February 7, 2022 Whitney van Schyndel

Interview With Fridah Okomo: We must be the generation that demands and implements change

Creating decent jobs for 200,000 young people requires working with ambitious partners at every step of our journey. To achieve our mission, we not only join efforts with our direct Implementing Partners (IP) but also with our Technical Assistance (TA) providers and volunteers who deliver the necessary support to our IPs. But what challenges do our partners and volunteers experience, and how does the behind-the-scene work look like for them?

With this feature, we aim to highlight the voices of the employers and the youth strongly contributing to the CFYE mission and learn more about their experiences of working with CFYE.

Fridah is a Kenyan Youth Champion, helping CFYE and Kenyan IPs put the aspirations of Kenyan youth at the centre of project designs.

Fridah, you have been a Youth Champion at CFYE for the past five months. Could you describe your experience so far?

My experience as a Youth Champion has been an incredible learning journey. Together with other young people, I got to participate in a design sprint aimed at putting youth at the center of the CFYE program through direct engagement in the program’s design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. The experience has been significant as it deconstructed the concept of youth engagement.

As young people, we are usually involved in youth-centered initiatives very late in the process. I really like that in CFYE, we started from the onset, designing a role cognizant of youth aspirations and needs and one that is spearheaded by the youth themselves.

Organisations are understanding the importance of meaningful youth engagement to the success of youth progarmmes. What is meaningful engagement to you, and how can we genuinely engage youth?

When solutions are designed for youth without their involvement or based on the mere assumptions of what we want, many opportunities are being missed. So, I would say that direct involvement is key in building meaningful engagement. The latter starts with not only consulting young people but enabling them to participate in decision-making. I witnessed CFYE’s ambition of meaningfully engaging youth first-hand: on top of building solutions that align with youth’s needs, the program amplifies youth’s voice at every level of the program. For example, promoting youth representation across all CFYE countries at national, regional, and international levels, including existing Youth Advisory Boards and conferences, is an excellent step towards letting youth drive critical conversations.

Has your experience as a Youth Champ changed your perception of youth engagement?

It has made me more aware and confident in the power of our voice, even though, sometimes, we feel we are not being listened to. While taking a policy course, I read a study by the British Council titled Generation Rising conducted in 2018 that gathered responses from 16,000 youths from 11 countries highlighting priority issues for young people. According to the research’s findings, youth issues and involvement came second as a priority after access to education. Youth involvement as a priority issue that cuts across clearly attests to young people believing their inclusion is essential. This makes me very energetic and confident that we can make a world of difference with the right tools.

What has been a personal highlight for you as a CFYE Youth Champ?

There have been many, but two particular ones come to my mind. As a speaker at the Youth At Heart conference for the Dutch Ministry, I was delighted to see the strides being made to expedite youth involvement. The launching of the Youth Advisory Committee has marked a new milestone in ensuring that young people are heard. Youth At Heart is a perfect example for the rest of Ministries, sectors, and governments to emulate.

Another highlight was being a speaker at the RewirEd Summit in Dubai, alongside my fellow Youth Champ and the Dutch Ministry. I was very proud to represent the aspirations of Kenyan youth about the future of work. The conference solidified the vision that youth voices should lead youth initiatives.

What are your ambitions as a Youth Champ?

Being part of Challenge Fund For Youth Employment (CFYE) opened my eyes to various possibilities that I had previously overlooked. My ambition for the CFYE youth champions, and youth in general, is to be the generation that demands and implements change. Together, we change structures, deconstruct policies, and enact something new. It is the start of something different – new dawn to meaningful youth engagement.

CFYE is actively working with our global network of youth champs to co-design a long-term youth role on the fund. We are rolling out 1-year national volunteer roles in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia that will focus on the personal and professional development of the young people taking on these roles. Our Youth Champ network will be partnering with existing youth networks across all CFYE countries. With the launch of the Youth Champ network, we hope to further solidify our commitment to applying a youth-driven proactive strategy to create business and employment opportunities.