After Nyeri County being ranked first in HIV prevalence rates in Central Region and recording high numbers of suicide cases, a community-based organization in the county has teamed up with local administration to launch a youth talent show as it seeks to put their skills into use during the holiday season.
The Nyeri talent search has been put together by National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), National Aids Control Council, Grassroots Community Transformation Centre (GCTC) and the County government of Nyeri among other players.
According to Harrison Muna, an official from the GCTC, who are the chief organizers of the event, their main intention will be to keep the youth engaged during the festive season when the majority are on school and job breaks.
Muna attributed the high number of suicide cases, HIV infection rates and drugs and substance abuse amongst young people to the desperation brought about by Covid-19 pandemic. He said it was appalling to see the young losing their sense of direction due to lack of mentorship from the older generations and also due to lack of guidance on how to utilize their talents.
“The people who earn more are the artists and those in the creative space. Our idea is to tap these talents because from them we get the orange economy which is employing so many. We are hoping to empower them so that they can bring a change in society through the skills that they have,” he said, adding that they will use the platform to advocate for better ways of dealing with mental health concerns.
The latest data from the National Aids Control Council shows that Nyeri leads in HIV-Prevalence in the Central region with 4.3 per cent. It is followed by Kirinyaga (3.2), Kiambu (2.97), Murang’a (2.8) and Nyandarua at 2.7 per cent. The county also records three new infections daily while two people die daily from HIV related complications.
At the same time, a report from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations shows that the region recorded the highest suicide cases in the country.
During the flagging off of the caravan, Julius Koome, the central regional coordinator National Aids Control Council, noted that HIV infections among the youth aged 18-24 were on the rise in the county. He said the key drivers of the new infections was the vulnerabilities associated with being idle.
Koome said that as much as keeping children in school reduces the chances of infection by 30 per cent, gainful and meaningful engagement of the youth during their free time also lessens their chances of contracting the virus.
“We are trying to arrest these infections, the risks and vulnerability especially among 18-24 year bracket youths who are most affected. Most of the things we are witnessing among young people are drivers towards acquiring HIV. So that’s why we collectively need to ensure that our young people are engaged constructively, their talents are harnessed and directed so that they will not be engaged in these other vices,” said Koome.
Speaking during the function, Nyeri County Commissioner Lyford Kibaara urged the youth to participate in forums that keep them meaningfully engaged. He at the same time asked the youth to collaborate with local authorities to identify drug traffickers and illicit brew sellers so that they can be apprehended.
The talent search will also include a road show which will traverse all the eight sub-counties of Nyeri to popularize the event. Already selected 71 contestants in nine different categories which include content creation, music, body building, modelling, poetry and spoken word and Disc Jockeying. The contestants are currently undertaking a four-day boot camp at the GCTC in Othaya. The culmination of the show will be the crowning of Mr and Miss Nyeri on the New Year’s Eve.
By Wangari Mwangi