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World forum begins with a challenge
Detail: Jonathan Fowlie
Vancouver Sun

Twenty-five-year-old Muratha Kinuthia kicked off the World Youth Forum on Friday morning with a challenge to the almost 400 young delegates from around the world assembled in Vancouver this weekend to discuss issues ranging from health care to the environment.

"We are here to decide the terms of engagement," the Kenyan youth leader told the conference. "The question is no longer whether youth should be engaged, but how."

Kinuthia, who works with an organization seeking to develop a socio-economic framework for Africa, said community and world leaders used to look on youth as "needy" people, but that dynamic is changing.

"I don't see needy people here," he said. "I see resources, I see assets. We need to ask ourselves, now that the door has been opened how do we as youth engage?"

In hopes of doing just that, delegates will meet through to Sunday to share ideas about their own work, and to prepare the core messages they want to bring to the World Urban Forum that begins on Monday.

"When we go to the World Urban Forum, [we have to say] this is what we are bringing to the table," said Kinuthia.

"This is the contribution that we can make and this is the counter-contribution that we need."

After the talk, Kinuthia said it is important for youth to go to the World Urban Forum with an organized and unified voice so it is clear what they can offer and what they want.

On Friday, Kenyan hip-hop performer and delegate Joseph Oyoo, who goes by the name Gidi, shed some light on the topics he'd like to raise and to bring forward to next week's forum.

He said he is currently working to get youth involved in arts and culture, something he thinks can help with problems such as crime and drugs.

"We're coming out with complex solutions on how government should install more lighting, police should have more force, but all that, I don't think it can bring the solution," he said.

"We must look at why the youth are doing these things and what avenue we should use to reduce that," he added, explaining why he is advocating for an arts- or culture-oriented approach.

"The reality is when you go into the street the youth know their problems," he said.

"They feel angry. They feel like they need to bring something out of themselves to express but they don't have a platform, they have never been given an opportunity."

Oyoo said music and other art forms not only give people an outlet, but also keep them occupied through what would otherwise be idle time.

Others at the conference were also supportive of getting young people involved in arts and music -- especially the Moipei family from the town of Narok in Kenya.

The 12-year-old Moipei triplets -- Martha, Magdaline and Mary -- have been singing since they were two. Now joining them is their 10-year-old sister, Seraphine.

"All of us have energy. Children have energy that can be utilized. I think a human being's energy should be utilized from when one is born," said Nicholas Ole Moipei after his daughters performed at the youth forum opening ceremonies.

Moipei and his wife Christine said they discovered their daughters' musical talents very early and have encouraged them to the point where they have developed into a group of national renown.

"These are very young children but they are able to do this," said Christine.

"Children, they have so much to [offer] if only they are given the opportunity and time and place."
Source:, Vancouver Sun
Date: June 17 2006