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Youth leaders discussing issues affecting them

by Tre Greaves in Port of Spain

Youth leaders discussing issues affecting them

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Young people want economic empowerment, but that will not come without some sacrifice.

Trinidad’s Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe made this point yesterday in response to youth leaders who voiced concerns about not having decision-making power in matters that affect them.

During the opening ceremony of the 6th Caribbean Youth Leaders Summit at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, several young leaders, including Chair of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council (CYRC) Shaquille Knowles, and Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council Tijani Christian, urged more young people to speak out against unemployment and underemployment.

“I ask you to interrogate the data. Decent jobs are just beyond surviving, we are asking to be economically empowered. We want to own our own homes, we don’t want to be renting all our lives,” Christian said.

“We want the opportunity not just to contribute to conversation, but we want to know that we can live in the Caribbean and we don’t have to migrate, but we can strive, build and move towards economic empowerment for every single young person.”

However, Cudjoe, who is a former CARICOM Youth Ambassador and a United Nations Youth Ambassador, urged the participants to do more to influence some of their peers, who she suggested did not have their priorities in order.

“You want your own home but you don’t want to save. . . while we fight the government we are responsible for some of these challenges. You have to check yourself, you can’t have party clothes and don’t have work clothes. You need to work to get the money to go in the party,” she added.

In addition, she reasoned that some people would find it too hard to gain employment due to how competitive the world is.

“Your five Levels are important, the university degrees are important but they are not everything. It is not your ticket to success. It sets you on a nice foundation to figuring out what you like but you still have a duty to chart your own course and remain relevant to what is taking place throughout the region and the world,” she added. 

The summit is being held under the theme Promoting Youth Economic Empowerment: Building synergies towards Sustainable Caribbean Development


Close to 200 participants from CARICOM member states attended the opening, including youth leaders from Barbados, Jamaica and The Bahamas. United Nations representative Marina Walter, Programme Manager at the CARICOM Secretariat Sushil Ram and Vice President of Operations at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Monica La Bennett also attended.

In her address, La Bennett also pointed out that youth unemployment remained at unaccepted levels.

“Our figures indicate that youth unemployment range from between 18 to 47 per cent in countries which we have data for. It is estimated that more than a third of our young people, almost 36 per cent are not in employment, studying or training.

“This is a staggering statistic and unacceptable and an untenable state of affairs,” La Bennett said.

She added that the conference was the perfect opportunity for the CDB to hear from the youth, which said would help shape their youth policy.

The conference continues through Friday. (TG)