Kenya’s 2013 elections made the constitutional principle of devolution a reality, creating a sub-national governance level with legislative and executive functions. In 47 Counties, Members of County Assemblies (MCA) are now representing the interests and concerns of their constituents. In principle, government has thus moved closer to the people but in practice, obstacles for effective civic engagement remain. This is especially the case for the youth who have for long been excluded from governance and other mainstream development processes. The youth, particularly those living in low income areas have cited this exclusion as the root cause of many of their problems chief among them unemployment and poverty.
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 which introduced devolved governance provides for participation of all population groups including youth and women in governance and decision making. However, effective youth participation is hampered by factors such as lack of knowledge, information, skills and platforms for engagement. It is in light of this that Community Education and Empowerment Centre (CEEC) with support from Heinrich Boll Stiftung East & Horn of Africa, has been addressing these challenges under he Youth and Devolved Governance Project.
One of the components of this project is the Sauti Mtaani Platform, a web based portal which aims at promoting civic engagement between youth and their Members of County Assembly (MCAs). The platform enables the youth to send text messages to their respective MCAs through a short code. The MCAs then respond to the concerns raised by the youth from any web enabled device. This means the MCAs are able to communicate with the youth even when they are physically away from their wards. The pilot phase was launched in November 2013 and drawing from the lessons learnt, the platform has been re-designed to make it more user friendly. The re-designed platform which is complemented by a Facebook Page was launched on 26th September 2014.
Sauti Mtaani is a very effective tool of ensuring that the MCAs are able to reach as many youth as possible within their wards. Given that the wards are very vast, it would otherwise be very difficult for the MCAs to physically reach all the youth and vice versa. Sauti Mtaani is also a very innovative way of engaging young people where they feel most at home - in the social media arena. There are 17 participating wards namely Baba Dogo, Eastleigh North, Ngara, Korogocho, Kahawa, Kangemi, Kwa-Njenga, Laini Saba, Land Mawe, Mihango, Mlango Kubwa, Mowlem, Mutu-ini, Umoja 2, Viwandani, Waithaka and Zimmerman.