Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley, as he??addressed the participants of the second business meeting of the National Youth Forum on Saturday August 14th at the Barbados Community College.??

Youth Minister, Stephen Lashley on Saturday installed 15 young people to serve as Interim Steering Committee members for the National Youth Forum (NYF).

According to the Minister, the Committee would be charged with ensuring that the around work is carried out until the "full-fledged committee" was selected by the NYF members.??

They are:?? Damian Daniel, Asha Jones, Quincy Jones, Alvin Mayers, Andrea Craig, Karen McClean, Richard Kennedy, Mariamma Brancker, Lisa Durant, Jamar Worrell, Rhea Mapp, Anjannette Samuel, Dwayne Paul, Melissa Savoury-Gittens, and a representative from the Cadet Corps.

The Interim Committee is also responsible for organising four general meetings in each zone to reach out to young people islandwide.??

Minister Lashely described the output of the first business meeting held on July 17, as "phenomenal" and flagged marijuana use as an additional area of concern.

"Many of our people, both young and old are abusing marijuana and they are ending up having mental problems which have to be treated at the Psychiatric Hospital or they have to receive treatment at Verdun House.?? Many are young persons who are being led to think that there is some magic in the use of marijuana. I think that this is something that the young people need to debate," he said.

Mr. Lashley stated that the Forum had already "excited" Barbadians and reported that many international organisations based in Barbados were "keen on this initiative and in supporting and ensuring that this Forum is enduring".

At the first meeting participants were asked nine focus questions based on topics that came out of the National Youth Consultation (2008).

These were: unemployment, education, the family, core values, lifestyle diseases, housing, gangs, political participation and the environment.??

The young people suggested ways to ensure that their peers were gainfully employed after leaving school, how to help young persons to acquire decent and affordable housing, the participation of the youth in the political process, the need to encourage young people to join positive groups, equal opportunities for children with differing talents, the strengthening of the family unit and how to better protect the environment.??

Recommendations included the provision of aptitude tests at an early age to point children towards careers, the need for the establishment of specialised educational centres, the strengthening of legislation to regulate rent, the creation of a National Youth Parliament to shadow members of The House of Assembly, more scholarships in non-traditional fields, the alignment of the age of consent to have sex with the age of access to HIV testing, and the integration of environmental studies into the school curriculum.

Meanwhile, Minister Lashley revealed that the National Youth Policy would be made public by the middle of September and would serve as "the template document by which the government pursues youth development in Barbados".??lbayley@barbados.gov.bb

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