Rarely do poem recitals elicit passionate responses from audiences.
But a group of university students from Nairobi’s Kibera slums on Wednesday almost brought the house down at a global summit called to address unemployment and how the young people can be empowered to become productive in society.
With a fast paced poem that poked fun at leaders, opinion shapers, politicians and just about everybody, the Kibera poets received an uproarious ovation as they listed the ills bedeviling them and the many false promises they have been given.
The audience included Kenyan Head of State, President Mwai Kibaki, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, and top government officials. They nodded in agreement when the group recited their poem entitled ‘Arise’ - an exhortation to youth to take charge of their destiny.
“The politicians come seeking our votes saying if we vote for them we will have milk and honey flowing from our taps,” the lines went as the audience largely composed of young people stood time and again to applaud.
The four-day Youth Employment Summit has brought together youth leaders from some 54 countries from all parts of the world.
Officially opening the meeting, President Kibaki said it was a worthwhile for the world’s nations to invest in youth empowerment. He said that education and training were the most critical aspects of youth empowerment. However, he added that young people faced serious impediments to their aspirations - drug and alcohol abuse, HIV/Aids and armed conflicts in which young people are not only the victims, but also exploited as child soldiers, among others.
Mrs. Tibaijuka disclosed that between now and 2010, 700 million young people will enter the labour force in developing countries and that more than 1 billion new jobs must be created to reduce unemployment.
“Without a concerted effort here, a new generation will grow up feeling it has no stake in society. Conversely, we in the UN system fervently believe that by harnessing the potential of young people, the world can benefit enormously from a new wave of participation and intellectual creativity and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 target date,” she said.
In the build-up to the Youth Employment Summit and the Africities meeting this week, UN HABITAT Partners and Youth Section and the Oslo Youth Centre jointly held an expert group meeting on youth engagement in cities.
The meeting brought together young experts from Kenya, Norway, Canada and Brazil to discuss the Global Partnership Initiative and the opening of One Stop Youth Centres in five cities in Africa and possibly Latin America and Asia. The One Stop Youth Centre initiative is supported through the partnership agreement signed between Norway and UN-HABITAT that commits both parties to examine urban youth livelihood issues.
“We believe that the One Stop is a model that should be replicated across Africa and globally.” said Robert Njoroge, a youth expert from the One Stop Centre. “We hope that the success of the Nairobi One Stop will encourage other cities, and donors, to support One Stop Centres across Africa and globally.”