Fri | Dec 6, 2019

Youth parliamentarians tackle thorny nat’l issues

Published:Tuesday | November 12, 2019 | 12:14 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

Gordon House was in session yesterday, but instead of the elected representatives, young people from Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey vigorously debated issues of national concern, including abortion reform, climate change and youth violence prevention, among others.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information convened the 10th sitting of the National Youth Parliament of Jamaica yesterday as part of activities to observe Youth Month, with more than 100 youngsters participating in the exercise.

Romario Whyte, youth parliamentarian for St Andrew West Central, indicated that the current abortion law should be revisited.

“It is a shame, Madam Speaker, that a 19th-century law has remained unaltered since its adoption, putting our women of reproductive age at increased risk of death,” he told the Youth Parliament. “With no access to safe abortion, women, especially [those] of low socio-economic backgrounds, look to the black market to have abortion performed.”

Whyte said that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica has identified unsafe abortions as a growing issue, moving from the fifth-leading cause of direct maternal death in early 2000 to third currently.

Shaneil Salmon, the St James Central representative, moved a motion on youth violence prevention, saying that the issue has long plagued the Jamaican society.

St Andrew East Central’s Rojae Danvers, who is also state minister for economic growth and job creation, said that in Jamaica today, “Crime and violence trends more than conversations on Twitter.”

Proactive approach

He urged the Government to take a proactive approach to tackling the serious issue.

“It’s important to note that youth violence is an epidemic … . This means violence is the leading cause of death by young people, and that is a travesty,” Danvers added.

St Andrew South West representative O’Bryan Henry, who moved a motion of climate change, said that the issue presented unique challenges to small and developing states such as Jamaica.

“The difficulty that these countries face in effectively coping with climate-change impacts is overwhelming in small island developing states because of their small geographic area, isolation, and exposure,” Henry told his colleagues in the House.

St Catherine North East representative Javaughn Keyes emphasised that like other small island developing states, Jamaica was finding it difficult to fund climate action strategies. In this regard, he said that international funding was crucial.

“This also emphasises the need for greater local responsibility to grow climate-action strategies,” Keyes added.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com