Youth participation is key

Youth participation is key


Sunday, October 25, 2020

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The duty of elected representatives is to ensure that all cross sections of their constituency are provided with adequate representation and that all needs and interests are best served.

Within any scope of development, areas that are deemed to be categorised as vulnerable are often treated with great priority. One such group that can be considered as vulnerable is that of our nation's youth. The future of the youth is anchored in the policies of today that we drive and implement, as such a critical feature of policy development should encompass stakeholder engagement. Youth-oriented policies ought to be something that are the result of intense and diverse consultations. The seeds we plant today will blossom and bear fruits for the youth who will be the owners of tomorrow.

A key and necessary feature of youth development is that of youth empowerment. The best way to guarantee a safe and stable future for anyone lies in the art of development. It is no secret that many of our nation's youth are the products of broken homes and as a result display varying behaviour that may be considered deviations from the norm of what society holds to be acceptable.

The family is the basic unit of society, it is the bedrock that anchors and holds values, beliefs, and ideologies that many of us have embedded in our character. A key feature of a youth development-oriented policy ought to be one that is focused on intervening where there is a breakdown in the basic unit of the family, and there are observable deviations from the normal behaviour, a guiding light may be necessary. For a far more effective approach to be achieved, the approach must be one that is grounded in partnership — between Government agencies, community groups, parent teachers' associations (PTAs) and the Church, and strongly grounded in the belief that I am my brother's keeper.

At the end of 2019, youth unemployment stood at 22.14 per cent, while the general unemployment has been eight per cent for 2019. The disparity between the two, tells a frightening tale. A key feature of empowerment lies in the ability to provide economic upliftment to one or to a group of people. For every youth to be given the chance to achieve his or her goals, economic empowerment is tantamount to that being possible. The questions we must ask is, what are the hindrances that exist as they relate to youth unemployment? What is the skillset of those unemployed? Is there a mismatch between the skillsets of the unemployed and that of the general economy? Based on consultations and conversations the manifestation of the problem begins from the high schools and it is shown in the passes that we observe each year in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams. Year after year we see a large volume of youth leave the high school arena with no requisite qualifications that can advance their lives, and this results in a spiralled life of despair.

Part of my mandate for my term as Member of Parliament for St Thomas Eastern will be trying to do a comprehensive audit of the processes and structures of the programmes within each school and to see what are the challenges that are being faced by these schools in an effort to deliver quality education to our students, and what levels of innovation are needed.

Outside of the family, the school and the Church are two areas that are pivotal to the shaping of our social norms and character. As such, these are great avenues to engage in consultation with the youth as well as trying to address issues. Another area that youth engagement and youth development policies often neglect is that of the unattached youth. As part of any development, all parties should benefit from the growth and development within their environs. Skills training and re-equipping these youth with the skill set needed to make them fully able to meet the demands of the ever- changing job market will be paramount to reducing the levels of youth unemployment that we now see.

The constituency of St Thomas Eastern will lead this mandate by hosting our first youth consultation and engagement session on November 6, 2020, where all COVID-19 protocols will be observed. In treating with the issue of our youth, in a sense, we have been prescribing treatments without diagnosing the condition and we inevitably end up applying Band-Aid to a cancerous sore. The conversation will begin and proper diagnosis will be made in the best interests of our youth.

Our youth will do more than belong; they will participate. They will do more than care; they will assist the process. They will do more than dream; they will be given the opportunity to work.


Dr Michelle Charles, a dental surgeon by training, is Member of Parliament for St Thomas Eastern.


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