NAIROBI – Stand-up Shout Out (SUSO) is an advocacy youth empowerment movement founded in Kenya five years ago. Recognising that the youth are excluded in the development space, SUSO has been at the forefront of getting the youth in this space. Today it has 2,000 active members in 14 countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, India, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Founder and CEO, Peter Frederick Moll (26), describes himself as a youth leader, conservationist, poet, farmer, and a space creator for dreams. Moll says youth in Africa still have a long road to inclusivity, which is a key issue underpinning discussions at the first Sustainable Blue Economy conference currently on its last day in Kenya. The Blue Economy refers to the sustainable use of oceans, lakes, rivers, wetlands and other water resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and job creation

Inter Press Service (IPS): Why SUSO?

PFM: I was uncomfortable with how life was for young people. The lack of opportunities, inclusion and space.  Feeling uncomfortable, I had two choices. I had to hide or change and do something to raise my voice and stand up for what I believe in.

IPS: Has your voice been heard?

PFM: It has been a battle. That is why right now, with every opportunity I get, I speak out about the situation of the youth in my country and all over the world. I have learnt that no matter your status you have to keep pushing. I feel my voice is starting to be heard because of my results and actions. People are starting to listen but there is still much more that needs to be done. The space for young people is limited. Only a few of us make it because we do not give up. It should not be that hard that a young person gets tired, they feel they cannot do more.

IPS: What should be done to open the space for the youth?

PFM: It is very simple. We need youth working groups that then become youth councils or youth committees within these different action organisations. There has to be a serious youth component at ministerial and nationals levels that have youths listening to youths. The ministers at national governments do not have time to listen to youth, they have big portfolios and they need youth in those portfolios so they can attend to issues that affect the youth. Youth inclusion will only happen when we have structures at government level.

IPS: Should we have youth specific policies?

PFM: A youth policy is coming up in Kenya and it has been on the shelf for a long time because does not know what we want and they do not know how to talk to us and do not know how to listen. They see the youth as a burden it is only now that they see us as an asset.

IPS: What are the challenges facing the youth in the 21st century?

PFM: I think three challenges; accessibility, funding and recognition.  Accessibility to the people whether it is through the offices or communication and having their voices heard is a huge challenge. Funding, as much as governments say they have funds for youth, these are limited and not cross cutting. It is funding for entrepreneurs what if you are an activist or artist? funding is not there. Youths are doing so much but no one is recognising them. No one is saying well done, here is an opportunity.

IPS: What support do youth need?

PFM: Opening doors to working groups or projects. Building capacity of projects. Like we have the sustainable blue economy that has the cross cutting projects on fisheries to the seas to transport, youth need to be included in all these. Let the youth in. Let them show themselves, if they cannot handle it fine but give them the chance to be part of it. When it comes to advocates and conservationists, they want to be part of the projects at the idea creation stage all the way to implementation.

IPS: Do we talk about jobs for the youth or youth creating jobs when we talk inclusion?

PFM: Both. You cannot wait for everything to be handed to you on a silver platter. Youths should be hungry and should be out there but governments and some agencies should empower the youth. The platform should be there but the youth too need to create jobs and not just want jobs?

IPS: What was your experience?

PFM: A lot of sacrifices, long days and longer nights. A lot of humbling and bad treatment. There were many obstacles and an absence of mentors. There is a generational gap between my generation and the generation of my parents. I was lucky enough to have one or two mentors who helped me keep focus to be the voice for the youth as a youth.