By Simon Khayala, B. D. student at St. Paul’s University Kenya, and youth pastor in the African Church of the Holy Spirit

empowering youth KenyaYoung people in Africa grow up as prisoners of the elder generation. They usually have limited or no right at all to decision making. The community they come from led by the elders dictates what they should do and what they should not do. In most communities youth have no right to chose their spouses, the parents through the help of community will always influence who they should be married or get married to. Any opposition concerning this matter may lead to rejection or isolation from the parents and the community.

In the case of initiation, whether it is inhuman or not youth are expected to participate whether they like it or not. For example female circumcision has been termed as crude, painful and inhuman practice for young girls, but the communities practicing it have kept a deaf ear and expect no opposition from those undergoing it, who are mostly the youth. If one stands firm to reject this practice, they are simply expelled from the community.

In some communities in Kenya young boys are expected to go to the forest and kill a lion to prove they are men enough to marry. If he fails to do that no girl will marry such a coward man…

Many are the things therefore that happen to the life of an African youth that no one talks about. Similar to women, youth are expected to follow the customs and decisions made on their behalf. But they are not allowed to speak for themself. Elder men are usually regarded as the custodian of wisdom; they are the ones to be consulted whenever there is crisis in families or community. They are believed to be trustworthy and therefore highly respected. Young adults in Africa have some privileges which the youth do not have in the community. For example, they can be included in meetings, or can be given leadership roles.

Although things are now changing due to modernity and westernization, a lot has still to be done if significant change has to be realized. The  traditional belief that the youth and women are inferior group has cropped even in our modern time, where we find most leaders both in religious and political cycles in Africa are elder men.

This perception has to stop; I call upon the youth and women whenever they are to call for mutual relationship with the elder men, and to stand up strong to fight for their rightful place in the society!

Also read about the Youth Peace Summet, held in Kenya April 13-18, 2009.