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“Where do Caribbean youth go from here?”
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“Where do Caribbean youth go from here?”

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Lyn-Marie BlackmanYouth Ministers gathered recently in the Caribbean, prompting Lyn-Marie Blackman, 28, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Barbados, to examine the issues and call for a youth perspective in setting goals.

“Youth unemployment is at an all time high”, “HIV among the youth is on the rise”, “Entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly popular with the youth.” These are just a few of the many headlines that grace the pages of our local newspapers and our social media sites.

We continually see the many issues the youth are facing from teenage pregnancy, to drug abuse, to gang violence. Each year many conferences, seminars and youth meetings are held aimed at curbing and preventing the escalation of these behaviors, but the question is: Where do we go from here?

Youth development and its relevancy to the Caribbean community

Every community has an opinion and has the right to express that opinion. However, the opinion expressed can do one of two things: build up or destroy. The youth know how opinions can affect their way of life drastically. Many seek to put labels such as ‘rogue’, ‘nuisance’ and ‘bad’ on our youth; while others seek the alternative approach and assist where they see the need.  Why are these two polarizing behaviors present? Why do some believe the youth need to be loved and cherished while some think it is an undeserving act?

I live on an island that is 166 square miles. We are small but we do a lot. We have immense talent coming from our young people, which I believe sometimes goes unnoticed. Most of the time we are all packaged and bundled for heavy criticism when one does something inappropriate.  Statements like “them young people” or “them too bad” and the like are often heard on our local call-in programs.

Youth development is very important to the Caribbean community because we are the future: the future leaders, ambassadors and policy makers for the Caribbean region and beyond. The youth have a voice, are well educated and have the necessary skills to aid their country on its social, political and economic journey.  However, many need that loving hand of mentorship to steer them in that right direction.

Challenges faced by the youth in the Caribbean community

The loving hand of mentorship should be freely given but sometimes the word ‘love’ can mean different things to different people. Some youths have exuberance and energy that, if not channeled properly, more often than not positions them in the wrong direction. Several of our young men go into a life of drugs and crime because they may see that life as a place of love and survival, while many of our young ladies see the need to have sexual encounters early under the promise that love will forever abound there. Our homes with our loved ones should be the happiest days of our lives, but for many home holds the suitcase of nightmares. Many young men go into crime because the love of a parent is not there – usually the father – and for many this can create a false sense of what manhood is suppose to be.

Several of our young ladies reside in homes where incest, molestation and rape are in abundance. The perpetrator is usually a loved one and the victim’s voice is silenced with statements like “he pays all the bills here”, “he loves all of us”, and “you will endanger the welfare of the family if you say something”. Several are in homes where good grades are a must and the pressure can be at an all time high. Many of our young ladies run away from home, and many of us reduce that action to “she has gone up by her man”. It says a lot about a community when we do not seek to find out the reason for the behavior, but instead jump to conclusions.

Depression plagues many of our young people, from those looking for employment, to those embarking on an entrepreneurship venture, to those having now to pay their own tuition fees at university [1]. These are some of the challenges being faced by Barbadian youth, what does the Caribbean Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting 2015 hold for these youths?

Where do we go from here?

Out of every meeting there should be a solution. One should take a look at the youth’s home life, their education, their access to the health care system[2] and their opportunity for growth and advancement. If the youth representatives, developmental officers and policy makers do not take stock of the myriad ills plaguing the Caribbean youth and consider how they can get them past the high tides, then the meeting already has no purpose. Therefore, as we the youth keep our eyes trained on the meeting we will acknowledge that: delegates + its youth concerns + national youth developmental goals = success despite challenges.

[1] http://www.nationnews.com/articles/view/bajans-to-pay-tuition-fees-at-uwi-from-2014/

[2] http://bit.ly/1IqaEpo

photo credit: School Boy via photopin (license)

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About me: I am a conservative and articulate individual with an innate desire to see love, peace and unity triumph. My interests lie in medical research. I enjoy researching medical news from around the world and reporting it in my monthly newsletter entitled L.I.F.E.

I love biomedical science and believe it holds the key to a healthier society. I aspire to become a medical researcher and writer. My focus now is obtaining more exposure for my newsletters: L.I.F.E. and The Believer.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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