At over 60% of the population, youths in Kenya are a crucial constituency in driving social and economic development. Youth empowerment remains an essential pillar in meeting Kenya's immediate, medium and long-term development aspirations. Globally, the United Nations youth agenda guided by the World Programme Action for Youth (WPAY) adopted by the General Assembly in 1995, which provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation young people around the world.
The inaugural launch of the Youth Sounding Board brought together the pre-selected representatives to review, consult, and validate the board's conception and design. The launch also served as a platform to review and provide feedback to UNDP's proposal for the Rapid Financing Facility (RFF) for which has been drafted by the Youth Working Group in consultation with internal and external stakeholders and guided by UNDP Beyond Recovery COVID-19 Offer.
In attendance at the event was Deputy Resident Representative Ms. Mandisa Mashologu who affirmed UNDP's support to the Youth Sounding Board noted that UNDP would provide all possible resources towards the board's success. Ms. Nadia Ahmed Abdalla Chief Administrative Secretary and Prof. Nura Mohamed Administration Director, Kenya School of Government, also commended the initiative that could enhance engagement with Kenyan youth bringing them to the table for discussions and articulation of their ideas.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Walid Badawi UNDP Resident Representative stated that the Youth Sounding Board acts as a multi-stakeholder, all-inclusive, youth-led vehicle, for meaningful engagement with the Kenyan youth. "We are not just creating a seat at the table; it is a whole table for young people to participate and contribute to the development progress.
The Youth Sounding Board will constitute of 15 members drawn from all the regional blocs in the country that will strive to embrace diversity; a critical mechanism that will ensure that different opinions on issues affecting young people in Kenya have a chance, towards the desired change in the country and across Africa.
The board will be overseen by the UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Walid Badawi and co-chaired by Cabinet Assistant Secretary Ms. Nadia Abdalla. The Youth Sounding Board shall provide mechanisms for coordination and communication of UNDP Kenya's interventions across the country. It is a follow up to successful partnerships including the Isiolo Youth Innovation and Empowerment Centre launched in October 2020.
In her acceptance of the co-chair role, Ms. Abdalla said "I appreciate UNDP's call to co-chair the Youth Sounding Board, which I am delighted to accept in service of the youth of this country. I welcome all the pre-selected representatives to the Youth Sounding Board, and in recognizing what each one of you brings on board, I truly believe your unique talents and diverse points of view will be instrumental towards making this a successful initiative."
The Youth Sounding Board aims to incorporate Kenyan youth empowerment through entrepreneurial skills, apprenticeship and internship opportunities. Further, the board will build synergies with other youth-centred programmes within the UN system, such as the Generation Unlimited (GenU) and the Government that support and promote National Youth Policies and interventions.
Besides convening board members, the launch was an opportunity to review and provide feedback to UNDP's proposal for the Rapid Financing Facility (RFF) drafted by the Youth Working Group in consultation with internal and external stakeholders and guided by UNDP Beyond Recovery COVID-19 Offer.
Joining virtually, UNDP Regional Bureau of Africa Director, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa commended the initiative and noted that it was the first-ever initiative within UNDP Africa. Ms. Eziakonwa stated that young people are at the heart of UNDP's Agenda 2030, and they have enormous potential in making a difference and building a better world. "I would like to congratulate the youths nominated to steer this role because I believe that youths are the drivers for development in Africa," she added.
Agreeing with the RBA Director's remarks, Mr. Roy Telewa Chief Executive Officer for the National Youth Council, noted that the Youth Board is a step in the right direction to support young people's ambition across Kenya. He further endorsed his confidence saying, "I believe that the Board has what it takes to further impact and push the Kenyan youth agenda."
The Youth Sounding Board is a critical vehicle that UNDP intends to engage directly with a highly representative and diverse panel of young women and men leaders, influential youth voices and representatives of institutions key to implementing the youth development agenda in Kenya. The Youth Sounding Board is a product of consultations between UNDP and Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs and championed by UNDP as a programmatic engagement platform through Governance and Inclusive Growth and Environment and Climate Change Resilience portfolios.