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State of the Nation Debate - Senator Warren Newby

Release Date: 
Friday, July 18, 2008 - 15:30

Debate Presentation by Senator Warren Newby Parliamentary Secretary Ministry of Information, Culture Youth & Sports July 18, 2008

Overview

Mr. President, members of this honorable senate it is with deep gratitude and sense of responsibility that I rise this morning to make my contribution to this state of the nation debate. I do so Mr. President in the context of parliamentary secretary in a Ministry charged with the responsibility of Social Transformation, through its subject areas of Information, Culture ,Youth ,Sports, Community Development, Entertainment and Gender Affairs.

Allow me the privilege, to express thanks to a number of persons: God Almighty for his continued protection and blessings, more than I that have been more than I have been deserving, to my wife and family for their continued support without which success in politics is not possible to the Honorable Prime Minister who saw fit to bestow on me this appointment, who Mr. President reminds us of Ester 4 vs. 14 “A man, who has come to the kingdom for such time as this “.He leads Mr. president with in the fine traditions of leaders that the JLP has provided the country, as Sir Alexander himself positioned, “What Jamaica needs is practical and sympathetic men interested in the country”. To my Honorable minister whose guidance I have come to rely on, to the staff at my office and at the national center for youth development. Last, but certainly not least the management and membership of Generation 2000 (G2K) an organization that I have had the privilege of leading for the last two (2) years.

Youth Empowerment

Mr. President, the title of my presentation is Youth Empowerment- the Catalyst for sustainable development and solution to the problems of our time. Youth empowerment Mr. President is the engagement and empowerment of young people to enhance their contribution to development. It is a rights base approach examining the challenges faced by young people and positioning them as a force for peace, equality and good governance as an essential resource for sustainable development and wealth creation.

Within this framework we seek to promote respect for human dignity and equality. We seek to promote the rule of law, good governance and the protection of the in alienable rights of all human beings. We seek to enhance the role of young people in every aspect of the development processes including: economics, health, protection of the environment, participation in decision making and leadership, entrepreneurship and security. Mr. Speaker I will be examining focal areas to achieving youth empowerment excepting for the areas of Health, Education and Sports which have been or will be dealt with by colleagues on this side.

Situational Analysis

Mr. President, there is no doubt that our country is weathering a most tempestuous storm, predicated on the escalation of Oil prices in the world, and increases in food prices, triggering concomitant increases in inflation. This situation has been further complicated by an economic recession in the world largest economy, and the largest importer of Jamaican goods, the US of A. The crisis is one that we have been ill prepared for, because of a number of factors. One successive government has failed to take tough decisions in fear of the political outcomes of those decisions. Two, we are a country with very little resources to buffer us from external shocks. Three the last administration failed Mr. Speaker despite the ominous warning signs to place the country in a position to weather the prevailing crisis.

Four Mr. President is the readiness and willingness of the Jamaican people themselves to make the small changes in their own lives that will augment the overall changes that we desire and need for our collective survival.

And I wish Mr. President to share a few examples.

The Ministry of health spends, a large percentage of its budget on emergency care, it spends additional significant sums treating non communicable diseases, the origins of which are based on lifestyle choices, what we eat, how we conduct our lives. We can’t continue to eat fatty foods Mr. Speaker and hope for good health. Disease related to smoking, accidents related to drunken driving, and we are forced to pay as taxpayers for those decisions. Mr. President, the second example is the energy crisis. We do not produce oil. And even though the expressed intent is to diversify our energy sources, it is at best medium term.

Therefore what has to be done Mr. President in the immediate short term is conservation. Simple things such as the turning off lights that are not in use, driving within the prescribed speed limits to conserve on gas, carpooling Mr. President are part and parcel of what it is that we do. I pause Mr. President to recommend that we as parliamentarians begin to practice this as symbol of our own commitment to change. The third Mr. President would be the issue of crime and violence. A significant number of murders are caused by domestic violence, families and neighbors’ who are unable to solve differences without coming to blows. If we were able to reason Mr. President then we would that we would have fewer murders. Mr. President the major percentage of murders has been perpetuated by gang violence, Mr. President but these gangs exist in communities, and these communities have citizens who are crying for government to do something and government is saying without your information and willingness to testify, there is a limit to what government can do.

Mr. President we also have a problem with productivity. Over the last 10 years, investment in capital goods such as machinery and information technology has been growing at a phenomenal rate of over 8 per cent per annum. However over that same period the country’s GDP was merely growing by a little over 1 per cent per annum. More recent data shows that the country’s output per worker have been relatively stagnant, with a growth rate of 0.01 per cent per annum for the period 1990 - 2003. This helps to explain the investment paradox that the country has been experiencing over the last 10 years.

Despite record foreign direct investment our total factor productivity growth in Jamaica has been negative. Over the period 1990-2005 there have been a loss in total factor productivity of over 1 per cent per annum. This loss in productivity is the major reason I believe for our poor economic performance.

It in this context Mr. President that the relevance of Youth Empowerment comes to the fore, because we will only be able to overcome these challenges if we empower our youth with the necessary information and strength of character to make informed and principled decisions. As posited by Mary McLeod Bethune (American Educator and adviser to US president Franklin D. Roosevelt on the problems of minority groups. 1875-1955).

“We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends” a mandate that we have accepted, and will now seek to demonstrate how we are going about fulfilling it.

Who Are the Youth?

Youth in Jamaica is defined as persons ages 15 to 24, which accounts for 18% of the population. If we were to use generalized principles of young people as being those under age 30 it would be almost half of our current population, and therefore means that our policies are going to have the greatest impact on this generation than any other age group.

Based on information from Children First and UNICEF Jamaica first published July 2006, shows that the majority (90%) of adolescents were dependent on their parents, relative, guardians or friends for financial support. Statistics shows that of our youngsters 44% and 36% are supported by one or both parents respectively, these figures make up 80% of the sample and therefore Mr. President leaves an alarming 20% who are financially supported by neither parent. Seven Percent (7%) of adolescents were employed (mean they work for their pay); while 4% say that they simple hustle to obtain financial support.

Mr. Speaker, when we examine carefully the statistics of crime it reveals a most lopsided position in relation to our youth. They by and large are the victims of major crimes they are by and large the bulk the perpetrators of major crimes. They are three times more likely to be unemployed, and are also disproportionately the victims of poverty.

What are they doing?

The majority of youth in Jamaica Mr. President are doing well for the most part they are healthy, attend school, participate in sports, join youth groups, and engage in recreational activity. Young people volunteer, attend church are very aware and active.

The Government's Role
Mr. President, to achieve youth empowerment it is important in the first instance for government to clearly define its role and to strengthen the ministries, and departments related to youth empowerment along with provide for inter-ministerial coordination thus promoting the efficient delivery of services. This alone Mr. President can reduce the duplication of effort and to efficiently allocate resources to the maximum benefit of our young people. Mr. Speaker, in this regard, a memorandum of understanding for inter-ministerial coordination between the sponsoring Ministries of the national Youth Policy will be signed shortly. That will give greater impetus to the inter-ministerial committee which evaluates the implementation of the Policy. A secretariat for that committee is established at the National Centre for Youth Development, as part of its monitoring and evaluation of the youth policy. Mr. President, additionally the National Centre for youth Development has been strengthened. The centre for youth development has been mandated by the youth policy of 2004 to be the principal agency for the coordination and integration and design of programmes, services and activities geared towards youth development in Jamaica. In addition to an over 80% increase in budget.

It has been a time of growth and progress for NCYD in its work in the youth development field. Additional staff was employed, a new Youth Information Centre opened and outreach programmes expanded. It is anticipated planned that the year 2008/9 will see this growth continue with new programmes being implemented to aid us in our work to better serve the needs of our Jamaican youth. Key areas in which work will be undertaken include strengthening work across all parishes, expanding the reach of our Youth Information Centre’s, addressing key issues of relevance to our youth such as entrepreneurship, literacy and HIV/AIDS and developing our work with youth clubs and the National Youth Council.

Parish Based Youth Work

NCYD delivers its work on the ground through a network of parish-based youth empowerment officers. Currently 23 officers are deployed across the island, and these officers work in supporting youth clubs, undertaking outreach to unattached young people, aiding in the development of student councils in schools, disseminating information, carrying out training and empowerment sessions and operating youth information centres. Recruitment is currently underway to increase the number of parish based youth officers to 30, to ensure that all 14 parishes and Portmore have two officers assigned to them. This will enable the work they carry out to be strengthened and support provided for more young people. It is hoped that within the next 2 years, we will be able to further increase this complement to one per development area to better serve our nation’s youth.

In the new financial year, the work of the youth officers will also be targeted to working on behavior change communication activities. Behaviour change communication is the process of change the behavior of a target population through empowerment and self-efficacy. This will enhance the strategies that are used by the officers to encourage positive relationships with the youth and engage unattached young people in meaningful activities. Each parish is currently in the process of developing a behavioural change project which will be targeted at specific communities within the parish which have been identified as having an urgent need for such activities.

Second

Mr. President, the second task that faces us in our bid to empower our young people, is our ability to promote and engage them in the decision making process of our country. Mr. President it is imperative that we engage our young men and women to participate in political leadership at the different levels of government, in the halls of decision making at all levels of our society. That is why Mr. Speaker we are not happy when we hear people in some places seeking to disband youth organizations because it is essential that our young people be engaged and supported for the sustenance of our democracy. Mr. President we have continued with programmes such as the national Youth parliament and are in discussions with the speaker of the House of Representatives exploring avenues of strengthening it. We have continued with the youth Mayors and councilor’s initiative, under the local government reform programme and have taken the bold step of providing financing for a community based project initiated by each youth parish council. Mr. Speaker other initiatives under our Youth and Student Leadership Programmes Have continued to florish.

We strongly believe that our young people are the greatest resource that we have in Jamaica. As such, we believe that they need to be provided with opportunities to develop their skills and potential to become leaders of the future, but also leaders of today. NCYD aims to do this through our work with youth clubs across the island as I have highlighted above, and also through our work with the National Secondary Students Council (NSSC) and the Jamaica Youth Ambassadors Programmes (JAYAP)

JAYAP was developed with the primary aim of enabling youth to become ambassadors to represent the concerns, needs and successes of the nation’s youth. The Youth Ambassadors therefore take on the role of advocates for other young people on the national and international level. Throughout the past year, Young Ambassadors have made numerous media appearances speaking on relevant social issues affecting our youth and presently sit on various boards relevant to youth concerns.

During this financial year, we will be working on ensuring that the youth ambassadors are represented on a wider range of policy advisory bodies so as to ensure that the views of young people are better represented in all areas of government work, which will form a key part of our work towards youth mainstreaming. The Ambassadors will also be engaging in more small scale activities in schools and communities across the island so as to increase their visibility among the youth they are serving and to ensure that they are accurately representing the views of a wide cross section of youth.

The Youth Ambassadors will also be focusing on specific areas of work which are of high importance to youth through increased advocacy, information dissemination and project development and implementation. Some of these key areas include those relating to entrepreneurship, the Millennium Development Goals, self-esteem and the CARICOM Single Market. They will also be concentrating on work related to environmental issues such as climate change, food security and the international oil crisis. Our young people are the ones who will inherit the world’s environmental problems so it is vital that they start to develop ways to address these themselves.

The NSSC was implemented with one of the main objectives being to identify, advance and promote the interests of students. Currently, 96% of secondary schools have elected student councils. We are committed during this financial year to increase this number to 100% to ensure that students in all secondary schools across the island have the opportunity to have their voices heard and to play a part in the governance of their schools.

The aims of NSSC were reflected in Student Council Week 2008 which was held during the period February 11-16 under the theme “Empowered Students with Positive Vibes, Making Informed Decisions”. The week saw a number of activities which included a church service and Student Council Exchange Day. Under the guidance of the NCYD, the national elections for the NSSC executive were hosted during April and May 2007, with twenty-two persons being elected for the national executive. Elections for the new executive to oversee the body during the 2008/9 school year are scheduled to take place in September 2008.

The NSSC Capacity Building Workshop was also hosted last year from July 15-28, 2007 at the University of the West Indies, Mona. This Workshop had the goal of equipping student leaders with the relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes to advocate and effect positive behavioural change among their peers. This year, 115 student councilors from 64 secondary schools across the island participated from July 15 – 28, including the national executive. We are aiming to increase the number of participants at this summer’s workshop to 160 youth leaders.

It is important to note that for the first time, last summer’s workshop had 12 student leaders from Junior High Schools from across the island in attendance which reflects the current work of NCYD towards expanding student councils to All-Age and Junior High Schools. During the last financial year, 25 Junior High Schools have been consistently involved in the activities of NSSC. NCYD aims to double this figure during the new financial year to reflect the need that students in these schools have to be representatives and have their voices heard.

During the last financial year, NSSC has undertaken work in several key areas. They have acted as an advocacy body for students through representing them on bodies including those related to the Education Transformation process and speaking out for them in the media. They have undertaken social service projects, including visiting and supporting children’s homes in all 6 education regions. They have been involved in working to prevent violence in schools through training and through having interventions in schools at risk and schools which have experienced incidences of violence. They have also been involved in mediations between the governing bodies in schools and the students when issues have arisen.

The work that NCYD has been doing with NSSC has now been recognized by other countries as an example of best case practice. This is shown by the fact that Antigua and Barbuda has asked us for assistance in developing student councils in their country. We are proud that our student leaders are taking this programme seriously and that their work is being recognized across our region.

    Mr. President the third step in achieving youth empowerment requires us to take action to promote gender equality among youth and equality for youth in special circumstances. In this regard Mr., President the Bureau of Women and Gender Affairs have been doing most marvelous work.

The push for gender neutrality of existing legislation is fuelled by the value and goal of equality, that all persons are entitled to be equal before and under the law and to receive equal benefit and equal protection of the law. This effort is in keeping with international and regional trends to ensure that all the laws are gender neutral so that the legal concept that all individuals (women, men, girls & boys) are equal before the law can now be more of a reality. As the matter relates to sexual violence, Mr. President While it is acknowledged that it is mostly women and girls who are victims of sexual violence, there is an increasing incidence of sexual violation of boys. It must also be acknowledged also, that not only males are perpetrators of sexual offences; it is against this background that discussions regarding the Offences Against the Person Act and the Incest (Punishment) Act will incorporate the gender neutrality concept allowing for both genders to be accountable to the law.

    The Development of the National Gender Policy (NGP) which should allow for gender to be more definitively mainstreamed in public policies, programmes and plans as well as create more opportunities for redress regarding offences committed among women and girls.

New policies such as the National Gender Policy (NGP) and the Sexual Harassment Policy (SHP) have been developed to address various forms of discrimination against women and the girl child, including sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and aspects of gender-based violence. The Sexual Harassment Policy is being developed with a view to addressing issues relating to sexual harassment in the workplace, educational institutions, in accommodations, in health facilities and other institutions. (See pp.9-10 for a full discussion on the National Gender Policy as a tool towards Gender Mainstreaming)

The National Gender Policy (NGP) emphasizes the need for training of the judiciary, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and the media in the design and implementation of a comprehensive strategy to combat and eradicate violence against women and girls, punish offenders and provide services to the victims.

The National Gender Policy (NGP) endorses the establishment of a monitoring and evaluating mechanism to regularly assess the impact and effectiveness of law enforcement measures and programmes aimed at preventing and addressing violence against women and girls and recommends the establishment of clear budgetary allocations for programmes geared towards ending gender-based violence as promulgated by the Women’s Manifesto and endorsed by the policy.

    2. Promoting the agenda as outlined in the MDG s agenda: namely goal three (3) - ‘Promote gender equality and empower women’. The Bureau of Women’s Affairs is engaged in ongoing public education, training and sensitization of women and girls around issues related to women and girls. Through the Rural Development Programme (RADA) and the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers (JNRWP) many rural women’s groups are being organized around economic activities in agriculture and related enterprises.

Through the effort of NGOs such as women’s media watch great effort has been made to provide training for young people in Gender sensitisation and awareness, as seek to battle negative stereotypes and labels that have hampered our relationships and social development.

Mr. President, additionally effort is also being made to continue the efforts of former Senator Floyd Morrison’s push for equality for disabled youth.

The next indicator Mr. president in our quest for youth empowerment takes us to the area of the provision of access to information and communication technology. In this regard, Mr. President, Youth Information Centres NCYD has as a strategic objective to create spaces and opportunities for youth in order to increase participation. One of the key methods used by NCYD to achieve this objective is the development and operation of Youth Information Centres (YIC) across the island. During the last financial year, NCYD operated three existing YICs (Kingston, Port more and St Mary) and opened an additional centre in Portland on June 8, 2007. Work is currently near completion on a centre in St James, and one in St. Ann which is scheduled to be opened to the public later this year.

These Centres are youth friendly spaces that allow youth to be comfortable discussing and accessing information on issues concerning them – from sex to HIV/AIDS to employment and personal advancement. They serve as an avenue to facilitate the empowerment of young people through the provision of information in a non-judgmental and friendly environment. Informing and educating young people about issues such as HIV/AIDS, drug use and teenage pregnancy is enhanced by the provision of the Cyber Café and a resource centre that allows them to use computers, ‘hang out’ or complete their assignments.

Additionally, YICs are a focal point for the work among youth-focused organizations and a clearinghouse for information required for research, planning or implementing programmes targeting the 15-24 population. The services offered by the YIC include free access to the internet, counselling and referral services, empowerment sessions, and information on scholarships, career development, youth organizations, entrepreneurship programmes, educational facilities and training opportunities.

These centres have filled a void in their parishes, which is evidenced by the high level of usage that all of these centres experience. The Portmore Youth Information Centre was used 14,965 times last year, with 639 new users. This figure was achieved despite the Centre experiencing major space constraints, working without the requisite number of staff members and experiencing major difficulties in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean. The Centre has also undertaken many outreach programmes in the community, including ‘Thumbs Up’, an HIV/AIDS initiative in collaboration with UNICEF and the Portmore Youth Council. This initiative trained 100 peer educators, tested 250 young people and engaged over 3,000 young people on this issue.

The St Mary Youth Information Centre was used 8,977 times in 2007/8, with 467 new users. These figures were also achieved in a challenging environment, with major road works occurring directly outside the centre. This centre continues to undertake significant work in the field of youth employment and entrepreneurship, including working with the Jamaica Business Development Centre on a sensitization session, mobilizing for the Youth for Entrepreneurship Workshop in Kingston and facilitating an entrepreneurship workshop with NYS participants.

The Kingston YIC was used 7,750 times in the last financial year, with 562 number of new users. During the course of the year, the centre was relocated from Caenwood Centre to Half-Way-Tree Road, in line with the centralisation of the youth operations of this Ministry. During 2007, the YIC coordinated a series of programmes which engaged approximately 600 unattached youth including free computer classes, a film series, activities for Black History Month, a Youth Explosion and an outreach foundation.

Our newest Youth Information Centre was opened in Portland this year. Since its opening in June 2007, this centre has been used 17,398 times, with 2,049 new users. This centre is our largest YIC to date and is also the first centre to benefit from having outdoor sports space, and these additions are reflected in the high user ship that the centre has been able to attract in such a short period of time. The centre embraces a variety of activities that seek to enhance the development of the youth ranging from ongoing empowerment and peer group sessions to training in areas of personal development and entrepreneurship. To further facilitate this process of growth and development, the Portland YIC in association with the Portland Youth Council launched its series of ongoing seminars on Leadership and Healthy Lifestyles with the goal of improving discipline and leadership skills within the uniformed groups and youth clubs.

We are committed to expanding the reach of these centres through increasing the number of centres across the island. Plans are in place to ensure that a YIC will be operational in all parishes within the next three years. All of the centres that are being developed will have a cyber centre with at least 14 computers, office space for three staff members, a resource area and a meeting space. We are also aiming to ensure that these centres also have outdoor sporting facilities, which will attract more unattached youths to these centres. All of these centres will be based in areas within the parishes that are transportation hubs so as to ensure that the maximum possible numbers of young people are able to access these services.

Funding has been committed by UNICEF to the value of J $15 million to develop centres in St Thomas, St Elizabeth and St Ann. The centre in St Ann should be opened during the course of this financial year, and work will begin on the centres in St Elizabeth and St Thomas to ensure their opening during the first quarter of the next financial year. These centres will be located in existing buildings owned by the government which will be fully refurbished and retrofitted to meet the needs of the youth.

On April 17, 2008, an agreement was signed with the Korean Organization for International Co-operation Agency to the value of J $37.4 million to develop centres in Manchester and Westmoreland. These centres will be the first centres which NCYD will fully construct based on a prototype youth friendly design, and will also be the largest centres to date at 280 square meters each. These centres are due to be completed by March 2009.

Discussions are currently nearing completion with the IDB in relation to the development of centres for St Catherine, Clarendon, St Andrew, Hanover and Trelawny. We are expecting to sign this agreement during the course of this financial year, with three centre’s to be ready in the 09/10 financial year and two centres in the 10/11 year.

The fifth Step Mr. Speaker is Youth Mainstreaming

The government recognises that youth work is carried out by a myriad of agencies and organisations in the government, non-government and private sectors. As such, a key part of our mandate is to co-ordinate this work through bringing together the key stakeholders to share ideas, promote joint working and ensure that there are high standards and common aims across the field. We are committed to strengthening our work in this area over the course of the new financial year so as to prevent duplication of efforts and to ensure maximum efficiency.

It is also recognised that the business of youth development cannot be confined to purely the government departments that have specific responsibility for youth such as NCYD and NYS. Rather, it has to be recognised that youth development is the responsibility of all. Our youth are our key resource in the positive development of Jamaica, but we need to recognise that they can easily become a major force for negative development. As indicated before our young people represent a disproportionate number of those who are unemployed, those who are living below the poverty line, those who suffer from HIV/AIDS, those who are engaged in criminal activities and those who are victims of violence. As such, we need to ensure that all government programmes involve young people in all stages from planning to implementation and through to monitoring and evaluation, so as to ensure that their specific needs are fully met.

Sixth on the list Mr. President is Youth Entrepreneurship

Mr. President Key to the empowerment of our youth is our ability to implement measures to promote the economic enfranchisement of our youth.

The RT. Hon Don McKinnon, Commonwealth Secretary General expressed the view that over one million Young men and women throughout the commonwealth will enter the labour force between the year 2000 and 2015, without concomitant number of jobs waiting on them. In Jamaica, Mr. President Youth unemployment stands at almost three times the national average, and they also dominate those affected by poverty. Mr. President, it is a well established fact that the mega investments in our country has not produced the number of jobs.

Studies have pointed to the fact that the establishment of new and small business is an engine for job creation and not true of necessarily of mega corporations. Comparatively, countries with greater entrepreneurship impetus experience significant reduction in unemployment rates. Therefore it is important that Jamaica takes action to create a culture of entrepreneurship among our young people and to create and support the enabling conditions under which young people can access capital, take risk in their own interest and that of the country at large.

Mr. President I am indeed proud to indicate that the government is currently undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at fostering youth entrepreneurship in Jamaica.

In the first instance, the government is partnering with the Prince of Wales trust to create the Jamaica youth Business trust. This will provide venture capital funds to citizens under the age of 30 with the collateral requirement being restricted to their willingness to accept a mentor from the established private sector and a sound business plan. This will come on-stream in August of this year. Come next year Mr. President we will be seeking to expand this scheme through the Commonwealth youth credit initiative.

In the second instance we are cognizant that youth business has its own peculiarities as a subsect of SME’s. And are of the view that the sector is in need of policy directive for it to achieve its maximum potential. So Mr. President a committee has been established involving the key academics, the Likes of Dr. Kadamawe Knife, Dr. Adrian Stokes, institutions such as the JBDC, organizations such as the young entrepreneurs association and the small business association to develop a position paper on the matter, for submission to cabinet by November of this year. Mr. President the aim of the committee is to develop a comprehensive set of policy recommendations aimed at facilitating an environment whereby youth are able to establish and successfully operate their own businesses.

To achieve this the committee, will be reviewing and assessing:

     the current requirements needed for youth to start and register their businesses,
    to evaluate the nationally specific needs of the youth business sector and identify strategies to address these needs
    To evaluate the secondary school curriculum on entrepreneurship and to make recommendations
    to identify strategies to integrate government’s approach to assisting youth businesses:
    to develop and index to track growth and progress in youth Business and to Identify strategies to strengthen existing youth businesses, among other tasks.

Mr. President, Comparatively, Jamaica is considered to be very entrepreneurial. Approximately 17% of the population had an interest in conducting some form of business according to a global Entrepreneurship Monitoring report. The report further highlighted that, “Jamaica’s overall rate of entrepreneurial activity compares favourably with countries such as New Zealand (2005 -28.26) considered among “the world’s most entrepreneurial countries”. Further comparison with nations of similar economic structure, showed Jamaica ahead of Nations like Argentina, Chile, Mexico, South Africa based on the number of embryonic and early entrepreneurs who continued on to operate sustainable enterprises.

With this in mind Mr. President. We are encouraging our youth into business, from agriculture led by the efforts of the 4H clubs, to tourism under the guidance of Topco, to entertainment and the cultural industries.

Collaboration with the NGOs

Mr. President a seventh key area towards achieving youth empowerment Mr. President is the Strengthening of social support systems and collaboration between key stakeholders in youth work and government. I want Mr. President at this time to recognize the work of a number of NGO‘s who have been making significant contribution to Youth Development in our Country. Mr. Speaker I want the records to show our appreciation to Mrs. Claudia Pius and the staff at Children First for their Initiative Known as the Bashy Bus. Mr. President this is a mobile HIV awareness Clinic that goes from community to community disseminating information on HIV/Aids and other health related issues to our young people, I want to big up ms Sheila Graham and the area youth foundation, Mr. President for the work they are doing using the arts as means of peace-building and resocialization of our inner-city youths. These two initiatives are world recognized and award winning. I want to show the appreciation of the government and the people of Jamaica for these sterling contributions. Pr. President there are thousands of others, who are out there laboring in the interest of our youth. We want to thank them and urge them to continue.

In this regard Mr. President we are proud of the new working committees that have been established between MICYS and the uniformed groups, and other established NGO/s involved in Youth work. Mr. President the government bases its social intervention on the geographic demarcations developed by the Social Development Commission. This agency has identified that there are 750 communities Island wide, and we recognize that in those communities there are churches, all of which have some form of youth organization. It is our expressed intent to engage these churches and the youth in them as positive role models, and to use their network to enable us to have greater reach and coverage of young people. Work has already started on this initiative and the responses have been positive as we speak to the leadership of the different umbrella church organizations.

Additionally Mr. President,

THE YOUTH CLUB MOVEMENT

We recognize that young people benefit tremendously from being engaged in youth groups. Such groups provide youth with the opportunity to meet with each other, engage in positive activities, and expand their horizons. Youth groups can be used as a means for dissemination information on vital issues such as HIV/AIDS, providing training, undertaking community service projects and developing self-esteem. As such, NCYD is committed to supporting these groups at the community, parish and national levels.

NCYD’s Youth Empowerment Officers support individual youth clubs across the parishes that they work in, ranging from disseminating information on opportunities available to conducting training and capacity building. The YEOs also assist the youth clubs with planning and implementing initiatives aimed at addressing the needs of the youth in their parish as necessary. This technical support to individual youth clubs will be accompanied by financial support through the provision of subventions for clubs to use as seed money for fundraising. In the new financial year, a total of J $5 million has been allocated to this process, to provide funding worth $25,000 to 200 youth clubs. We are also working on plans to provide additional support to marching bands as we have recognized that these groups are frequently working in some of our most challenging communities with little financial support. I am pleased Mr. President that our efforts have resulted in a commitment for technical assistance between the national centre for youth development and the Notre Dame University made possible by the St. Patrick’s foundation of Jamaica.

In addition to the support of individual youth clubs, during the previous financial year NCYD provided subventions to eight national uniformed youth organizations to work on priority areas of the National Youth Policy. These organizations were Girls Brigade, Boys Brigade, YMCA, YWCA, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, Pathfinders, and Cadets. Each group received funding of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000), a total of four million dollars ($4 m).

NCYD recognizes the importance of enabling the youth clubs to come together in parish and national bodies to act as a powerful advocacy voice for youth across the island. In working towards this, Parish Youth Councils are currently fully operational in eight parishes, and activities are underway to ensure all parishes have an active youth council by the end of this financial year. To ensure that these bodies are truly representative and democratic, NCYD will be facilitating parish general meetings for all youth clubs in every parish in July 2008 where they will have the opportunity to elect a parish executive who will take forward this process. Elections will also be held for positions on the National Youth Council, which will ensure that those elected to this national umbrella group are truly representative of the views of the youth clubs. At the parish meetings, all youth clubs will also have the opportunity to take part in the ratification of the new constitution for the National Youth Council. So far, over 800 youth clubs have registered to take part in this process, with additional clubs coming forward on a daily basis with the closing date for registration being May 30, 2008. We are proud to be building on the strong tradition of the youth club movement which has helped to develop so many of our national leaders over the years.

Youth at Risk

Mr. President the focal point is the reengagement of unattached youth and reduction of the threat factors to youth at risk. I begin this segment by looking at the street boys. Government’s intervention is called the Possibility Programme led by venerable Mrs. Lolita Phillips. It cates mostly to boys in the Commercial District of Half way Tree, and currently provides a number of resocialisation programmes and skills training for over forty boys. I am pleased Mr. President to inform this Honourable Senate that the Hostel for the street boys will be reopened in September of this year. This will provide a safe haven for them in the night particularly those without the necessary family support. The Possibility programme Mr. President has been assigned to MICYS and is now in the same building as the NCYD as we seek to consolidate the different areas under the youth portfolio. Mr. President another initiative titled the stoplight bright initiate has gotten on the way for boys living in the South St. Andrew area, primarily from the Hunts Bay / Tinson Pen area and majesty Gardens. This initiative is being spearheaded by one of our hardworking YEO’s Miguel Williams, with technical cooperation between NCYD and the Possibility programme. As it enfolds, further updates will be provided.

Second on this list Mr. President are teen mothers Mr. President. Many of our women, girls and children are exposed to a wide range of risks which impact seriously on their safety and development. These include risks associated with their physical and mental health, including their sexual and reproductive health; as well as risks relative to their economic situation including access to services and benefits; and risks related to their social situation, including housing and social and other benefits.

Young women and girls continue to be at risk despite the progress made in recent decades to improve their life circumstances; For example more women take advantage of the educational opportunities provided and in many respects are surpassing their male counterparts in terms of educational achievements yet they continue to grapple with male domination which is perpetuated through social, economic and political structures.

The progress achieved by women and girls belies the problems that continue to confront women them including increased risks in the area of health such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STI s), cervical and other cancers, drug abuse, early and unplanned pregnancy among other gender-specific issues. They are also more vulnerable to gender-based violence, including rape, incest, physical and sexual violence.

Statistics indicate that girls in the 15-24 age cohorts are up to six times at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS infection due to biological and social factors. Cultural norms of sexual ignorance among many women and girls block their access to prevention techniques and valuable information. Gendered power imbalance makes it difficult for women to negotiate safer sexual practices with their partners. Economic dependence and the fear of violence sometimes force women to consent to unprotected sex.

Mr. Speaker when they become pregnant the situation often worsens. There is the rejection by key family members and friends that they often face that exposes them to further abuse. Mr. President, through the efforts of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, we have continued to find school placements for teen mothers who have dropped out of school because of pregnancy. Attached to these centres and outreach stations are day care facilities and nurseries for the children of young mothers. The foundation also offers counselling sessions for teenage fathers and the parents of teen mothers. Mr. President through peer to peer counselling initiatives, and the increase public campaigns on reproductive health and safe sexual practices we are working to see a reduction in Teen age pregnancy.

Mr. President, there is an at risk group known as Poor youth in tertiary Institutions. Mr. President it is well known and accepted that nothing contributes more to reduction in poverty and inequity than education. Education enhances the ability of the poor to create value which they can exchange for goods and services they desire. Mr. President is also known that the ability of a country to achieve high level of wealth creation is dependent upon its stock of advance human capital which is driven by the quality and quantity tertiary trained workers. Moreover Mr. President an enhanced tertiary education system is pivotal in the knowledge- based approach to development and forms the basis by which intellectual capacity can be expanded and utilized to create nations with knowledge and skills. With these observations Mr. Speaker we are confronted with the facts that the enrollment of students into tertiary institutions from the two lower economic quintiles of Jamaica are below the national average. Mr. President, a significant number of them achieve matriculation but do not go on to higher education because of an inability to finance it and fear of an institution known as the students loan bureau. Mr. President we are aware of talks between the Ministry of Finance and the agency with a view to make it more user-friendly. While we anxiously anticipate the conclusion of those talks, Mr. President we are we are not satisfied that enough is being done to afford poor youth the opportunity that they need in this area.

We are convinced that reforms are needed towards ensuring that tertiary education is available to students who qualify academically, irrespective of their socio-economic background. Given the importance of a highly trained workforce to national development, it is necessary for us to reflect on its conduct to ensure that in the knowledge based world economy, no Jamaican student with academic potential is left behind due to lack of funds. Again we anxiously await the results of the discussions being held.

Conclusion

In conclusion Mr. President, Revision of the National Youth Policy

Youth work in Jamaica work is directly guided by the National Youth Policy (2004). When this policy was developed, it was recognized that the youth population is not static and its needs are constantly changing. As such, a five-year lifespan was put on the current policy, which will expire in 2009. As part of the process of preparing for the development of a new youth policy, during this financial year NCYD will undertake research into the current status of the youth population in Jamaica. While we recognize that research is available into the general state of the Jamaican population, currently no statistics are available which reflect the current status of youth and their needs across the whole island. Dialogue is underway with STATIN to carry out this research in an urgent manner, and the IDB has expressed an interest in funding this vital research. This research will ensure that the new policy is based on accurate information and is best able to guide the work of youth serving departments, agencies and organizations in meeting the needs of the youth population.

It is my considered opinion Mr. Speaker that if we establish and strengthen our focus on these critical areas of youth development, then we can overcome our challenges. We must! Mr. President and Yes… We will. I am confident that with the additional resources allocated and the new thrust by the government we will see a difference being made as we work to create the enabling conditions under which young people can act on their own behalf and on their own terms, rather than at the behest and direction of others.

I believe that in my lifetime we will see a Jamaica that is productive and developed sufficiently to provide jobs for its entire citizenry.

I believe that in my lifetime we will see a Jamaica that is peaceful where crime is reduced to manageable and negligible levels.

I believe that in my lifetime we will see an army of empowered youth in Jamaica taking charge of our destiny as commanded by Marcus Garvey.

Mr. President, I believe as did Franklin D Roosevelt that the only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.

Let us move forward with strong and active faith in our ability to overcome.

 

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