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Faith Manthi is a youngster with a heart for the youth. With the many hats she wears, it is beyond doubt that Faith has what it takes to lead the youth not only in Kenya, but also in the world, to greater heights. The youthful leader talks to LILY RONOH about the strides she has made thus far and her vision for the youth.

Faith Nduku Manthi is my name. I grew up in Malindi. I am 26 years old and a graduate of social work with a minor in political science and communication. I am currently doing my Masters degree in project management.

Presently, I am the vice-chair for partnership and resources for the Commonwealth Youth Council, which is under the Commonwealth. I am also the chairperson for the UNESCO Youth Forum Kenya. Both are elective positions. The two positions involve the youth, something that is very close to my heart.

How did I get here? For the Commonwealth Youth Council, I came across an advertisement declaring the vacant positions at the council. Since it was an elective position, I applied for nomination and was selected after a rigorous process. The next step was campaigning at the 53 member states to vote for me. Each of the 53 countries has delegates who are legible to vote and as a nominee, you do both online and face-to-face campaigns. The voting took place in Malta, Europe, in November last year where the delegates, together with the contestants, had converged. The position I was vying for had four contestants from different countries and I emerged the winner.

My work at the Commonwealth Youth Council entails partnering with both local and international organisations like the European Union and the African Union, and different nations to support youth projects both in kind and cash. The Commonwealth Youth Council is geared towards the development of the youth in Pan-Commonwealth countries. The council has a strategic plan that has four agendas: social, environmental, economic and political. Each pillar has six or so projects to be implemented. The executive, those that have been elected, have the mandate of ensuring that the projects are implemented within the time they will be in office. My task is to look for funds to support these projects.

The journey to the UNESCO Youth Forum started when I got the chance to work as an intern at the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO. Here, I honed my skills at writing proposals and also got connections with other organisations in my line of duty. I also interned at The Abba Father Organisation, which deals with the Maasai women and their plight, as a project officer. Before completing my studies, I joined the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO Youth Forum in the social and human sciences department, whose primary role was to seek solutions to societal problems.

It was while working here that I applied for internship at the UNESCO. Fortunately, I was accepted in the social and human services department. It was a dream come true and I was determined to work my way up. This department dealt with matters of civic engagement, youth development and policy review. When the position for the chairperson of UNESCO Youth Forum fell vacant, I applied and after intense lobbying, was elected as the chair.

As the chairperson of the UNESCO Youth Forum, one of my team’s mandates is to ensure that peace prevails through programmes that guarantee the youth are engaged and developed in a meaningful way. In UNESCO, safeguarding peace is at the core of every department and for the Youth Forum, we strive to engage the youth for this to be achieved. We operate on the premise that since wars are construed in the minds of men, it is still in the minds of men that we can get peace. By engaging the youth meaningfully, peace prevails.

I have a passion for working with people and especially the youth. I founded HASPEG (HIV/AIDS, Sanitisation, Programme, Education and Gender) that trains students (both boys and girls) on gender issues, HIV/AIDS and skill development in addition to carrying out developmental projects in Machakos County, where HASPEG is based.

The youth in Kenya are vibrant and constitute a significant proportion of population, yet they are not involved in the formulation and implementation of policies. My desire is to see the youth developed in a meaningful way, are heard and empowered, and that they are not used by politicians for selfish political gains.

lily@parents.co.ke

Published March 2016