Kenya boasts of a youthful population that has the potential to transform the economy and accelerate the realization of Vision 2030.
According to the 2019 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) 2019 national census, 35.7 million Kenyans (75.1 per cent) are below 35 years. Among this group, about 32.7 million live in the rural areas that accounts approximately for 55 per cent of the country’s labour workforce.
This share of potentially productive workforce, therefore, needs to be fully harnessed and optimized to contribute to the country’s development.
The youth feel marginalized even in terms of access to economic opportunities and a majority of them remain in the periphery of the country’s social, economic and political affairs.
The grim data of the youths has informed the Nyeri County government to initiate activities to empower them through a programme dubbed “The Nyeri County Youth, Women and PWD Empowerment Programme” through the department of Gender, Youth and Social Services.
The main goal of this programme is to incubate an assortment of income generating activities into viable economic activities for youth, women and People Living with Disability (PWDs) which will graduate into established business for the social economic development of the county.
According to the Gender, Youth and Social Services Chief Officer George Mwangi an assortment of 238 groups made up of youth, women and PWDs registered have qualified to benefit from this programme and over 100 of these groups, the majority of their members are the youths below the age of 35 years.
“These groups will also receive training in small business management and refresher training to continuously hone their business acumen,” Mwangi said.
He said that the youths, women and PWDs are an essential component of the county’s development agenda adding that the county government through the department of Gender is deliberately and systematically implementing other empowerment programmes to appropriately equip and empower these groups attain and realize their full potential.
The Chief Officer disclosed that to benefit from this programme, the interested groups must meet some conditions which include: must be registered with the state department for social development, the group must be active and must have a constitution or rules and or regulations that govern its operations.
Other conditions are that the group must have at least five or more members and where at least two thirds must be within the 18 to 34 years age bracket for the youth group or must be women for women groups or people abled differently depending on the category of the group or as may be prescribed by any written law or policy and at least half of the group members must reside within the ward where the application is made.
The pilot programme was launched in September, 2020 in Iria-ini ward, Othaya sub-county, where youth and women benefited with car wash machines, salon equipment, photocopy machines and tents and chairs for hire.
About 70 per cent of those who benefitted succeeded and those who are struggling have given the department insight on how to continuously improve on this programme especially on business counselling, monitoring and evaluation and conflict resolution.
The other empowerment programmes include partnering with the Centre for Rights, Education, and Awareness (CREAW), the launching of the county government widows empowerment programme to address some of the issues affecting them.
The Kuza Kazi Youth empowerment program, an initiative in which the devolved unit has partnered with the Coca-Cola Company to provide 150 beneficiaries with business skills training.
The beneficiaries have also been incorporated into the company’s retail network and have each been provided with a starter kit consisting of an icebox, a parasol and a garden set.
The department has also partnered with Help Self Help Center (HSHC), a development agency in Kenya to offer free training on soft skills to 250 Vocational Training Centres (VTCs) graduates in a bid to increase their chances of being employed or starting their own businesses.
These groups fit very well into the empowerment strategy of the county that involves creating, supporting and sustaining an environment that unlocks the potential of the people of Nyeri to actualize progressive socio-economic growth.
By Mwangi Gaitha