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Actress Monique Coleman in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 3 – American actress Monique Coleman is in Nairobi on a world tour promoting the United Nations International Year of the Youth.

Ms Coleman, who is best known for playing Taylor McKessie in the Disney "High School Musical" movies, was appointed the first UN Youth Champion to raise awareness about the challenges facing young people, and urge the international community to take responsibility on youth issues.

The actress will be visiting various youth programmes and schools across the country encouraging the youth to use their abilities to foster progress in their communities.

"I felt that this is a very big responsibility to represent the youth of the world for the United Nations. What I\’m doing on this tour is trying to get the young people to show up and speak up for themselves, and inspire them to take some risks and get out of their comfort zones to have a better world," said Ms Coleman.

According to a UNDP report, youths between the ages of 15 and 24 account for about 32 percent of Kenya\’s population and Assistant Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Wavinya Ndeti said for this reason, the government should engage the youth.

"The focus should be on the youth, this is a time bomb and the world should understand. By enabling more effective participation of young people we can benefit from their energy, idealism, unique perspective and innovative ideas," said Ms Ndeti.

The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports is currently conducting countrywide voter\’s registration for the youth to facilitate elections of national youth officials by June this year.

Ms Ndeti said such initiatives that empower young people to participate in society and the decision-making process engage them as partners in shaping the world.

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Under the theme \’Dialogue and Mutual Understanding,\’ the International Year of Youth was launched on August 12 last year to encourage among other objectives, the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Ms Coleman urged youth to be vocal and share their ideas through social media to encourage more initiatives like the Year of Youth and be effective agents of change.

"We haven\’t had a year of the youth for 25 years, so we\’ve missed an entire generation of youth. I insist on people to join the Facebook page and Twitter to show this is a worthy cause. Talking is extremely important, but listening is even more important, and then action is the most important. We can all be sitting on incredible ideas, but our actions make the difference."

The tour will continue through select countries in Europe and South America before culminating the International Year of Youth in New York on August 12.

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