The population of youth in Kenya is expected to increase to 16 million by 2012, with as many as 40,000 youth entering the Kenyan employment market that has only created 150,000 new formal sector jobs in the past six years (USAID -2009). As a result, an increasing number of youth are idle, making them highly vulnerable to involvement in petty crime, gangs and prostitution.
AMURT has designed a program to keep young men and women from age 14 to 25 engaged in creative pursuits, sports, skills building and income generation activities to help them build a brighter future. This is done through nine youth resource centers in Nyanza, Central and Coast provinces that provide youth with a safe place to meet, sports opportunities, computer software and language classes, and life skills training that will assist them in finding a job. In addition, the youth program provides a means to dispel myths and stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, and educate young people about the importance of faithfulness or abstinence (depending upon their their age), condom use, regular HIV testing and general sexual and reproductive rights.
A peer educator talks with a group of children. AMURT’s youth and OVC programs often overlap with the sharing of important knowledge to younger kids.
Kenyan youth receive computer training at an AMURT center. At least 4 have already received jobs, helped greatly by their computer skills.
An important facet of the program is the training and support of 135 peer educators who pass on knowledge to youth, and provide condoms to those who need them. In fact, many of the peer educators have become walking “condom dispensers” and sometimes receive a knock on their doors in the dead of night from friends seeking condom support! In addition, the peer educators visit primary schools and secondary to schools to deliver age-specific messages to children in an entertaining way. This “edutainment” incorporates drama, song and dance to make the learning experience about HIV and life skills fun. The peer educators appreciate their enhanced status in the community. Recently Arthman was walking in Ukunda town when he was recognized by a primary school student who promptly said to her mother proudly, “This man taught me about HIV.” So far in 2010 137,365 people were reached through HIV and AIDS awareness programs, and almost 40,000 condoms were distributed.
AMURT also encourages young people to create economic opportunities through entrepreneurship. The Komango peer educator group in Kikuyu District, for example, built up capital by selling snacks at the AMURT-sponsored sports tournaments. Applauding their initiative, AMURT agreed to act as business partner and consultant for the group’s village cinema venture. Having a vested interest in their business, the peer educator group has displayed the maturity to tackle challenges successfully, and has plans to create a second cinema and a car wash soon. Meanwhile, peer educators in Malindi have been trained in sound engineering by AMURT and have already produced their original rap songs in a studio they are setting up with AMURT’s support.