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??A Packed house for??the first business meeting of the National Youth Forum, at the University of the West Indies, July 17th, 2010. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

This country’s draft National Youth Policy should be completed by the end of May.

That is the word from Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley, who said the policy would then be taken to Cabinet and later debated in Parliament. However, he remains optimistic that the Policy will be in place by this year.

At the end of a near four-hour robust public forum last Friday, which was organised to discuss the draft National Youth Policy, Mr. Lashley told his audience: "What we want to do after hearing your contributions is to go back to the [National Youth Policy] Steering Committee and incorporate those suggestions into the draft Policy."

As a result, he urged those who still wished to make written submissions for possible inclusion into the document to do so. He said: "We recognise that there will always be additional contributions and as we know, a policy is one that is not etched in stone, it evolves through implementation.

"I think we have to get to the point of execution of the Policy and to establish a mechanism to ensure that even if we start to implement certain policies and initiatives, that they can be exposed, as we go along, to the scrutiny of young people in their various organisations …"??

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??Youth meeting in smaller groups to discuss issues arising??at the??first business meeting??of the National Youth Forum, at the University of the West Indies, July 17th, 2010. (C.Pitt/BGIS)??

Written comments on the document should be sent to the Permanent Secretary in the Division of Family and Youth, Elsie Payne Complex, Constitution Road, St. Michael, or email pssecretarymyfs@mes.gov.bb.

In addition, those who wish to examine the Policy should collect a copy from the Ministry of Family at the Elsie Payne Complex, or access it electronically by visiting the following websites: http://www.nationalyouthforum.org/, http://www.youthaffairs.gov.bb/ or https://www.gisbarbados.gov.bb/.??

Over the years, Commonwealth countries have been encouraged to formulate or update their National Youth Policies. A Youth Policy is defined as "a national framework that gives form and direction to government through which it promotes a particular philosophy and set of programmes for a cohort called youth". The age range of youth is said to be 15 to 29.

Work on Barbados’ Policy started 18 months ago and, according to Chairman of the National Youth Policy Steering Committee, Derek Alleyne, the "road ahead looked tough", but he stressed that the group "stood tall and firm in its journey". Hence, the birth of the draft document, which notes that the vision statement of Barbadian youth is to be "well educated, confident, healthy, responsible, progressive, creative and enterprising young men and women who are fully involved in the sustainable cultural, political, economic, social and physical development of their Caribbean nation".

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Youth at a Future Centre Trust tree planting iniatitive (FP – Courtesy of CYEN)??

Nine issues which have been identified by young people as being of major significance for their development are discussed extensively in the Policy. They are:

  • – reducing unemployment by ensuring that young people are "gainfully occupied" after leaving school,
  • – improving education by ensuring that our education system provides "equal opportunities" for all our children with different talents,
  • – strengthening the family within the community and raising children more successfully,
  • – restoring core values by ensuring that children are given the opportunity to develop a sense of right and wrong in modern Barbados,
  • – preventing the spread of gangs and all they represent by helping young people to join positive groups,
  • – helping young people to acquire decent, affordable housing solutions,
  • – enabling young people to tackle lifestyle diseases, especially HIV and AIDS,
  • – facilitating more adequate participation by young people in the political process, and
  • – getting young people to better protect the environment.
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??Melissa Savoury-Gittens is congratulated??by Stephen Lashley, Minister of Family, Culture, Sports & Youth, for being chosen to represent youth on the National Steering Committee,??at the second business meeting of the National Youth Forum, held at the Barbados Community College, August, 2010. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Minister Lashley underscored the importance of the National Youth Policy, pointing out that there were a number of challenges currently facing young people. Therefore, he stated, an outlet had to be created to give them an opportunity to make suggestions to government. "Youth development is so dynamic that we had to create a mechanism to advance the cause of young people and the best way we were able to do this was by creating this document," he surmised.

So, as government prepares to sign "this contract" between them and young people, Barbadians are being encouraged to take advantage of the final opportunity to make a contribution to the document. (SA/BGIS)

saustin@barbados.gov.bb

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