The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need to give specific attention to restoring sources of livelihoods, especially for young people. This realization and reality formed the core of the discussions at a two-day consultation workshop for youth and Faith leaders organized by the Africa Faith Leaders Initiative (AFLI) between 23rd – 24th September 2021 in Limuru Kenya.
Aimed at reinforcing the discussions around practical applications of Istanbul Principles, the consultations provided space for youth to explore development effectiveness principles as well as building back better through Decent Work and Economic Growth as envisaged in Sustainable Development Goal 8.
Addressing the youth, AFLI Co-principal and General Secretary of the Organisation of African Instituted Churches, Rev. Nicta Lubaale, emphasized on the need for inclusivity where faith Communities work with other stakeholders in achieving SDG 8, with a focus on how the voices of young people can be acknowledged and included. The role of faith institutions was highly emphasized noting places of worship should be points of equipping young people and meeting their needs.
The place and role of the youth in development work cannot be overlooked as they are the bigger percentage in terms of population. Youth must be challenged to participate in consortiums that encourage them to explore their talents and creativity
“We are here for conversations about where Africa will be in the years to come. When you talk about Africa you must talk about the youth, because they’re many and their voices and inputs cannot be ignored” he emphasized.
On the other hand, Fred Nyabera, the Director of Arigatou International – End Child Poverty, who is also AFLI’s Co-principal, called for the need to have structures that are youth inclusive to enable them meaningfully and actively contribute to achieving the SDGs.
“The ‘older’ actors must be intentional about creating spaces for communication and on the youth must be intentional about claiming that space through innovation that can help in sustainable economic growth” he explained.
The youths called on Faith Communities to provide strategic interventions on how they can be engaged to ensure that they are promoting education and creating employment towards sustainable growth. They called for an inclusive society where young people are meaningfully engaged.
“The lack of soft skills is identified as a gap in the transition of youth from school to the job marketplace and this cannot be gotten directly from the University. We therefore invite faith leaders to fill this gap” Fasika Lachore, one of the participating youth.
However, Benazir Mohamed, one of the participating youth challenged fellow youths that:
“Often times we focus on what worked and not what did not work yet we should derive energy and lessons from these tough moments to propel us to the next level of growth”
The workshop also sought to build capacities that Faith Leaders have with regards to participation, advocacy and monitoring of development partnerships with specific focus on the Africa-European Union (EU) Partnership.
The youth were encouraged to take advantage of the existing wide-ranging people-centered AU-EU partnership, to advance their presence in implementation of the SDGs. Speaking at the workshop, the special advisor to the European Union commissioner for International Partnership, Bitania Lulu advised the youth to be informed and be aware of existing policies and opportunities to aid their engagement in regional and global processes affecting them and concerning the SDGs in general. She urged the youth to make use of the ubiquitous social media and other online platforms to enhance their visibility and their actions towards implementing the SDGs.
“Young people have shown that digital movements can distract the status quo. opportunities does not necessarily knock at your door, you have to go out and grab it and if the door does not work, try the window” she emphasized.
In conclusion, the consultations highlighted the need to promote actions that are development-oriented and policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.
Arigatou International is a co-convenor of the Africa Interfaith Initiative on the SDGs. Through the initiative, we are able to widen our scope of contribution towards the realization of SDGs, particularly highlighting Goal 1 “No Poverty” with attention to ending child poverty. The platform also offers us avenues of collaboration with faith leaders and faith inspired organizations in Africa.