July 5, 2013 · 0 Comments
Engaging youth and youth development are topics increasingly gaining attention on the international platform. This past week, President Obama traveled to Africa to address three core points: economic development, democracy and lastly Africa’s youth.
In an address he gave in Cape Town, President Obama spoke to Africa’s young people and challenged them to continue Nelson Mandela’s legacy to foster a growing Africa. Obama’s approach to address youth demonstrates a growing acknowledgment of youth’s presence and a realization that youth is not just one sector that can be looked at independently. Youth development is integrated in all other important policies, in the U.S. and abroad. Hence, it is to no surprise that decisions made regarding economic development for example undeniably have an effect on today’s youth and vice versa.
June had been National Caribbean-American Heritage month, recognizing the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the U.S. Thus to commemorate this month, The Institute of Caribbean Studies held their fifth Annual Caribbean-American Youth Leadership Forum (CAYLF) at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The theme for this year’s forum ‘Connecting Our Youth’ focused on the youth in the Caribbean and how the U.S. Caribbean Diaspora is increasingly becoming involved and creating ways to promote the development of their communities and countries.
Depending on the institution, youths are identified differently. For example, the United Nations defines youth as individuals between the ages of 15 -24 whereas the IDB extends the age to 30 years old. In 1995, the IDB created the Youth Development and Outreach Program which focuses on responding to the needs of young people and promoting their participation and leadership in the development process.
Since then, newer initiatives have transpired such as the most recent ‘Next GENDERation’ Initiative which was designed by members of the World Bank in partnership with the Government of Jamaica and the IDB. This initiative’s mission focuses on youth violence and its prevention by promoting behavioral change among youth in Jamaica. With programs like these, the Multi-lateral Bank is realizing not only the impact that youth can have in development policies but also that young people are increasingly hinting that they want to be heard.
Whether it’s through peaceful protests in the streets or expressing frustrations through the use of social media like Twitter, more young people are taking matters into their own hands and expressing their opinions towards their government. Last week in Chile for example, police in Santiago clashed with students who barricaded themselves in their schools with chairs and tables protesting and asking for free and improved education. BBC News noted that this ongoing two year campaign for educational reform has been the biggest political protest in Chile since 1990 and that young people are actively involved. Throughout the protest more than 100 people were arrested, many of whom were teenagers. (BBC News )
Chile’s youths fighting for educational reform highlights one of the several challenges that affect today’s youth in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region. According to Lisa Soares, Program Manager at the Institute of Caribbean Studies, besides education, the leading concerns for youth in LAC are violence, unemployment, human trafficking and drug trafficking. When one considers that about 40% of the 500 million people in LAC are as IDB defines, ‘youth’, these concerns affect a lot of people. Furthermore these challenges are even tougher barriers for those who are not in school. World Bank Blogger, Olivier Puech noted that in Jamaica, for example,“ where 20 % of the youth is considered unattached, excluded from the economic activity and society, violence among young people is a serious development issue.”
Thus, just as President Obama’s approach was to address youths, there is a growing movement towards including young people to tackle these development issues. Kim Marie Natoli of the U.S. Department of State brought to light how the Office of Global Youth Issues initiated these ‘youth counsels’ in countries across the globe. One example was in Swaziland, where their youth counsels keyed the theme ‘Donuts and Dialogue’ which provided a forum that encouraged community leaders to collaborate with youths to discuss their concerns. However, words alone won’t tackle the development issues surround violence, education or unemployment.
While several initiatives involving talking with LAC youths were mentioned, the more inspiring projects were those created by LAC youths themselves. Many young members in the Caribbean Diaspora have made grand strides towards educating and involving individuals on youth-related issues in the Caribbean region. One example was of a bright young female, Shaina Silva who was born in the US and raised in Haiti. Silva, a Babson College graduate and currently a management consultant, co-founded a non-profit ‘Haiti in Transition’. The organization’s mission is to project a more positive image of Haiti through the engagement of its youth. In addition, the organization implements programs that focuses on building Haiti’s future ‘game changes’ through leadership development and social invocation.
Another example was of Krystle Wright. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Wright came to the U.S. to pursue her education and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Wright is the founder & president of the Jamaica Heritage Society, which is a nonprofit membership association dedicated to becoming the leading source for Jamaica news, culture and education.
Therefore while the challenges for youth development in the Caribbean are still present, projects like Haiti in Transition and Jamaican Heritage society allow for Caribbean Diaspora youth to be engaged in collaborative youth development initiatives in the Caribbean.
Please click here for more information on Haiti in Transition.
Please click here for more information on Jamaica Heritage Society
Photo Credit: US Embassy, Kingston, Jamica