While take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to violence, the Barbados Youth Development Council (BYDC) is suggesting that young people at risk of becoming either aggressors or victims need spaces to find alternatives to guns and knives.
And those spaces could include a national youth centre, said BYDC President Roshanna Trim.
“Obviously the BYDC takes a no tolerance to violence [approach] whether it is among victims or perpetrators of violence across the island. But we recognize that even as perpetrators young people are victims of violence because of some of the responses that Barbados has instated,” said Trim.
“My hope is that the National Youth Centre is going to be one of the things that become a reality as we move forward on young people and safe spaces.”
She also suggested that young men who end up incarcerated have become victims of an overly strict judicial system bent on enforcing the rules.
“It is very difficult to receive employment after you have any kind of record established within the judicial system and we feel strongly that there have to be other programmes in place that focuses more on curbing the rigorism than necessary punishing,” she said.
Trim said that the Government could find other alternatives such as community service and house arrest which could redirect young offenders from entering the prison system.
“So instituting things like community service, house arrest and other forms that don’t end up with young men being imprisoned. Additionally, early intervention programmes being established and supported by the Government and private stakeholders and the public sector such as programmes that enhance soft skills; engaging young people as it relates to work for success, violence prevention, how to respond to violence and those different things,” she said.
The youth leader also suggested that having a positive youth development scheme could also help equip young people with the skills they need for the 21st Century.
“Programmes like the one being undertaken by the Ministry of Youth . . . like the Building Blocks programme is a great way to curb violence among young people. Particularly because young people who live in specific communities in Barbados are more vulnerable to crime and gang violence,” Trim said.
Barbadians also needed to accept that ‘the block’ can be seen as a safe space for the youth when legitimate sources fail the children, she added.
“In cases where parents are abusive, the block becomes that safe space within that community. When legitimate sources fail then illegitimate sources will prevail and that is sometimes what we see on the block and understand that means that we have to counteract the negative influences that the block is bad, Trim said.
She rejected the notion of the neighbourhood block as a place where young people gather to get involved in crime, while urging Government to revisit the idea of a ‘national youth centre’.
“I do believe is that we have to create safe spaces that counteract these both physical and virtual spaces. So, for example, a national youth centre where young people assist with implementing programme and they take ownership of what it is; where you can get services for persons whether that be counselling or persons who need discussions to let young people come through and share their ideas but also to have somewhere where they can hang out,” she said.
And the youth leader has called for another national youth policy to replace the previous one which had expired.
“There was a national youth policy which came into play in October 2011 so the council has since expired. I do know that the Ministry of Youth and Constituency Empowerment is currently in the process of developing a new youth policy and the council itself is working on creating a youth strategy led by youth for youth,” Trim said.
While acknowledging that the National Youth Centre has been relegated to the backburner “as there are other priorities right now for the country”, she said that “with the conversation for safe spaces and The Minister of Youth’s enthusiasm and passion for young people that they are going to be looking for ways to create more safe spaces for people whether physically or virtually.