Youth mainstreaming with Commonwealth support

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

The Commonwealth Secretariat will fully support Belizean youth in their empowerment for greater participation in our economy and society. This was the message when the Secretariat hosted a consultation on youth mainstreaming at the Best Western Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City from Wednesday, February 27th through Friday, March 1st.
“We must respect our young people” affirmed Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Hon. Patrick Faber, who not too long ago was president of the National Youth Commission in 1996! At 41, Minister Faber is one of the youngest members of Cabinet, and he admitted he still regards himself as one of our ‘young’ people. He recalled some of the many success stories of young Belizeans who have blossomed into leaders who have gone on to represent Belize internationally with outstanding performance, and of course, Punta music composer the late Andy Palacio came to mind.
Young people must be voluntarily involved with flexibility and versatility, Faber urged, and Belizean youths should exploit our ethnic diversity, as they confront the challenges of gender, sexuality and old versus young. Inclusion and gender parity are important, Faber emphasized, saying it was important that all young people become involved. In this, he congratulated Mrs. Allison Mckenzie, Director of Youth Services, on what she has accomplished with very limited resources, and the new exuberance of the young people who have embraced programmes for their education and empowerment, such as the 4-H programme of agricultural training in rural areas. He thanked the Commonwealth representatives present for sharing their experiences so that there is no need to re-invent the wheel, as there are many tried and proven methods which Belize can draw upon to forge a way forward.
Belize is the first country in the Commonwealth to pilot this new initiative, social policy director Layne Robinson of the Commonwealth Secretariat assured the audience. He said what is tried and proven here can serve as a role model for all other members of CARICOM and the greater Commonwealth.
As he set out the priorities, he highlighted that young people have rights and must be seen as assets, which can be instruments for development, rather than a deficit on the national balance sheet. Admittedly the older, more conservative generation may look upon young people through a lens, where they are seen as a threat to the social order, but young people should also be seen through an economist’s lens, that they can be instruments to drive national economic development. Young people, especially children, may need welfare services, and they may also suffer injustice and inequities within the government system, but they have rights and can help identify the issues and have the imagination and innovation to find the solutions.
CARICOM’s Programme manager for Human Resources Development (Education) Laurette Bristol Ph.D. also laid out her vision for youth mainstreaming in the region. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and Financial Secretary Joseph Waight explained how to overcome some of the budgetary constraints, and how youth development can be funded.
More than 70 participants drawn from social development agencies in Belize participated in the consultation, including many from Commonwealth territories such as Anguilla, Antigua, and Barbuda, Bahamas, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands and of course, London, UK.
Their stated objectives were to arrive at an increased understanding and consensus on the principles, approaches, and outcomes of youth-centric national planning. They also worked to enhance participants’ capacities in the use of tools and techniques of analysis, planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation for youth mainstreaming. Their discussions focused on arriving at a consensus for a strategic framework for youth mainstreaming in Belize, with initial directions for the Commonwealth Caribbean. In doing so, they identified key stakeholders and first steps for an accountability mechanism for Belize.

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