By Dishon Amanya
The notion that maturity comes with age has long been a reason for leadership attainment in African societies. Take ancient times as a prime example, leadership roles were divided based on age, where the elderly were naturally considered leaders in their places of dominion.
But that has all changed with time. In the current generation, youth are trying to take on leadership roles that were previously reserved for seniors, a move that hasn’t been received in the most positive of light by the elderly.
Despite all the struggles, the youth are encouraged to engage in leadership positions in order to represent their demography, but also to ensure that they are nurturing themselves into great future leaders.
The saying youths are the future leaders has hit differently to some of the youth leaders in Bungoma County. They have changed the slogan to “it is now or never. “The youths say that they have been singing every time about the youths being the future leaders but now it’s time for them to wake up and grab some of the positions in leadership.
In an interview with one of the incoming youth aspirants for an MCA seat in Bungoma county, Geoffrey Wekesa said that youth leadership opportunities are often overlooked by adults, either knowingly or unknowingly, but the results are the same, a lost opportunity for young people to take the lead.
“Even when adults consider themselves champions for youth in leadership roles, many times adults are asked to assume the leadership positions instead of letting youth take the lead. We should give young people a chance to realize their full potential. In a world that is heavily networked through online platforms, youth are taking the lead in creating mechanisms to hold governments accountable,” added Wekesa.
The number of youths taking on leadership roles is still not enough compared to senior groups. Most youth still have the mindset that leadership roles in either the government or other institutions are not for them to grab. Geoffrey added in his statement.
Adding to this sentiment, Philip Namasambu another youth aspiring to be an MCA come 2022 says the youth have the power to take initiatives and start engaging in different opportunities around them.
“Change begins with youth themselves, there are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 today – the world’s largest-ever group of young people,” Namasambu pointed out.
In order to seize big leadership roles, the youth have to start from somewhere. This brings in the concept of volunteerism. As Namasambu puts it, volunteerism is a key success road to a leadership position. However, most young people don’t like to look for volunteering opportunities.
“Learning through experience is very important in one’s leadership journey. I advise my fellow young people to take it as an opportunity to learn and gain practical experience. Also, youth-led organizations must create a good and welcoming environment for young people to volunteer and practice their leadership journey,” Namasambu reiterated.
Despite the youth themselves not putting in enough effort in trying to take on these roles in their respective societies, the environment surrounding these youngsters doesn’t seem to favour them either. They may get a seat at the table, but their voices will remain muted.
Nevertheless, these forerunners also pose a question of whether the youth’s desire for government leadership positions, ignoring other opportunities is one of the causes for their sluggish pace in this endeavor. If so, what other areas could youth still engage in and practice leadership?
A youth activist, Nashon Mwakazi from Bungoma County sheds light on the great opportunities present outside government walls.
“There are many leadership roles available in the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and plenty of other places. In the last 20 years, there has been an increase of youth who engage in roles indicative of their interest in leadership positions, and they have been doing their best to enter and engage in the leadership system,” commented Mwakazi.
Although the environment is not quite conducive to nurture youngsters into the next generation of great leaders, youth are still juggling with having their voices heard through youth representatives in the upper level.
The seniors, though, continue to occupy vital leadership roles due to their superior years of experience in leadership-related matters both politically and economically.
Mwakazi tells KNA that, “There is still a problem if seniors continue to look upon the youth as incompetent, inexperienced, and not ready to take over. However, not all hope is lost as there are a few senior leaders who have faith, trust and understanding of the youth and their desire to play a more important leadership role in the Country.
For example, there has been a high emergence of youth who are founding and leading NGOs, contesting for political positions and opening their own companies, unlike any other time before” says Mwakazi.
With all these milestones and bold moves, the question still remains of whether youth are well-prepared for the responsibilities that come with these positions, and are there even seats at the top prepared for the youngsters? How will these young people find their way to those seats?
Young people must be at the forefront of all related efforts. They must be supported in attaining top leadership roles to, in turn, meet the needs of those who look up to them.
Through youth platforms they can practice their leadership skills to reach the top level positions, being critical thinkers and problem solvers will help young people to achieve these seats.