The (Un)Broken Promises to Youth and Women in Kenya


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A recent study, The Kenya Youth Survey Report, at the Aga Khan University found that today’s youth do not consider being corrupt a big deal. They do not consider how one makes their money important so long as one does not go to jail. Young people are optimistic about the future materially, but expect that the levels of corruption is going to increase.

Even though Article 10 of the Constitution of Kenya espouses national values and principles such as good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability, and Article 3(2) provides that “Every person has an obligation to respect, uphold and defend the constitution”, the study also found that the youth of today are afraid to stand up for what is right and may not be relied upon to defend the constitution. This dominant culture of apathy, indifference and tolerance to corruption threatens to erode the gains made since the promulgation of the new constitution in 2010.

The youth constitute the most economically disadvantaged segment of the population. An assessment by the World Bank reported that Kenya has one of the highest youth unemployment rates among developing countries. Kenya has the highest youth unemployment rates in East Africa despite having the biggest economy. Disadvantaged populations are economically and socially excluded and face may barriers to success that may have negative implications both today and in the future.

Article 10 of the Constitution of Kenya calls for equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, non-discrimination, and protection of the marginalized groups. It is on this premise that the government created affirmative action funds to improve the economic engagement of youth, women and persons with disabilities (PWDs).

A recent study by The Institute of Social Accountability (TISA) used a social accountability approach in measuring the extent to which the youth are able to exercise accountability in youth funds. The study looked at three aspects: transparency, accountability, and public participation. Jipeshughuli is a youth participation in governance campaign which seeks to empower citizens as a means of combating widespread corruption.

There are four main funds that targeting the youth, women, and PWDs. The Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) was established 2006 to create employment through the promotion of entrepreneurship by providing loans services to small and medium sized enterprises. In 2007, the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) was established to provide accessible and affordable credit and/or expand business for wealth and employment creation. In 2013, as an initiative under Vision 2030, the government also created Uwezo Fund to expand access to finance and promote women, youth and persons living with disability led enterprises at the constituency level. To date, YEDF has disbursed Kshs 11.7 billion to 850,000 beneficiaries, WEF has disbursed Kshs 6.3 billion to 63,342 women groups, and Uwezo fund has disbursed Kshs 5.2 billion to poor people at the constituency level.

Transparent systems ensure that there is availability of information to the public and clarity about government rules, regulations and decisions. A transparent government empowers and supports the right of citizens to know, which enables them to monitor the implementation and performance of affirmative action programs. More than half of the target population for the funds do not have access to information due to limited publicity at the local level, according to the #Jipeshughuli study.

On the other hand, accountability means that government officials are able to account for or take responsibility for their actions. Citizens who are socially accountable have the capacity to hold the state to account. In the case of affirmative action programs, there must be clear and practical mechanisms for addressing grievances from fund officials, as well as space to appeal to higher level supervisory and oversight bodies to ensure that services are rendered efficiently. Issues of accountability persist. Corruption remains an unending sore in the administration of the funds. From the TISA study, 13 percent of applicants for YEDF were asked for bribes, 15 percent in WEF, and 14 percent in Uwezo fund.

Article 10 of the Constitution also demands rule of law and participation of the people in policy and legislative processes. Participation builds on individual and collective capacities to enhance the willingness and ability of citizens to engage with government officials, local leaders, and service providers. Active engagement of citizens with local governance fosters democracy. The degree of public participation remains worryingly low. Take for instance, in the TISA study, 73 percent of YEDF beneficiaries stated that the officials did not involve youth in the management of the fund, 63 percent of women were not involved, and up to 81 percent of Uwezo fund beneficiaries decried lack of involvement in the fund affairs.

There were various measures that should be put in place to reduce corruption such as inclusion of beneficiaries in management, regular monitoring, enhancing transparency, rotation of officials, and digitization of the process. Public participation remains minimal, and there is need for more involvement of beneficiaries in the design of these funds.

The efficiency of the YEDF can also be improved by simplifying the loan application process, rolling out a robust training and mentorship program, and expanding access to the fund through increased budgetary allocation. The conditions for collateral and guarantors continue to lock many women out. These prohibitory collateral requirements disempower the youth, women and PWDs and deny them access to affirmative action funds.

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