Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Stephen Lashley (FP)??

The creation of the National Youth Forum (NYF) of Barbados will give young people an opportunity to participate fully in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.

This assurance came from Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Stephen Lashley, over the weekend during a press conference to unveil plans for the launch of the National Youth Forum.?? It was held at the Ministry of Education, Constitution Road, St. Michael.

Mr. Lashley told the media that the Forum would enable young people to become true partners in the development of this country. "When fully established, the National Youth Forum will be the engine for mobilising young people, for discussing relevant issues, for brain-storming, for solutions, for making recommendations, for performing an advocacy role, for disseminating information widely, and for working closely with partners to empower our youth," he said.

According to him, young people often complained that they were consulted as an afterthought and stressed that the body would provide a mechanism through which they could be formally and quickly sounded out on national issues.

The Minister pointed out that for the past nine months, the National Youth Policy Co-ordinating Committee had been carrying out extensive research on the needs of youth, generating a vision for them and conferring with stakeholders to identify and create the means of realising that dream.

He explained that the Forum would create a representative body to monitor the implementation of that policy and act as an advocate for the rights of the youth. Mr. Lashley continued: "Even though we have made progress in gathering information on the relevant issues and received recommendations on the programmes that should be established to address them, we still need the input of youth on all aspects of the National Youth Policy. We are hoping to glean more detailed information through the National Youth Forum. We also plan to take the draft Policy back to the Forum for further refinement before it goes back to Cabinet."

Mr. Lashley noted that the NYF would become a permanent feature of the calendar for youth development, stating that it would be given the status and authority of a Youth Parliament.

He added that it would be an itinerant institution that would meet in different locations across Barbados. "It will hold meetings on a zonal basis to ensure that all young people have an opportunity to get involved and put local issues on the agenda. In this regard, it is expected that the National Youth Forum will work closely with all 30 Constituency Councils that are being established in Barbados," Mr. Lashley said.

The Minister further stated that the Forum would showcase the talents and achievements of youth, while adding that one of its anticipated outcomes would be the creation of a National Youth Centre for Innovation.

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