The family planning association has weighed in on the issue of violent crime among young people, suggesting economic strains are to blame.
Despite the association’s focus on sexual and reproductive health, it could not ignore the factors that were affecting young lives, said the BFPA’s Manager of Youth Programming Keriann Hurley.
Several young people indicated the “burden” being placed on their shoulders due to their current economic circumstance had an impact on their decisions, she added.
She explained that a number of young people were being required to contribute to their households “and that in itself makes them more vulenerable”.
Hurley told Barbados TODAY: “When you have a situation where the economic environment is really difficult this leads then to families having to lean heavily on the younger persons within the family structure to help contribute financially.
“It means that we have young people who are getting involved not necessarily in legal work.
“They may be getting involved in sex work and in vulnerable work where they can’t negotiate to protect themselves, their person and health.
“They may be going and getting involved in gang activities, just anything that can help make money to help their families eat.
“This is one of the things we do see in our work we do with young people and it is a cause for concern. So we have to figure out how we can protect our young people.”
The social worker agreed that crime was the responsibility of the entire population, adding that she was concerned that many young people were being forced to grow up before their time.
She said some of the youth were being exposed to high levels of violence and other explicit acts from an early age.
She said while some parents should take responsibility for the content they were exposing their children to, there were others who did not have a problem with what they childrew saw.
Hurley said: “We cannot hide our heads in the sand and think that a yen-year-old may not be just as exposed or knowledgeable about certain things that a 24-year-old might be. That is the reality.”
She said while officials could go into schools and talk to children, when they go home some of them were being fed the same thing that contributed to volence in the first place, which made it even more difficult to address.
She said: “I think it comes down to the value system that we all kind of operate by.
“My value system varies from someone else and the way we may parent or interact with young people differs.
“So I think part of the challenge is how do we try to bring some kind of balance to how we interact with young people.”
The BFPA official acknowledged that the task ahead of addressing youth crime is difficult.
Hurley told Barbados TODAY: “It is hard for us to really fill the gap fully.
“I just think we have to continue making sure that our intervention is always one where we are seeking to promote their best – best health, best academic attainment, whatever there best is, full empowerment and development – and hopefully they can learn how to make decisions for themselves, be well-informed and go forward to live healthy and productive life.
“We just have to keep pressing on and doing our job.”
Director of the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit Cheryl Willoughby said that sometimes the perpetrators of violent crimes and their victims were breadwinners for their families. Over 98 per cent of them were men between the age 20 and 29, who “should be contributing to the development of our country”, she added.
Hurley told Barbados TODAY a number of young females were also involved in a “very violent situation”.
She said: “They themselves sometimes are the victims and the perpetrators in some instances.
“So I am interested in working more with addressing that end of the spectrum, how we can work with young females to address a lot of the anger and the violent things that we are seeing displayed in their relationships and interactions each other and with their partners and their family members.”