This year, School Series was invited for Africa Youth Day as one of the 300 noteworthy organisations in Africa that are working with young people. Africa Youth Day was created in 2006 at the Banjul Summit. It is aimed at recognising young people in Africa as the drivers of change and development in the continent. It is celebrated on 1st November every year. This year, it was to be celebrated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; the theme being “African Year of Human Rights towards Agenda 2063 – the Africa we want”. The celebrations were to be preceded by two days of conferences during which the participating organisations were to discuss various ways in which African countries could amend and expand their policies to facilitate the achievement of Agenda 2063. As such, they would run from Friday 30th October 2015 to Sunday 1st November 2015.
I was chosen to represent School Series at this event. It was an exciting opportunity both for me and the organisation. Here a day by day account of the trip:
THURSDAY 29th OCTOBER 2015 – DAY ONE
After a week and a half of intense preparation, I left home very early on Thursday morning so that in spite of the Nairobi traffic I would not miss my flight. Turns out I had over-estimated the traffic: I arrived at the airport 4 hours earlier than my expected flight! I checked in my baggage, got my boarding pass then went back out to spend the remaining time with my husband.
I got back into the departure lounge, passed through immigration and went up to gate 8 where we passed through a security check. We boarded the aeroplane shortly after and took off at exactly 11.35 am. The flight was shorter than indicated in our tickets. We had a light meal as we flew and landed in Addis Ababa, Bole International Airport at 1.15pm.
The Immigration check was pretty simple considering Kenyans do not require a visa to travel to Ethiopia. I collected my bag from the baggage claim and went out into the arrivals area where I was met by my good friend MaryAnn who was as ecstatic to see me as was I to see her.
She helped me with my bags and we walked towards her car, I was very impressed that she could drive in Ethiopia. They keep right while in Kenya we keep left. I was confused half the time wondering why we were going round the round about the wrong way!
We arrived at her home and I was welcomed by her 2 year old bubbly niece, Maxi. I decided to skip lunch and went to lie down instead as MaryAnn went back to work. It seems the higher altitude in Addis makes one even more tired than usual.
I woke up 2 hours later when MaryAnn came home from work and we went out for a short walk in the neighbourhood to sample the sights and sounds of Addis on a warm evening. We went to a nearby bakery that MaryAnn wanted to try out and got sliced bread which apparently is a rare thing in those parts. I was amazed by the little things that we take for granted in our own country. We returned home, had dinner and slept early since we had an early morning the following day.
FRIDAY 30th OCTOBER 2015 – DAY TWO
Early to sleep and early to rise as the saying goes! We were up and out of the house by 7.00 am ready to catch the morning rush to school. The school children had some very interesting uniform on: a formal shirt with pants and jacket and then wore sneakers on their feet. I found it quite odd.
We arrived at the African Union (AU) Headquarters half an hour later. We were extremely early for the conference but I figured it’s better to be there early than late. Since I was a participant, I had to use a different gate to access the AU buildings. As the conference preceding the Africa Youth day was being organised by the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) as opposed to the Africa Union, there was a bit of confusion at the gates since the guards had yet to be updated about the programme. However, this was quickly sorted out and I was allowed in where I got to tour the grounds as I waited for the conference to start.
We were briefed on what was expected of us and finally divided into 3 different committees to discuss the following 3 issues and come up with resolutions on:
1. Gender Equality and Women in Business Entrepreneurship
2. Right to health and education
3. Youth civic space and the youth in the Diaspora
I was put in the committee to discuss youth civic space and the youth in the Diaspora. In each committee, each delegate was required to pick a country that they would represent. This meant researching a country of one’s choice that wasn’t their mother country and then presenting issues for or against the different motions put forward. I missed that part of the requirements and ended up representing Kenya. It was only later that I realized my error!
We begun the Model African Union (MAU) proceedings – which is very similar to the Model United Nations (MUN) – and I learnt so much! I knew we had to ensure that all our School Series participants knew about these types of proceedings. We are now a global village and it is imperative that we have youth who can fit into it.
After lunch, we were introduced to Agenda 2063 – The Africa we want. These are the goals that the AU member states set out for themselves in 2013 to be attained in the next 50 years, from 2013 to 2063. There are 7 critical factors for success that were outlined. In our deliberations in the 3 committees, we were asked to ensure that we incorporated this agenda. And more specifically the first 10 year plan that is 2013 – 2023.
This was quite a challenge as we went into unmoderated caucuses to come up with a resolution. In my group, our sponsor was delegates from Algeria and the co sponsors were delegates from several different other countries including Kenya. We discussed the issues pertaining to youth unemployment and how the youth in the Diaspora can contribute to the growth of Africa despite being away from home. We also tackled the issue of reversing brain drain effects and raising funds for Africa’s development from within rather than sourcing from other developed countries through loans.
We had to break for the day had come to an end but we would continue with deliberations on the following day. I got home very tired but happy to have learnt so many new things.
By Caroline Ouma