Wote town, the heart of Makueni County hosted the first 2020 Elimika Wajibika workshop at the Acacia resort on January 22-23, 2020.
Three quarters of the people in attendance were youth drawn from various counties including Homabay, Kwale, Makueni, Nairobi and Turkana. The remaining quarter wasn't youth, they were respected scholars, civil servants and county government officials.
The choice of Makueni County wasn't a strange one. Makueni's Governor, Prof. Kivutha Kibwana, a lawyer and former human rights activists is adored across Kenya for his servant leadership style. On the same note, Makueni's youthful senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior is admired by many people for his charisma, courage and skills in articulating issues affecting Kenyans and in particular the youth while at the senate floor or other public forums.
The theme of the workshop was: Youth in Kenya: A paradox of interventions and impacts.
Highlighting the workshop, Governor Kivutha Kibwana and Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr among others present spoke about their personal and professional journeys.
From the two leaders, it was clear that determination, focus, ambition and hard work were key ingredients to a successful career and life. Governor Kibwana explained that although he was born in poverty and in a huge family of 29, he was still determined to succeed. “We were never guaranteed of meals but that didn't stop me from pursuing my dreams.”
Governor Kibwana challenged the Youth to believe in themselves. “If President Barack Obama didn't believe in himself, he couldn't have become president therefore you have to believe that -Yes you can.”
The Governor who also taught at the University of Nairobi’s school of law also asked the youth to take up leadership positions in the country and across the world. “Many will tell you that youth are the leaders of tomorrow but you have to remember that tomorrow never comes.” He said. “When Kenya gained independence, we had young ministers like Tom Mboya and Mwai Kibaki among others-Why do you think you cannot take up leadership positions in government?”
Speaking on work ethics, Senator Kilonzo called upon young people to be passionate and efficient in their careers and businesses. “When I was an intern at my fathers law firm, I reported to work at 6am way before other staff. I am a senator now and I still report to work at 6 am without excuses.” He said. The senator challenged youth to strive towards achieving their dreams and goals.
In reference to the theme of the workshop, Senator Kilonzo opined that although there were dozens of youth policies in paper yet a few were actually being implemented. Despite the setbacks, the senator called upon youth to take up all opportunities available including tenders, loans and scholarships.
Prof. Judith Bahemuka, UNESCO/UNITWIN chair at the University of Nairobi has mentored and inspired many youth through various programs including the Elimika Wajibika program. Through creation of knowledge societies, Prof. Bahemuka firmly believes that the youth will be empowered to not only take up leadership positions in the country but to also create sufficient wealth, businesses and employment opportunities in the society.
There were a couple of successful youth who also spoke at the workshop. Mr. Peter Quest, Executive Director, Inspiration Kenya and Youth Program Coordinator at Kenya School of Goverment couldn't stop appreciating how far he’s come from. “As an alumni of Elimika, I can’t be grateful enough to Prof. Bahemuka and the University of Nairobi for nurturing and giving me a platform to achieve my dreams-I am who I am today because of this program.”
Ms. Carine Umutoniwase, Founder and Director, Foot Prints for Change recalled how she came to Kenya as an 11 year old refugee following the Rwandan genocide. “Against all odds, I am living my dream and all of you young people, get mentors, stay focused on your dreams, you will make it.”
Dozens of youth participants shared their stories, a lawyer was grateful to the program that he came to give back as a sign of appreciation. He vowed to mentor youth currently enrolled into the Elimika program.
A young musician popularly known as Bahati, also a single mom from Kwale wowed the audience with her energetic performances. “If I didn't get a helping hand, I would have perished- I just pray that many other young women are able to access such opportunities.” She remarked.
“I have an idea but I do not know where to seek help, I am afraid if I speak too much about it someone may steal it” A shy, smartly dressed young man whispered on the microphone during the Afternoon session on the second day.
It was Prof. Timothy Waema’s session, He was talking about Youth Innovation Hubs. “Alright, we can have a private discussion about it, you can come to the C4D lab at the University of Nairobi or somewhere else.” Prof. Waema replied.
“And how can I come up with an innovation that quickly guarantees money.” a young woman from the University of Eldoret asked.
Shaking his head, Prof. Waema replied, “No there is nothing that guarantees you quick wealth, you have to work for it. First of all, you need to come up with an innovation that addresses a problem in the market or society. That’s the first step to making money step by step because it takes time to reap benefits.”
Elimika’s Workshop in Makueni Wote, Makueni county supremely demonstrated that the Youth have amazing potential to take up leadership positions in the society. They are amazingly talented and resilient. They have brilliant ideas and skills that can help transform our country to exponential development. All they need is knowledge, support, opportunities and mentorship.
Story By Frankline Sewe