Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley, in discussion with Acting Regional Director of the Commonwealth Youth Programme Caribbean Centre, Dwynette Eversley.

Barbados’ draft National Youth Policy will be officially handed over to the Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley, within a few hours and he has disclosed that some of the concerns young people have expressed in the document include unemployment and an increase in gang activity and the culture they perpetuate.

Mr. Lashley gave a preview of some of the suggestions in the eagerly anticipated document while speaking today at the Commonwealth Caribbean First Youth Leadership Summit, at the Barbados Beach Club.

He told his audience: "Barbadian youth have expressed concerns about unemployment and the need to find ways to ensure that young people are gainfully occupied after leaving school. They wish to see an improvement in the educational system so that equal opportunities may be provided for all of our children with different talents.

"They are hoping that programmes are devised to ensure that families within communities are strengthened and children are raised more successfully. On a similar note, they hope to see the restoration of core values within society to more effectively assist with the development of children in modern Barbados."

The Minister further stated that they had called for measures to be put in place to encourage more young people to join positive groups. He added that the youth said they wanted access to affordable housing solutions, the capacity to tackle lifestyle diseases, especially HIV and AIDS, more participation in the political process, and involvement in the protection of the environment.

Mr. Lashley proffered the view that their concerns might be a reflection of their counterparts in the wider Caribbean, and stressed that policy makers must empower them and partner with them to create measures to deal with the challenges and optimise the opportunities that confront them.

He stressed, however, that "we should not discard those programmes which are already in place and which have produced positive results". But rather, he suggested that existing programmes must be reviewed and evaluated on the basis of on-going research and consultation with the young people.

The Minister identified leadership as an area which needed urgent attention. "I wish to implore all of you to look more closely at the programmes which are currently being implemented and develop ways in which leadership programmes can be further expanded. The region needs quality youth leaders with vision and strategic thinking to take us into the future," he maintained.

Mr. Lashley added that the appointment of young people to various statutory boards and plans to establish a National Youth Parliament in the short term were indicative of Government’s commitment to the youth.

He also disclosed that the National Youth Forum was currently finalising its constitution, which would allow for a democratically elected steering committee, among other things.

The Forum offers the youth a platform from which they may participate fully in the decision-making processes that affect their lives. It will reach out and mobilise the youth in their communities, offer mechanisms and opportunities for leadership, facilitate the collaboration of stakeholders in the development of youth, and allow young people to seek enterprising and creative solutions to their problems.

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