He's Building Safe Spaces for Youth Creative Expression in Kenya

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In preparation for International Youth Day, IYF asked young people who have participated in our initiatives a set of questions to learn what safe spaces, this year's theme, mean to them. Here Chris Mukasa, 29-year-old founder of Fatuma's Voice, which works to amplify youth voices in Kenya, offers his responses. The 2016 YouthActionNet® fellow shares his perspective on inclusion, decision-making, and African youth in particular.

What does having “safe spaces” mean to you in your daily life? Why are they important?

Having “safe spaces” is having access to accommodative areas where we can freely be our complete selves, comfortable enough, that we feel the need to protect, improve, expand and invest in them as opposed to just taking. Safe spaces are important because people tend to treat them with more respect, just like home, and can even visualize their children’s children in the same spaces.

In your opinion, what should be done to make cities and towns more inclusive, safer, resilient, and sustainable?

Most people feel like it is the responsibility of government ministries to make their cities safe even after the same governments have failed before. Educating people in the community about the significance of their action or inaction can also contribute great strides in this journey of safe, resilient, and sustainable spaces.

How can decision-makers ensure that youth perspectives on safe spaces and other issues are heard and given proper attention?

Youth just don’t need to be heard, they should be fully involved as part of the people listening and implementing policies. We should start by involving them from the start as well as ordinary community members in decision and policy-making processes. Immersing youth and other sidelined community members in the process creates a sense of ownership and increases the possibility of breaking the barriers to sustainable change.

What else is a top priority for you?

African youth have self-censored their voice and developed apathy towards the political ecosystem. This silence can be traced back to a defective educational system that discourages creativity, flexibility in thought, and difference of opinion.

But what are we doing about this? Fatuma’s Voice has been using creative tools to encourage expression. We now plan to provide community support and create resource centers run by local communities. We will include an open artistic space for civic conversations and activities linking talents to social issues. After this, we hope see an inclusive and politically conscious Africa, with a voice that will dismantle false narratives and involve every community member in the process of social change.

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