Yes, I can vote, but will it matter?
If I go to the ballot, will my vote make a difference?
If I sign this petition, will I see change?
If I ask more of my leaders, will I be heard?
We often tell our young people “You are the future of our nation”. A true statement, but just how heavy is this responsibility? The leaders of tomorrow are today sitting in our classrooms. They are learning who they are. They are discovering freedom, and the responsibility that comes with it. They are finding their place in the world.
We must ask ourselves a pertinent question; are we giving them an instruction manual – any semblance of a guide on what they should do? If not, then we are capping their ability to succeed at this monster of a task. The youth are still, however, quite young- their minds still malleable and now is the time to give them that manual!
Yes, I can vote, but will it matter?
With the upcoming general elections in Kenya, we are seeing more and more youth talk about choosing not to vote. They wonder if their vote will impact the final decision of the next set of leaders. As a young person, you have likely wondered if getting up early and queueing on election day is worth your time and energy.
Exercising your civic right to vote is one of the ways you can participate directly in electing leaders who will enact change. Your vote alone will likely not determine who is president or governor, but if a thousand like-minded people get out to vote – that sure makes a ripple. A hundred thousand? a wave of unequaled proportions!
Often, we are caught in the dilemma of wanting to vote, so we shape the future – our future, or not vote. But on the other hand, who are we voting in? What kind of leaders? Corrupt leaders? Assertive leaders? Those that pledge allegiance to the truth and honesty and promise to “weed” out corruption, zero hunger, only to make a horrible turn with allegiance to their selfish tropes?
Looking back at the years, has this been achieved? Every now and then we hear “BREAKING NEWS; Garissa County is under a state of emergency as the drought crisis hits an all-time high…” or to bring it closer home, the recent KEMSA scandal, in the middle of a global pandemic. False promises, unfulfilled manifestos, a struggling nation… What future are we looking forward to?
Yes, I can vote, but will it matter? If I go to the ballot, will my vote really, truly, make a difference?
At these hard-hitting questions and retrospections is where youths are stuck.
The Role of Youth in Elections
Of the 46.7 Million Kenyans, 75% are youth aged between 18 – 35. Yet, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), only 39.84% of voters are young people. Are you one of the 39.8%? The power of a leader lies with the voters. If this powerful 75% of the population turned out to vote peacefully, armed with the right information and a heart for change, then just like that, the youth would have taken charge of the country’s future.
In a recent series of forums held in Strathmore University, panelists engaged students on alternative forms of public participation and activism before, during and after elections. The Tiktok for Peace series gathered students together in an effort to expose them to real life change makers – content creators educating the public, fact checkers minimizing false information on the internet, journalists and defenders of human rights. Similarly, the Student Council, in conjunction with Kenya Model United Nations (KMUN), organized a Youth Peace Leadership Summit that aimed at uniting over 250 youths across Kenya in one voice as we gear up for the general elections on the 9th of August, 2022.
Ever heard of the term “Pre-election participation”? Well, it involves you learning as much as you possibly can about the candidates, your rights and the electoral process. What ought you to do during elections? Make that all-important informed voting decision, and actually cast your vote! Then maintain peaceful relations with that opinion-differing neighbour. After elections, hold the elected leaders accountable to the promises they made. Don’t be a sycophant. You are worth much more to this country!
I Have Voted… What Happens Beyond the Ballot?
The responsibility does not end at casting your vote. Elections are held every five years, but what happens before then? What role does the youth, pushing for change, play?
The TikTok for Peace series and Youth Peace Leadership Summit stirred up sharply relevant conversations on peaceful protests, digital activism, and youth participation in public policy and decision making. Why? They’re the elixir to actual change in OUR Kenya.
What channels are WE, the youth, using to be heard? A forever flaming double edged sword called social media. It is central to participatory conversations, healthy and otherwise. It can either be used to hack away at the spirit of activism or sharpen young minds. On one hand, young people can agitate for change and stay informed. They can – and do – hold those in power accountable from behind their keyboards, sign petitions and raise funds that actually make a difference. On the other hand, the age of the internet means misinformation, mal-information and disinformation spreading like wildfire. One of the most powerful forms of activism is counterchecking information to see if it’s true before sharing it, and reporting fake news.
The future is here… just a grasp away
Youth can no longer wait and watch as leaders are chosen for them. They are the future, and the cogs of change have started shifting. Their mindsets, their actions, are already forming the hereafter. For the future you and I want, now is the prime time to get involved, to be and stay informed, to be a part of the change – of the people, for the people, by the people.
And yes, my vote, your vote, indeed, will make a difference, the difference!
This article is written by Celia Kinuthia and Jemmy Kamau.
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