Stories and podcasts Spotlight Feature Spotlight Feature: Brian Malika Name: Brian Malika Age: 26 years Country and Location: Kenya, Kakamega town which is in western parts of Kenya. Area of interest in International Development: I have an interest in international development affairs through the United Nations SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth, SDG 5: Gender equality and SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing. Twitter Handle/Social Media accounts: Facebook: Brayan Malik Twitter: @BRIAN MALIKA Website: N/A Organisation/affiliations: I am affiliated with Humanity and Inclusion Kenya, American University Centres on Disability (AUCD) and Project Syndicate. Background – Tell us a little about yourself? I believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. This belief has been eminent in my professional track-record. For instance, I’ve been vocal in championing for the rights of adolescent girls and young women from rural and hard to reach parts of Kenya to access friendly sexual reproductive health rights. Equally, I’ve conducted research at the Indian University in the U.S on scientific approaches that can enable Kenyans with disability access fair employment opportunities. Tell us about your area of work? Being a Social Worker, I am keen on enabling people who are experiencing individual and social problems to overcome them and get back to normal life. On that note, I am currently enabling populations at risk to live fulfilled lives and alleviate suffering in their lives. I have achieved this through my media advocacy where I’ve written about the realities facing populations at risk like girls who live in rural areas as well as people with disabilities. WBW realised the potential in my advocacy work in writing as a tool to reflect the happenings in my community and as a result, they connected me to their media partners, Project Syndicate who have published my work to a global audience. Apart from writing, I have founded my own grassroots organisation called One More Percent which works to improve sexual reproductive health rights for adolescents by one more percent every day. So far, One More Percent has been able to win a grant in 2018 from the American Embassy in Nairobi to train 200 girls and young women on policy making skills as an effective tool to enable access to sexual reproductive health rights. I made sure that 40 out of the 200 girls trained had an identifiable disability. What issues do you consider to be the most prevalent to women and young people in your country? First I will address the issue that is most prevalent among women in Kenya before addressing the one on young people. Young women and girls in Kenya are at a very unique place in Kenya’s history. This is because, as much as Kenya has a progressive constitution that accords equal rights to both men and women, Kenya’s general culture that undermines women has not changed a bit. For instance, as much as women are allowed to inherit land just like men, women find condemnation from their own family members when they ask for ancestral land just like their brothers are doing. More over, women who implement their constitutional rights to education by pursuing their academic dreams to the fullest, are scolded by their own community in Kenya as unmarriageable. There is a cultural assumption that women who study for too long ‘waste’ valuable time that could be put to better use by getting married and raising children. Therefore, I would say that the most prevalent issue among Kenyan women and girls is the clash between retrogressive cultures against gender equality with the onset of implementing Kenya’s progressive constitution. When it comes to youth in Kenya, the prevalent issue is unemployment. All research findings have concluded that Kenyan youth are struggling to get jobs. What programmes are currently operational in your country and do you think they are working? If yes why, if no why? And what could be done better? In Kenya we have the Kenya Youth Fund Government Program that is meant to enable young Kenyans get into business environments through affordable loans. However securing a Youth Fund Loan in itself is hectic as the process is unrealistic to may promising young entrepreneurs. I think the Kenyan Government should lessen the process and criteria of securing the Youth Fund loan by sitting down with young Kenyans and resolving what works best for them. We also have an anti-female genital mutilation campaign rolling out in parts of Kenya where FGM is the norm. This program seems to be working because there’s support and goodwill from the communities involved. Also, the international community has supported this anti-FGM campaign in Kenya with funding making the program easily implementable and out-reaching. The secret here was the creation of relationships with the communities affected with FGM first. What do you think is the biggest obstacle that needs to be overcome in the field of International Development? I think international development is an accumulation of many grassroots processes towards better living. Think of it like this, if 200 young people from different countries converge in London to share their efforts in making the world a better and safer place, it’s classified as a ‘high panel global youth forum’. But what just happened at such a meeting in London is just the bringing together of many grassroots efforts to bettering humanity at one stage. And as such, I am a strong advocate for International Development reorganising its definitions towards adopting an umbrella term that embraces many happenings at grassroots level. I think the masterminds of international development get it wrong when they embrace a class of intellectualism that is out of touch with the many grassroots voices and efforts towards making humanity better across the world. International development should not be a hall-mark at a top United Nations gathering in Tokyo, but rather a commitment in everyone’s life. Every day in making life better based on globally agreed principles. I am of the opinion that international development should be best understood by the ordinary man in Lusaka, Zambia just the same way a high-level dignitary would do in Brussels, Belgium. And in that way, everyone across the world would be on the same page towards achieving agreed global goals to save humanity and the planet. What do you think are some solutions to these problems? My solution to making international development effective is by making efforts to make international development be accessible for participation and understanding by everyone and mostly those at grassroots level. When it comes to breaking retrogressive cultures against women enjoying their constitutional rights in Kenya, I would advise that there needs to be more media advocacy to challenge stereotypes against the empowerment of women. And it is important to treat women with a disability as a population that is inter-sectionally disadvantaged. What makes this sector so special for you? International development is special to me because it’s a chance to bring on board my efforts and that of my community in making the world better, safer and friendlier for all. I feel that the rights of women are special to me, even though I am a man. This is because women hold the key to the faster achievement of success and progress in my community if they equally participate in community development without restrictions. And in particular, the efforts for women with a disability should not be negated or undermined. There should be deliberate actions to open the participation of women with disabilities in development. What future progress in International Development – regionally, across the continent, or even for your own personal future – excites you the most about this sector? The fourth industrial revolution definitely does excite me about International Development. And do you know why? Because at this era of digital transformations that will be embedded in human bodies and social life, access to education, employment, learning, socialising, health care, infrastructural development, ecosystem conservation, gender equality and much more opportunities will be easily available to everyone regardless of international borders. This therefore in return will enable international development goals to be achieved faster than anticipated. For instance, a woman won’t need to travel to India to be operated on if she is suffering from obstetric fistula during the climax of the industrial revolution. But instead, she will be operated on by a Doctor from India while she is in Kenya but under the guidance of robotics. I can’t wait to see how international development will be rolled-out in the era of robotics.