'A momentous occasion' - Youth Advisory Council now a reality
Sixteen of Jamaica's sharpest young minds were yesterday officially tasked with serving the first Youth Advisory Council of Jamaica (YACJ) during its inaugural installation ceremony.
The ceremony was held at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Andrew.
The YACJ is intended to facilitate the continuous engagement of young people in youth development policy and programming actions of the government.
It is also being coordinated with the intent of facilitating dialogue between young people and all Government of Jamaica ministries.
The criteria comprise a diverse mix of voluntary service to country, knowledge of government, experience in youth and policy development, and entrepreneurship.
Michele Small Bartley, senior director of youth and adolescence policy, outlined the tedious selection process in giving her overview of the council.
Small Bartley said more than 150 qualified applicants submitted bids for membership.
Both private- and public-sector representatives aided in shortlisting candidates via panel interviews.
Upon completion of the interviews, the eventual 16 prospects managed scores above 80 per cent, leading to their appointment to the panel.
The age bracket of the council is set at 18-29 years. The current council spans 18-26 years of age and members are given two-year tenures.
Speaking with The Gleaner about the initiative, Small Bartley said: "Gone are the days that the youth have no voice. This will help us to concretise youth participation and engagement in the national decision making process."
Donning his 'Youthful Prime Ministerial' cap, Andrew Holness delivered a charismatic charge to the council, stating that "energy, innovation & optimism" are key components to the decision-making process. He further emphasised Government's commitment to the movement.
Minister of Education Ruel Reid, in his address, stated: "In the members of this advisory council, we have the best of energy, creativity, commitment and vision."
He further said: "We have reason to celebrate as the council is being launched in a time when we are faced with an avalanche of negatives."
DIRECT CHANNEL TO INFORMATION
Floyd Green, minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, told The Gleaner: "It is a momentous occasion. It gives young people a direct channel to influence policies and programmes that impact them."
He further added: "It also gives the Government an opportunity to call upon some of our best and brightest young people as advisers."
YACJ Chairman Aubrey Stewart, 23, told The Gleaner: "I plan to lead from a transformational perspective. It's an inclusive agenda, young people in rural and urban spaces, young people on the street, young people in agriculture. We believe that we represent the voice of young people. We have been fighting for years to advance youth interest and now we have the platform to exercise that interest, and we will not let our young people down."
When asked if there's any added pressure in being the first chairman of the council, he said: "No, I do have a supportive team, and support from communities, organisations and youth parliamentarians. Once we set our minds to it, the work shall be done."
He also asked young persons to "roll out, be a change and get ready for what's about to come".
The YACJ is the steering committee for the National Youth Parliament programe. The youth parliamentarians, through the research guidance and coaching of the YACJ, made presentations during the recent sitting of the youth parliament. Their presentations were on three key areas - climate change, youth unemployment and psychosocial care for students.
The YACJ will be targeting the same areas during its tenure.