Youth Mentorship

November and December months are often a long holiday period for learning institutions in Kenya, especially for learners in primary and secondary schools. The young people have a lot of time on their hands, if not used correctly, this time at their disposal can result in engagement in various vices such as substance abuse. It is also the season when everybody is back home and there is a lot of swapping of stories. This can also be a season when the self-esteem of many young people takes a downhill path, especially due to comparisons with others. This long holiday season is thus a period of intense vulnerability for many young people.

To reduce youth idleness and enhance self-esteem, Haki Nawiri Afrika has embarked on a Youth Mentorship Initiative, initially, the organisation was working solely with primary school pupils and university students, but now is reaching out to secondary school students. The forums take place in religious institutions. The local African Inland Church -Kyenzenzeni in Kaani Machakos County in Eastern Kenya has often offered space for youth to come together.

The mentorship sessions bring together young people living in disadvantaged communities. These can be either in informal settlements or rural communities. It is important to reach these specific communities because their levels of vulnerability are comparatively higher. Children in informal settlements go through a myriad of challenges as they navigate life. From a lack adequate positive role models, family break ups, violence in the house, and vulnerability to substance abuse among other challenges. For rural communities, children are likely to suffer from neglect, and lack of necessities such as clothing, school dropout and child labour. In addition, incidences of the girl child being drawn out of school to take up care roles in case a family has sick members or early marriage are problems communities grapple with on a day-to-day basis.

The Mentorship sessions start with ground rules. These include respect for other people's opinions, minimal movement, concentration, and listening to each other. Then comes a discussion on child rights and child protection. This is very important unorder to build interpersonal relationships. Deliberations on what is ailing a local community come next. These are open discussions where the young people share what makes them unhappy in their community. Through these sessions, you get to understand the difficulties children and youth go through and how they navigate this terrain. More often what is shared includes : child neglect, excessive beating , Gender Based Violence , substance abuse by parents/guardians , poverty ,lack of food and lack of uniforms.   

So far, the discussions have focused on mental health, substance abuse, child rights, and child protection. To simplify difficult concepts, one volunteer is often asked to come to the front and various human rights are identified. Each right is then aligned to a different part of the body by sticking a piece of paper ( where a particular right is written ) to a body part. For example, a piece of paper written Right to Life is stuck on the chest, Freedom of speech is stuck on the mouth and a piece of paper written Freedom of Movement is stuck on the legs.Then for each right the existing violation is discussed in-depth including elaboration using simple examples.

The young people get to understand the categories of rights and how they are interrelated. They get opportunities to debate and this provide a platform for shaping alternative worldview to issues. They get to interact discussing topical issues .This in essence helps build self-confidence , from previously shy people , they get to be able to stand up and defend their points of view.

These sessions enable children and youth to have a better understanding of rights, responsibilities , rights violations and what needs to be done in case of a violation. The youth are also asked whether they have witnessed any violations to either themselves or their friends. The sessions help to unpack human rights. For example, how Survival Rights such as medical care, food and nutrition , shelter and clothing , which refer to those basic needs that children ought to have to ensure good health for adequate growth , relate to Development Rights and how development rights relate to participation rights which is spaces where children are provide with and where they can express their opinions on matters affecting their lives . The children and youth further get to understand Protection Rights which outline the legal and social provisions that states have to provide in order to protect children from exploitation, disasters , sexual abuse and drub refer to the legal and social provisions that every country uses to protect children from exploitation, drug abuse , sexual abuse , discrimination and protection from disasters whether natural or man-made.

During the most recent youth mentorship session held on 17th November 2023, focusing on mental health, the participants were asked how someone who is mentally unhealthy looks like or behaves, they said one who uses abusive words, one who is absent-minded, one who wears clothes inside out or one who wears trousers the wrong way. On pieces of paper, the participants were asked to draw a mentally healthy person and another who was mentally not healthy. A discussion ensued after which each participant explained their drawings. Such sessions help the youth to open up, share the challenges they are going through, and provide a platform for exploring solutions to the identified gaps .It also provides an avenue for confidence building. The young people are allowed to share their views and lead discussions. They get to learn how to be young advocates and shift from being bystanders to people who engage in matters affecting them.

Whenever available, materials are distributed to these young people, be it in the form of stationery, sanitary pads, clothing or recreational materials such as skipping ropes .What Haki Nawiri Afrika is doing with limited resources is just a drop in the ocean, more needs to be done for these young people in terms of material support as well as provision opportunities to nurture their dreams.


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