At the moment I’m finding myself at a place I’ve always dreamt of: at the United Nations (UN) in New York.Six years ago, I started working as a volunteer in my community, the Kibra slums in Kenya, collecting litter to keep our place clean. There, I also educated my community about the importance of keeping our environment litter-free.
That was when my motivation to educate others began. Later, I started educating members of my community on HIV/AIDS prevention. As a young person, I felt empowered by this experience. In the past three years, I’ve been advocating for the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people in Kenya.
Working on community level was my springboard to become a youth advocate at (inter-) national level.Kelvin MokayaMember of the National Youth Consortium on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (Kenya)
Meaningful Youth Participation
Before coming to New York, I consulted with young people in my country to hear about their personal stories, and the realities they face daily. For example, I found out that young people are often stigmatised when they seek health services and contraception—they are expected to abstain till marriage. Because of these barriers to accessing health information and services, they tend to make uninformed decisions on their SRHR.
I believe it’s important to voice these realities in high-level decision-making spaces such as the UN because international policies do not always sufficiently reflect what is happening in my community, and in many other communities worldwide.
It is my privilege to bring the priorities of young people to the UN where the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) is taking place. The HLPF oversees the follow up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a set of 17 universal global goals aimed at ending poverty, fixing climate change, and tackling inequalities.
During the week, I will have the opportunity to speak in several meetings, including a roundtable discussion on Monday, 18 July. Organised by the Right Here, Right Now Partnership, the roundtable will bring together young people and policy makers to talk about why it is important to place young people at the heart of the SDGs.
I want to see a positive change in the realities of young people in my community, and believe that this is possible through the meaningful participation of young people in SDG implementation.
And, I am making that start.
About the Author
Kelvin Mokaya (22), Kenya, is a national youth advocate at the Kenya Chapter of the Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa. He is currently a member of the National Youth Consortium on the Post-2015 Development Agenda in Kenya, and is an international youth advocate of dance4life. Kelvin is currently doing his Bachelors on Education (Arts), majoring in Political Science at Kenyatta University.