Sat | Mar 28, 2020

Youth leaders: Simply being young has never been enough

Published:Wednesday | March 29, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Krystal Tomlinson
Rodje Malcolm

Two youth leaders have rejected and described the notion as misguided and uninformed that age is a critical factor in reaching the youth population.

A debate has again been stirred about the capacity of the leaders of both political parties to connect with the younger generation - Dr Peter Phillips, president of the People's National Party (PNP) being 67 years old, and Andrew Holness, prime minister and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader, being 44.

Phillips was, on Sunday, declared president of the PNP by acclamation at a special delegates' conference held at the National Arena in Kingston.

Krystal Tomlinson, media and communications consultant, believes that wooing young people will depend heavily on the political parties having robust youth organisations, rather than the age of its leaders.

"It's really not the party leader's job to inspire the confidence of young people and bring them on board in terms of becoming part of the voting public. That's why each of those political parties has a youth arm. So I would be more concerned if your youth arm is led by somebody who is 67, rather than being overly concerned about the age of the party leader," she told The Gleaner.

"For you to have a real impact, you have to go into their (youth) spaces, and I don't see either of the two (Phillips and Holness), on their own, being able to convince a youth population, without a strong, and robust youth arm, that can literally use the words that young people use."

She was quick to point out that she believes that both parties have youth structures that work, but noted that they only work for those who are already converted. As such, the 26-year-old believes there is need for both organisations to initiate strategic, compelling and modern methods to involve young people.


... Don't confuse presence with active participation - Malcolm

Rodje Malcolm, advocacy manager at Jamaicans For Justice, in giving his personal views on the impact the age of leaders have on the youth, said the mistake is often made in confusing "mere presence with active participation".

He applauded both administrations for designating youth representatives on the Partnership for Jamaica - a high-level governance council chaired by the prime minister.

"While a leader's age can impact the extent to which youth will identify with them, reducing youth support to simply a function of a leader's age would ignore the importance of that leader's actual policy positions and personal characteristics to gaining support. Youth, like everyone else, isn't monolithic," Malcolm said.

He added: "Young people hold diverse political perspectives, and have varying experiences that deserve to be taken into consideration. Political leaders - no matter their age - should prioritise directly engaging youth and developing youth-friendly policies if they truly seek their support. Simply being young has never been enough."