Reclaiming the Narrative: Youth Activism in the East Africa Region

Leonida Odongo
Posted June 26, 2019 from Kenya
Leadership and Mentorship -East Africa training
Leadership and Mentorship Training -Kampala, Uganda
Leadership and Mentorship Training -Kampala, Uganda (1/5)

Going through education in an institution of higher learning is often a difficult process. For many students who come from disadvantaged families they have to juggle side jobs (side hustles) in order to survive. Some are forced to skip classes to run errands and on top of that one is expected to pass exams.

When students get worked up about university administration they resort to vandalism and woe unto you if you are caught up by demonstrating students in the streets. The reasons for the demonstrations vary from seemingly simple things such as power black out in the halls of residence to poor administration response to student welfare or draconian legislations out to stifle student activism.The negative activities of a group of students have brought in the stereotype that students   enjoy vandalism or  are stone throwers popularly known as ‘watu wa mawe’ in Swahili.

Students many a times go through their academic period without much engagement with the struggles of marginalised and exempted communities. Their lives are structured in a way that many a times prove monotonous. From one dorms to the lecture halls, to hanging out with friends in the middle of the city (Central Business District) of Nairobi, Kampala and Dar-es-Salaam, to finishing lecturers, Continuous Assessments Tests (CATs) then wait for exams long holidays and then graduation. This routine prevents many students from coming into contact with the realities of ordinary people. And only get to learn about the struggles of the marginalised either on TV or on newspaper headlines. 

To address the student-community disconnect, Fahamu Africa with support from Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung (RLS) have been nurturing university students’ activism and leadership through a project namely Your Voice Matters. The project works with university students across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The universities engaged in the project include: University of Nairobi, Makerere University, Kampala International University, Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), University of Dar es Salaam, University of Bagamoyo, Kenyatta University. Plans are underway to also collaborate with Technical University of Kenya (TUK), Egerton University and Moi University.Through the project, students get to engage in global, regional, national and local forums and this is instrumental in nurturing student activism, advocacy as well as consciousness on various social injustices. 

The students engage in essay writing competitions aimed at sharing their views on how to solve societal problems as well as initiate Social Justice Clubs within their learning institutions. Through the social justice clubs formed in universities under Your Voice Matters, students get to hold weekly meeting social justice issues and organic advocacy activities geared towards amplifying issues of marginalised groups such as 100% Renewable Energy for all campaign by 350.org , Afrika Vuka – a push for transition for renewable forms  of energy,Usawa[1] festival Women’s day,Anti-femicide demonstration in response to enforced disappearances and rising cases of femicide in the case of Kenya,Zinduka[2] festival among others.

Students also take part in organizing leadership training sessions within their own universities and replicate what they have learnt during leadership and mentorship trainings organised by Fahamu. An example of this is initiatives by students from Makerere University members of Your Voice Matters.In addition students also get opportunities to shape regional agenda through participation in regional forums. An example of this is the Mainstreaming Youth Engagement in Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation aimed organised by Reality of Aid Africa (ROA-Africa) bringing together young people for Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Cameroon .Another example is students from Kenyatta University participating in the International Food Safety Conference(http://www.ku.ac.ke/foodsafety/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Call_For_Abstr...) on issues of food safety and consumer protection.

 Through the project young people get to understand what is Pan Africanism and its relevance to young Africans today, leadership and mentorship, movement building, practical skills in carrying out people centered research as well as visiting communities for solidarity engagements. Through engagement in meetings and regional conferences students get to understand what academia can contribute to solving societal problems and how they can utilize their different courses to transform communities. The exposure visits also enables students understand how civil society functions , gain practical experience on advocacy and  also understand how  art can be utilised to express social injustices in communities.

The project also nurtures young people on leadership and mentorship preparing them for leadership roles in the future. University students part of the project have become more responsible better equipped with knowledge and skills to handle various issues have enhanced knowledge on social justice and are more conscious about injustices.

The Your Voice Matters project is an example of a success story in reclaiming the narrative that young people are troublesome!

 

 

 

[1] Usawa is a Swahili word for equality

[2] Zinduka is an annual festival  in the East African region that celebrates people to people integration

Comments 10

Log in or register to post comments
Jill Langhus
Jun 27
Jun 27

Hi Leonida,

How are you doing, dear? Thanks for sharing this inspiring post about the "Your Voice Matters" project. It sounds like there are some great initiatives being created out of this project. Are you part of the organization of these projects or are you just passing along the message of the work they are creating?

I hope you're doing well, and having a great week!

Leonida Odongo
Jun 28
Jun 28

Dear Jill,

Thank you for the positive comments.I'm the one coordinating the project.Please see the link to the project http://www.fahamu.org/your-voice-matters/.

Jill Langhus
Jun 28
Jun 28

Hi Leonida,

You're welcome:-) Very cool, and impressive!

Thanks for providing the link. Do you have a social media page to like/follow?

Hope you have a great day, and weekend:-)

Feka
Jun 27
Jun 27

Great initiative. I wish you all the best

Leonida Odongo
Jun 28
Jun 28

Thank you Feka.

Tamarack Verrall
Jun 28
Jun 28

Hi Leonida,
This is such a far reaching and brilliantly designed program, big congratulations. Not only are you steering the important emotional responses of students to current problems, you are widening the understanding of what is behind the unrest by encouraging "Your Voice Matters" and giving background on how problems can be transformed in the community. Wow! It is so encouraging to read how many universities are already taking part. Through your efforts the voices of these students have such a positive channel to be heard, to find others to work with positively, and with compassion find new ways to transform society.

Lisbeth
Jun 28
Jun 28

Wow this is really a great initiative. The youth are the active force and the future leaders hence must be groom up for such task ahead. Thanks for sharing.

Jane Frances Mufua
Jul 02
Jul 02

Good job. The time for the youths is now not tomorrow.

Beth Lacey
Jul 03
Jul 03

A great project. Thanks for sharing

SIMON MUREU
Jul 15
Jul 15

Ondongo --you are doing great work for them there