This disclosure has come from the Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, who said the document would then be presented to his Ministry, where it would be reviewed.

"I’m very hopeful that we can take it before Cabinet and then ultimately present it to Parliament early in the New Year, so Barbados could have a National Youth Policy which speaks to the issues … that would guide the development of young people," Mr. Lashley stated.

He added the policy, which would be revised at intervals, should be holistic to include suggestions on how to engage the youth across the country. "As the National Youth Forum (NYF) continues indefinitely, I would expect that young people who emerge and have new issues will then submit the various changes, amendments and so on to the youth policy, even if we have to put into effect certain laws," Mr. Lashley explained.

The NYF is expected to, among other things, provide a permanent platform for young people to be heard and to be taken seriously, enable them to work closely with stakeholders as equal partners in their own development and facilitate consultation with the youth, on an ongoing basis, on matters of national importance.

The NYP will be a guiding document, in which young Barbadians will outline issues affecting them and make suggestions on the structures that need to be put in place.????

Emphasising the importance of the Policy and the Forum, the Minister continued: "Government is seeking to create an avenue where matters can be dealt with, so people will not be talking from the fringes of our development, but … influencing from the centre… We recognise that we do have some challenges in our society and rather than only talking about them, we prefer to engage our young people and let them understand and be owners of their destiny."

A lot of work has already gone into the draft document and some young people were given an opportunity to comment on it. However, Mr. Lashley stressed that the policy would also be scrutinised by adults, since they also have a vested interest in the development of the youth. He explained that the NYF would be involved in monitoring the implementation of the policy, so as to ensure that guidelines were followed.????

The Ministry of Youth already has a number of programmes designed to give young people an opportunity to improve themselves and reach their potential. Regrettably, the Minister stated, some of them had not been subjected to the input of young people and now need to be reshaped.

Government launched the NYF on July 4 at the Wildey Gymnasium to express its commitment to honouring and empowering Barbadian youth. Since then, two business meetings were held on July 17 and August 14, and the young people discussed nine critical issues, namely, unemployment, education, the family, cultural penetration, gangs, housing, lifestyle diseases, political participation and the environment.

Some of the recommendations from these discussions have been fine-tuned and are expected to be fed into the National Youth Policy.??????

Additionally, the 15 members of the NYF Interim Steering Committee who were installed at the August 14 assembly have been busy meeting on a weekly basis to put various systems in place to accelerate the Forum’s programme.

Another special meeting to look at crime and violence is slated to be held on Saturday, October 30, at Solidarity House, starting at 10:00 a.m.

So, with all the major players going full steam ahead to ensure the ???birth’ of the National Youth Policy and that young Barbadians are empowered through the National Youth Forum, it is hoped that the youth would take advantage of these systems and get involved in fashioning and influencing government policy. They have been given a chance to be active participants in this democracy, and seizing the opportunity with both hands, shows that they want to have a say in their own future and the development of their beloved country – Barbados.

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