In April 2010, United States ambassador Michael Ranneberger called on the young people of Kenya to seize active roles in the reform of their nation. After moving around the country interacting with young people, the envoy said he sensed “a sea change of attitude” among youths,“a tidal wave below the surface. The youth have woken up.”
Less than three years earlier, post-election violence surrounding the rigged presidential elections left 1,200 dead and 600,000 displaced in Kenya. Yet, over the last two years, various grassroots initiatives led by youth have begun to improve quality of life for those in the direst of conditions. Termed “youth groups” on the streets, these initiatives could represent the future of long-term socioeconomic development in Kenya, and its neighboring countries. Members of the Usafi Youth Group in Kibera dig pit latrines to remove waste mounds in the slum, covering the newly fertilized earth with sustainable agriculture projects.
Other groups are building community bath houses in the poorest of areas, and organizing meetings to educate the community on the risk of HIV/AIDS. Within this progressive youth culture is the Kibera Olympic Boxing Club, a group of low-income adolescents from the slum who use sport to stay off the street and involved in the community. These youth are a microcosm of the greater movement toward reform, and a generation fighting for a voice.- Bob Miller