Minister of Sports, Youth and Community, Empowerment Dwight Sutherland with Harrison College students who swept the prizes for the Ministry’s Anti-Violence Essay Competition on the Impact of Media Violence on the Youth. From left to right are: Sarah Bisram (first place); Jaideen Hewitt (second place); and Woletta Israel-Yaicob (third place). (GP)

The Ministry of Sports, Youth and Community Empowerment is passionate about the young people on the island and as a result remains committed to ridding the island of violence.

Minister Dwight Sutherland emphasised this today as he spoke prior to presenting prizes to the winners of the Anti-Violence Essay Competition at the Ministry’s headquarters at Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall, St. Michael.

Noting there was a role for the police, the Barbados Defence Force and the church, he said, however, his Ministry, responsible for over 60,000 young people here, had a fundamental role to play.

“When we look at our roll at the prison, we see that the majority of the inmates, those persons who are enrolled at the prison are under the age of 35 years and that falls within the purview of the Ministry of Youth and the work we have to do. So, we can’t sit idly by and say ‘we leave it to the Police Force’. When will the Police Force address these issues?

“The Police Force solves crime and at the end of the day, the crime has been committed. When the law enforcers reach these young people, then to put them in shackles, [it is] a very painful sight for parents – to [have to] take them to Her Majesty’s Prisons, Dodds,” said Mr. Sutherland.

The competition formed part of a broad Anti-Violence Campaign which the Ministry launched back in June aimed primarily at reducing the level of violence in Barbados among all age groups.

It also sought to encourage young people to fully participate in peace-building initiatives, rather than engaging in deviant and violent behaviour.

Explaining further, the Minister said: “The Anti-Violence Essay Competition is one of three initiatives which were implemented during the months of September and October which highlighted the skills and talents of young people, while at the same time helping them to focus their talents on anti-violence messages and messaging.

“This competition specifically, provided an opportunity for youth to express how they felt about the Impact of Media Violence on Youth and most importantly it provided an opportunity for them to express how they felt about violence and its impact on them.”

He acknowledged it was a critical programme at this time as the island transitions to republican status and explained to the young winners that republicanism was about ‘citizenship’, ‘citizenry’, ‘civic virtues of who we are’ and ‘citizens doing the right thing in a country’.

Students also heard that the words articulated in their essays would help the Ministry craft new programmes and improve existing ones.

Stating that it was not only about winning a prize but also about hearing directly from them as youth, Minister Sutherland said: “I wish to assure all of you that we, in the Ministry here, are carefully listening. Indeed, we have heard some of our young people through music presented in the “Gimme Peace Pun De Mic” competition…

“We saw their interpretation of the effects of violence and the need for peace in the poster competition, as well and we heard their fervent cries to stop and end the violence in the Jingle Competition. Today we are hearing again, from you the youth in this essay competition.”

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