involved in the ICPD process and is currently the chairman of the National Youth Consortium on the POST2015 Development Agenda comprising of young people from organizations working in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya. He is also a radio personality, a creative blogger, poet and a regular contributor to local dailies in Kenya. Connect with him on twitter: @Varaq

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