Young people of Barbados, your government is calling you.
The call – for the nation’s youth to speak up on a range of issues – came at the 2018 National Youth Consultation at the Hilton Barbados Resort this morning, as National Youth Week continues.
This as the Ministry of Youth and Community Empowerment signalled that it wants the imput of young people on public policy and decision-making as a “basic human right” and promised that their views will be taken to the very top of Government.
“Your views will be compiled in the consultation report and inform the communique which will be used to inform Cabinet on the concerns raised and how they should be addressed. We will examine your pronouncements and use them to frame our soon to be revised National Youth Policy,” Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde told the gathering.
With six in ten Caribbean people younger than 35, and are faced with a raft of challenges, including job opportunities and security, the Government said it was looking to create more “safe spaces” for young people.
As part of National Youth Week, the youth affairs ministry, in association with the Technical and Vocational Educational Training (TVET) Council, has concentrated on the theme, Safe Spaces for Youth.
The theme was “in keeping with the international, regional and local recognition that safe spaces are critical to positive youth development; not only in terms of physical locations, but also regarding virtual and simple conducive environments where youth are invited and welcomed to make contributions to policy and decision-making as a basic human right,” Forde said.
The day’s “safe spaces” discussions focused on a number of “problematic” areas for young people, as identified by the National Youth Survey and the TVET Council’s research.
These included “space in the workforce (public sector, private sector and entrepreneurship); space in the workforce for people with technical and vocational qualifications; safer space for recreation and learning; and healthier spaces for young people,” Forde said.
TVET Council Executive Director Henderson Eastmond discusssed Safer Spaces for Youth with TVET Qualifications; Kim Ramsay of the Criminal Justice and Research Planning Unit examined Safer space for blocks and liming areas; while Programme Officer with the Barbados Youth Service, Fabian Sargeant, looked at Healthier spaces for youth.
The consultation was attended by secondary school and tertiary level students, members of service organizations such as the Girl Guides and Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, as well as, according to Forde, “youth from ‘the block’ and those who have found themselves in conflict with the judicial system”.
“I promise that today’s exercise will not be another ‘talk shop’,” said the Minister as he urged the audience to “contribute actively to the sessions” and reassured them that their efforts would not go unnoticed.
While he did not give a specific time frame, he said his ministry would soon be introducing a “Building Blocks” programme “which will signal a heightened level of participation and transformation of blocks across Barbados”.
Forde also commended the work of his ministry’ Youth Commissioners and Community Development Officers in communities around the island.