Youth participation is almost everywhere right now. With the massive growth in the number of structures, policies and focus on youth, alongside street protests in cities, violence, hate speech etc across the world, young people’s participation and activism is in the spotlight.

Alex Farrow, a lead consultant for Youth Policy Labs, explores the absence of power in formal processes. The wave of social uprisings and civil unrest has demonstrated young people’s willingness to confront powerful regimes and institutions ― even against the threat of police brutality, as in the case of Kenya where citizens started a conversation against such (police brutality) during the IEBC protests due to severe beatings by the police, sexual abuse which has made women and youth step out in strong voices on the street demonstrating on the choice of dressing, gender violence that saw the deportation of the Congo international musician Koffi Olomide after kicking a woman at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport etc. Their precarious activism sits uncomfortably alongside the rhetoric of youth participation through events, structures and processes.

Youth participation and representation has been on demand globally straight from ;- political processes, during single-issue campaigns, youth wings of political parties, student government, Union organizations and trade union movement. Kenya has succeeded in some while others have barely scratched the surface or even yet to see the light of day due to unstable structures, policies in most entities in the country.

Brodie, E., Cowling, E., Nissen, N., et al., 2009, Understanding participation: a literature review, Pathways through Participation, defines three classifications of participation: 1) Public: Structures within existing decision-making structures and processes e.g Youth Councils, Youth parliaments, School council, Youth advisory panels, Members and leaders of youth organizations or groups, voting, standing for election or official, organizational or institutional panel or committee and formal consultations. 2) Social: Formal/informal structures that are created outside of formal political or organizational structures e.g Involvement in civil society organizations; Social or cultural groups; Community development; Local service or project delivery; Social movements; Grassroots campaigns; Housing associations; Faith groups; Informal networks; Identity or interest groups and 3) Individual Classification: Individual

choices, decisions and interaction with the world e.g Involvement in decisions that directly impact the individuals such as judicial proceedings; Education and health care matters; Choices, decisions and behaviors as part of everyday life; Personal morals, values or principles; Religious beliefs; Consumer choices etc.

Youth participation however, has to start from somewhere like in Student councils, political institutions, youth organizations, civil society or issue based campaigns. Unfortunately the raise of formal participation structures is has become a threat hence a controlled, stemmed young people’s activism with mechanisms operating within “ spaces of social control and containment.”

For genuine and effective participation there should be creation of; legal frameworks; information provision; cultural and attitudinal change amongst adults and decision-makers; mechanisms for youth involvement in formal policy, service or organizational processes; and opportunities for complaints as well as freedom for democracy as guided in our constitution, CoK Article 34 (1) .

Participation, therefore, has the potential to change the relationship between individuals and state institutions (and other organizations, services and agencies) and the individual construction of power. Gaventa (2004) notes that participation only becomes effective at the moment it tackles “issues of institutional change” and without that will fail to have a “transformational” impact on people’s lives.