Kenya National Human Development Report 2009. Youth and Human Development: Tapping the Untapped Resource

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The 2009 NHDR for Kenya reinforces policy debate on various issues affecting youth development. These include the link between youth development and the broader concept of human development, the potentials of a youth bulge, and the introduction of a measure for youth development in Kenya. The report explores the potentials and challenges of youth development and discusses investment in youth social development through education and health. The report then considers the relationship between youth economic productivity and youth well-being. In this report, the youth are defined as people resident in Kenya aged 15 to 35 years. The initiatives and strategies by state and non-state actors in promoting real engagement in youth development are discussed. In an attempt to influence national policies for youth development, key messages and action points aimed at shaping further policy debate and creating a platform for dialogue are highlighted. The 2009 NHDR introduces a new measure for youth development in Kenya, the Youth Development Index (YDI). The index assesses the degree of inclusion and social integration of the youth in national development processes with respect to education, health and income. The report discusses youth participation in national governance and puts forward a strong argument for a future YDI to include a wider variety of youth development indicators. The report notes the difficulty in conceptualizing and measuring the imprecise conditions of youth development. A comprehensive YDI needs to measure youth participation, self-development, social relationships, identity, leisure time, deviant behaviour and self-empowerment, all of which play a critical role in youth development. It is suggested that the government, in partnership with the UNDP and other developmental agencies, creates a more robust YDI framework for Kenya. This can be partly realized through conducting longitudinal studies and surveys on each thematic area of focus. Kenya’s national YDI is 0.5817 where 0 is the poorest score and 1 the best. The national YDI has been positively influenced by recent government reforms and expansion of education, health and youth economic support programmes. Overall literacy levels are high as Kenya records high school enrolment rates at lower levels of education. This study reports that the youth need to be equipped with literacy, numeracy, skills and knowledge in order to break the inter-generational spiral of poverty, illness, illiteracy and inequality. A literate, numerate, skilled and healthy youth population is a tremendous asset for development. Unskilled, semi-literate, unhealthy and overly dependent youths can be a serious burden on national growth and public finances.

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