Photo: Head of Corporate Responsibility at Safaricom awards a finalist of the WESustain Essay Competition, Davis Otieno Opiyo.

Photo: Head of Corporate Responsibility at Safaricom awards a finalist of the WESustain Essay Competition, Davis Otieno Opiyo.

This is one of the winning essays from our WESustain Essay Competition 2018. The prompt was:

How can the youth harness the opportunities in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a means of tackling the current social, economic and environmental challenges in Africa by 2030?

We Only Live Once to Create a Change 

Tackling the current social, economic and environmental challenges are inseparable from sustainable living. Sustainable living entails reducing demand on natural resources and ensuring that the irreplaceable ones are used conservatively and with temperance. Sustainability has often been mistaken for living without luxuries. A magnified focus on sustainability drives us to the conclusion that we need it for both life and well-being. In a society whose majority is naïve of such matters, the youth come in handy by integrating several innovative measures to create a more sustainable environment to achieve social, economic and environmental stability. The key focus of this paper is to underscore strategies by the youths that can be drawn from the sustainable development goals (SDG) in solving social, economic and environmental challenges by 2030.

Vast challenges to development are particularly salient to children and the youth. This, therefore, dictates the input required from the young generation in sustainable development. It is, however, worth noting that this is bound to be achievable if the youth are empowered, provided adequate skills and opportunities to harness their potential, support the development alongside contributing to peace and security. The youths' efforts should be geared towards achieving financial freedom, ensuring a healthy life, empowering others regarding such critical matters and making safe, resilient and sustainable environment. The achievement of such needs utmost sobriety, open-mindedness and critical thinking by the youth.

Based on the incorporation of lessons from past mistakes, other people's experiences and academic knowledge, the youth can enhance sustainability through the following measures;

1. Empowering and educating other citizens.
Youths are privileged with the abundance of fresh knowledge acquired from various institutions. Our rich and thorough education system is designed in a manner to ensure that youths are enriched with lessons from past failures. They are furthered triggered to think more critically and generate innovative ideas. Youths can make the bold step of educating and empowering other citizens, sensitizing them of the newer inventions and innovations that can enhance environmental sustainability and socio-economic stability. Given the advantage of the high youth population, they can solicit for legitimate sources of support to reach out to every corner of the country and sensitize people of the dangers looming if adequate measures are not put in place.

2. Reuse, recycle and replace
The greatest baggage and danger to our environment is pollution. One of the most evident and deterrent polluters of the environment is plastics. Youths can be on the forefront to control pollution through these and any other potent pollutant. Alongside the efforts taken by the environmental agencies to banish plastic bag use, we can reuse and recycle those that are not banished to minimize pollution. Some of the material can be used for creativity and artwork, which can generate income and enhance financial independence.

3. Financial independence
Most youths are focused on finishing studies and having white-collar jobs thereafter. In fact, most have set this as their benchmark of success in life. The end result is often frustration which leads them to uncouth activities that are often unproductive and retrogressive. Youths should have it in mind that education system trains us into becoming young responsible individuals with the ability to solve problems under all circumstances. It is important and necessary to open our eyes to the slightest opportunities granted, to enable us to be more productive in creating a sustainable environment. Joining focused youth groups and other significant agencies can serve as a perfect platform for creating and sharing ideas of building a better Kenya.

4. Responsible production and consumption
To whom much is given, much is expected. This perfectly applies to the youths, to whom the society has invested so much and requires the same measure of return. Most youths are involved in the careless consumption of energy, particularly electricity leading to waste. Some waste a lot of money in purchasing data to help them waste time on social media. Such can be converted to more useful and formidable projects that are enriching. Exchange programs can be conducted online rather than spending much time liking and commenting on unfocused posts. Equally, the internet can be used as a research site for generating better developmental ideas.

In conclusion, the youth need to open their eyes and minds and awaken from their naivety towards important matters such as sustainability measures. We only live once to create a change and this should be the driving force. Empowering other citizens, reusing, recycling and replacing the potent pollutants, financial independence together with responsible production and consumption are among the key strategies. The young generation should also be aggressive in seeking newer opportunities that help in unleashing their potential. Further, they should strive to actively take part in important political decision making since this is one of the most delicate sectors whose impact is strongly felt.