April 2014—When Abdirahman Abdullahi Omar embarked on a youth leadership training program in Kenya, little did he know it would help prepare him for a seat in the Garissa County Assembly.
In 2011, Omar was elected to represent his village in the formation of an interim youth organization supported by USAID. He served as treasurer of the organization and participated in the complementary work readiness program. After building up his leadership skills through these activities, he decided to take the plunge into active politics.
“I got a feeling that I could serve my people in a bigger capacity after completing the leadership training and the work readiness program, which transformed my life. Then I made the final decision to run for a political office in the local assembly of the new county government system,” says Omar, 24.
Omar was born in the Saka division of Garissa County. He completed his education at Garissa High School and was elected as Saka ward representative in the county's General Assembly during the 2013 general elections. He serves on the Public Accounts Committee, where he strongly lobbies for the proper use of county resources.
His former colleagues describe him as hard-working, humorous and outgoing—traits that followed him to his new position.
Omar's office is a beehive of activity with many local youth seeking his help to obtain national identification documents. Corruption makes getting these vital documents, which are necessary for employment, a herculean task, but Omar is committed to helping members of the Saka community.
“I still maintain a close relationship with the youth and my people in general, and I listen to their problems and mobilize my colleagues in the assembly for intervention,” says Omar.
Abdifatah Kassim Hussein, 26, also participated in the work readiness program. He now serves as the chairperson for the Children and Social Service Committee in the County Assembly, and as a member of the Delegated Legislation Committee.
These two young men represent thousands of youth who have participated in the Yes Youth Can program. The nationwide program, which began in 2011 and ends in 2015, is USAID’s largest youth program in the world. The program encourages young people to set up youth-led bunges, or parliaments, to organize themselves within their communities. Yes Youth Can has become a training ground for civic-minded Kenyan youth across the country, preparing them to take an active role in the development of their country. It also continues to work with youth at risk of recruitment by violent extremist groups.
The 200 village bunges organized in Garissa have brought more than 2,800 youth into a growing youth movement in Kenya. More than 20,000 village-level bunges have been formed nationwide, with a membership of over 1 million young people.
Last updated: April 30, 2014