The power of Caribbean youth
By Natasha Beckles | Sun, September 30, 2012 - 10:42 AM
Today's young people have often been described as a lost generation.
However, many youth across the Caribbean believe they have the ability to contribute significantly to the region and its development, following the example of success stories like Rihanna, Usain Bolt and Kirani James.
In honour of Caribbean Youth Day which is being observed today under the theme Youth Harnessing Positive Energy For Caribbean Development, the SUNDAY SUN sought out the views of youth representatives from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia.
President of the Barbados Youth Development Council (BYDC), Jason Francis, said Caribbean youth leaders remained committed to the formation of a unified regional youth council.
He noted that although Caribbean countries have often been characterized by fragmentation and separation moreso than unity and togetherness, the region had been able to overcome systems of social and economic stratification.
“Our achievements should never be taken for granted, but while we celebrate them, we must also forge ahead with efforts to improve the standard and quality of life of our people.
“Our capacity to build and develop our region, and to generate unique Caribbean-based solutions should not be downplayed,” he said.
Given that a significant section of the regional population comprises people between the ages of 15 and 29, Francis said there could be no doubt that one of the main tools for Caribbean development lay in harnessing the positive energy of our young people.
He noted that across the Caribbean outstanding examples of young people working hard and maximizing their potential can be seen not only in sportsmen and entertainers but entrepreneurs, writers and models.
The president added that youth continued to be impacted disproportionately by social problems such as crime and unemployment, but said youth leaders remained confident that these issues could be resolved with greater investment and involvement of young people in decision making.
“Our governments, businesses, development agencies and civil society all have significant roles to play, and it is now an obvious requirement that we work more harmoniously to ensure sustainability and for the dreams and aspirations of our youth to be fulfilled,” he said.
Meanwhile, president of the St Lucia National Youth Council, Timothy Ferdinand, suggested that “every region is faced with similar issues and challenges”, but noted that the way in which they respond to these challenges determined whether or not they progress and improve the quality of life of their people.
“Caribbean youth can contribute to regional development by thinking of Caribbean-based solutions to our challenges within the region.
“Some of these can be found by using new information and communications technologies which are almost second nature to our young people.
“By using these new technologies, youth can translate their new ideas into solution-oriented applications,” he said.
Michael Xavier, a youth representative from Guyana, noted that many of the artists and intellectuals who have brought international acclaim to the region were young when they peaked in terms of their contribution.
“I am of the firm belief that our Caribbean young people are some of the most talented in the world and I would like to see them exploring these talents particularly in the cultural sector.
“Our Caribbean has so much diversity in terms of cultural practices and traditions that we can lead the world whether it be in dance, fashion, music, film or anything of the sort,” he suggested.
Xavier noted that youth should take inspiration from the likes of Bob Marley, V.S. Naipaul, George Lamming and others who have gone before.
“We need to understand that exploring our talents and believing in our ability can lift the Caribbean further and contribute to our social and economic development,” he said.
Likewise, Sasha Harrison, president of the University of the West Indies Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow group at Jamaica’s Mona Campus, said youth had a contribution to make to the identity, stability and economic development of the region.
Noting that the Caribbean has a rich intellectual tradition, she suggested that with increased access to education there was a great role for youth to play.
“Young people can also contribute by volunteering their time particularly to helping other youth who are less fortunate.
“For the development of the region to happen, our young people must be optimists and must understand that they have a significant role to play.
“They must see themselves making a change and keep in mind that whatever contribution [whether] big or small is a worthwhile contribution,” Harrison said.
She added that young people must be strategic and where space is not created or potential not fully realized, they must keep pushing their ideas and work more closely together.
The BYDC urged the youth of Barbados and the rest of the region to participate and contribute not only for their personal development but also that of their community, country and the world.
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