Last Saturday, I attended an event organized by “The Policy Desk”, a fresh youth organization, which aims to enlighten young people about political and civil engagement in Guyana.
This event was a direct result of the impact of the No-Confidence Motion passed in Parliament on December 21, 2018. I was a bit worried at the start of the event since there were only a handful of young people in the audience. However, shortly after starting the Theatre Guild was almost filled.
I must say, this gives me a glint of hope that young people do care and want to be included in the development of our Guyana.
The topics that were brought to the table included the role of youths in civil and political engagement, the role of the modern media and the arts in youth civic and political engagement and fostering national discourse on youth civic and political engagement.
I saw vibrant young men and women sharing their opinions and offering possible solutions to these issues and for this, they must be commended. A special ‘thank you’ to Dennis Glasgow, Vishal Joseph and Eden Corbin who organized this event.
For my part, my brief contribution to the discussion was centered on our existing National Youth Policy and the importance of youth inclusion and development, which cannot be understated.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), youth represents one-third of the world population and over 85% of them live in Developing countries. In many places, they represent more than 30% of the population (OECD, 2018).
As it relates to Guyana, approximately 54% of the population is below the age of 25. This represents the highest number of youths moving into the early adulthood. Specifically, this means the decisions that are made now will directly impact us positively or negatively in the future – which is no secret to us all. Therefore, a space must be created for us to be included in the decision-making process.
The National Youth Policy 2015 was tabled and adopted by the National Assembly on 13th October 2016, in keeping with a campaign promised by the Coalition Government.
This four-year (2017-2020) policy document sets out a wide-reaching framework of plans, including the improvement of the social; emotional and cultural skills of young people; the encouragement of a productive and enterprising youth workforce; the development of quality leadership and market-oriented skills; the encouragement of leadership, participation and representation and the promotion of good health; and security and safety of youths across Guyana.
The policy speaks of a National Youth Empowerment Action Plan which will give directions on how the policy will be implemented. To date, that action plan is non-existent.
In fact, the policy was only made public after the Guyana National Youth Council (GNYC) highlighted the issues. This was first shared via Facebook by a reporter and subsequently disseminated to the public by the Government.
Recently, a meeting was held with the Minister of Social Cohesion with responsibilities for Youth Development, Dr. George Norton who advised the GNYC Executives that the policy will once again go to Cabinet for review.
It is my opinion that our National Youth Policy is an excellent roadmap for Youths in Guyana since it includes almost every areas of concern faced. Our National Youth Policy is the single most important framework for youths in Guyana and I urge all to read the policy in its entirety.
Our youths must educate themselves about the various focus areas of the policy, allowing them to know what benefits can be derived from the policy. Only then, can we meaningfully engage the decision makers, the Department of Youth and other organizations to advocate for inclusion and development of youths in decision-making.
At the event, I heard the usual rhetoric that enough is not being done for young people and that young people need to be given a chance. But as one of the organizers rightly urged, we must boldly hold, not only the Government accountable, but all other entities vowing to represent youths.
In this regard, I take a step further, to urge our young people to take ownership of the National Youth Policy and leverage the voting power of the youths to influence Government to immediately commence work on the National Youth Empowerment Action Plan which will guide the implementation of the Policy.
Many of the issues and concerns that were raised at the event are important areas of focus in the policy. More so, many of the problems which exist would have been alleviated, if the policy was already operational.
Finally, I am pleading with the Department of Youth, through the Ministry of Social Cohesion to urgently commence working on the National Youth Empowerment Action Plan to implement the National Youth Policy.
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