Guyana will be observing Youth Week from May 18 – 25 2019, and it is expected that some 5000 young people from across the country would participate in various activities aimed at raising awareness about the issues affecting this segment of the population, and to possible lobby for changes at all levels.
During the launch last Wednesday, Director of Sport (ag), Leslyn Boyce, was quoted as saying that Youth Week activities were geared towards inspiring young people to commit themselves to pursuing the type of technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skills training to boost a green economy. She related that the Week further sought to provide an opportunity for youths across Guyana, regardless of political preference or religion, to be united for a better cause.
According to UN estimates, there are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But one in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones, and 24 million of them are out of school. The UN notes that political instability, labour market challenges, and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.
Here, in Guyana, there are ills affecting young people, and programmes and support services to help address these issues could never be enough. For example, currently, the youth unemployment rate stands at 22 per cent as at the end of 2018. This is quite high, and, if not addressed urgently, could result in serious social and other problems.
The use of illegal drugs and alcohol; crime, suicide, domestic and other forms of violence and so on are having a huge negative impact on communities. Now, more than ever before, there is need for a genuine, collaborative approach, with inclusive planning and coordination to help find practical and lasting solutions to these many ills.
While the Government must play a crucial role in designing the relevant policies and putting in place the necessary legislative framework and other support mechanisms aimed at addressing these issues, this burden must also be shared by other stakeholders — such as religious groups and the private sector etc. A case in point is that there is hardly any family in Guyana that has never been touched directly or indirectly by suicide. Experts have pointed to the fact that about 90 per cent of people who die by suicide had had some sort of mental illness at the time of their death. Young people are crying out for attention; they need guidance, or simply someone to speak with; many want to find a way out of their misery. However, sometimes accessing that source of help is very difficult.
As alluded to earlier, the role of the private sector should never be underestimated. There is need for funding for many crucial programmes aimed at creating better opportunities for young persons. Such programmes, once effectively implemented, would see our children and young people become well equipped with the necessary skills to develop themselves, and in turn contribute to the overall development of the country.
We had stated before that the private sector is one of the main beneficiaries of an educated and skilled workforce, and it should seek to invest in, and help to build, the pool of talent it wishes to draw from.
Additionally, it is well accepted that progressive countries in the world have strong systems for engaging youth in policy formation, and in creating or altering programmes designed to support youth.
With General Elections just around the corner, it is hoped that young people from across the country would come out of the shadows and actively participate in the debates and discussions about the issues which impact them and the kind of policies they wish to see implemented to address these issues. With opportunities afforded by newer technologies, including access to social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, there are numerous avenues to make these views known.
Our hope is that policy makers and other relevant stakeholders, who have an interest in seeing young people progress and achieve their full potential, would use Youth Week to truly reflect on where our young people are; e.g. what their priority needs are, and come up with meaningful mechanisms to ensure that these concerns and expectations are given serious attention.