Youth involvement vital to national development
Youth involvement and structured engagement are vital elements for national development, says Kethania Griffiths, executive director of Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica, while warning that failure by civil society and the political class to engage young people could spell trouble for the country's long-term economic and social well-being.
"Promulgate youth development and watch Jamaica's progress or you can ignore youth development and put the nation's aspirations at risk," Griffiths said at yesterday's launch of the Youth Inspired Safe Spaces Project at the Mona Visitors' Lodge in St Andrew.
Griffiths said that the country's leaders, civil society, as well as parents, must give youths an opportunity to not only express themselves, but to also contribute to the development dialogue at the national level.
When quizzed if she thought that there was enough youth activism around important matters with direct bearing on the country's long-term development agenda, Griffiths said that there were signs that young people were getting more involved in the national dialogue.
"We are seeing a lot more being done in areas of youth development and that is always going to be a good thing for any country. But I want to warn that any easing off could spell trouble for the country's long-term goals," insisted Griffiths.
The programme is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the tune of US$50,000, or $6.1 million.
Each youth group will receive US$8,000 to purchase equipment and to implement the various initiatives for the creation of Safe Spaces. Phase one of the programme includes community research on safe spaces, from which the data will be analysed, and results used in creating projects.
The Safe Space Programme is a collaborative effort between the United States Embassy and the Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica engaging the Allman Town Police Youth Club, Cambridge Police Youth Club of St James, and the Gordon Pen Police Youth Club in an eight-monthlong project.
Meanwhile, international youth advocate Reginald Broddie, the keynote speaker at yesterday's event, said that Jamaica's youth must not be seen as problems, but part of the solutions.
"I am a firm believer that so goes the family, so goes the child. I also know that the dynamics are totally different than in the past where there was the hard-working ... get-it-done-at-all-cost mentality. Those things have fallen by the wayside and our kids have adopted those mindsets," he said.
"However, Jamaica's youths are not only the future. They hold the answers to the nation's crime and violence situation, its low growth and sluggish economic situation, and [therefore] should be given the safe spaces to express, dream and implement those dreams to advance the society in a positive way," said Broddie.