Shanika Roberts is the vice president of the League of Young Socialists, the youth arm of the Barbados Labour Party. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Public Sector Management, and a Master of Science in International Trade Policy, from the University of the West Indies.
The 32-year-old sat down with Positive Vibes to discuss how she got involved in politics.
Q: What is your mantra for life?
A: I actually have a few, which are: “When in doubt, Google it”; “Research, research, research”; and the other is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. These three cover most situations.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted to make a difference in the world by becoming an activist?
A: Truthfully, it started at Foundation School with the great canteen boycott for better food and better prices. That successful collective action pushed me to think on a bigger scope, and led to the realisation that change only comes if you are willing to fight for it.
Q: At what age did you decide that you wanted to be involved in politics?
A: Honestly, I have always been interested in politics. Something about the ability to change people’s lives for the better with a stroke of a pen is an amazing thing. But active involvement came around the age of 23 when I was like a lot of our youth who were out of options. It was my then boyfriend (now husband) who encouraged me to get involved.
Q: Did you face any challenges as a female becoming involved in the political landscape?
A: Lots, as traditional cultural ideas are still alive and well in Barbados. And as a woman, you are always faced with the double-edged sword – how to be assertive without being deemed aggressive, but also how to show compassion without being viewed as weak. The most important lesson I have learned is to stay true to yourself. Sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose some, but always keep to your core beliefs.
Q: You are the vice president of the League of Young Socialists. How did that come about?
A: That came after spending two years as president of the St George South branch and wondering what else I could do for the Barbados Labour Party. I saw the League of Young Socialists was having a meeting and I stepped up to the plate.
Q: You were also the vice president of the Women’s League of the Barbados Labour Party. How did that come about?
A: That came through the women of the Barbados Labour Party. They can be the strongest and most vociferous defenders but they can also be warm and welcoming. They pulled me aside and told me I had potential and they needed me. So off I went.
Q: You are also the host of the BLP Youth Rally and the Silver Sands Splash. How did this come about?
A: That was a great opportunity given to me by the party’s public relations team and really began with weeks of training and behind-the-scenes work with them on smaller events. Every small step leads you higher.
Q: You would have seen Damien Sands, a member of the League of Young Socialists, become the youngest member of the Senate. How did that make you feel?
A: It is a great feeling of pride. To see a young person in this country respected and trusted is important and something we need to see more of.
Q: With the current surge of crime and violence, what is the League of Young Socialists doing to curb this worrying trend?
A: We just completed a five-week programme called Level Up with the young ladies of Sterling Children’s Home and we are working on more outreach programmes. Even before the recent upsurge in problems, we pushed programmes like our CV clinic, focused on retooling our peers and helping them move to more positive avenues. I think we need more mentors in Barbados, more people willing to reach out to our youth to show them that there is another path. We can all offer guidance, but we have to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and reach out.
Q: What advice would you have for any person that is interested in becoming involved in politics and/or in the League of Young Socialists?
A: Sign up and step up. If you have an idea for a project, then feel free to pull it together and talk to us. Most importantly, no task is too big or too small; be willing to be both the janitor and the CEO. (LG)