Nairobi, 12 August 2014 - Music, street performance and speeches by high-level officials were part of Kenya's commemoration of International Youth Day 2014, whose theme was "Youth and Mental Health: Youth Inclusion in the Post-2015 Development Agenda."
International Youth Day, which for the last 15 years has taken place annually on 12 August, aims to spotlight young people's energy, innovations, imagination and initiatives, as well their potential to drive change. This year's celebration aimed, in particular, to raise awareness of the social exclusion experienced by youth living with mental health conditions.
Events took place around the world. In Kenya, where 75 per cent of the country's adult population is below the age of 30, the commemoration was particularly vibrant, with speakers ranging from UN youth representatives to Nairobi City County Deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke to renowned Kenyan businessman and CEO of Comcraft, Manu Chandaria. A statement was read on behalf of the Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto.
"Change starts with us, not to wait for the government or for the UN to do it - if we can do it, we must do it. It's our duty and our own responsibility," said Dr. Chandaria.
He added: "It's important to start seeing how we treat people."
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Kenya's Vision 2030 and Second Medium Term Plan (2014-2018) comprise mechanisms to ensure that better health care becomes a priority area in the country's future. Furthermore, the Kenya Health Policy (2014-2030) outlines a long-term commitment to improve the health of all Kenyans by attaining universal health coverage, as well as by refining primary health care services.
On a wider scale, reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases - including mental illness - was cited in the UN's report on the post-2015 development agenda, and remains a prominent issue as the world looks ahead to the development of a set of global Sustainable Development Goals.
Under the auspices of the International Day of Youth, a number of goals have been identified as primary objectives over the next 12 months. Those include: raising awareness of the causes, effects, treatment opportunities and management of mental health issues; identifying gaps in mental health legislation and advocating for the enforcement and/or revision of existing legislation affecting youth; providing capacity building sessions; and sensitizing youth on the economic opportunities available to them from the Kenyan Government, among other institutions.
UNEP's Tunza Youth network held a number of sessions around these issues, including on substance abuse and violence, youth unemployment and national peace, cohesion and environment. The latter involved a cleanup activity in Nairobi's Uhuru Park, which aimed to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining a clean and healthy environment for human health and well-being.
A fourth session was held on "Post-2015 and Volunteerism", which focused on the importance of youth engagement with volunteerism for the purposes of exposure, experience building and skill building.