Youth Governance and Politics – Message from Vice President of The Barbados Youth Development Council
The contribution of our youth cannot be limited to just youth related topics but the broad cross sections of policy and programs that affect the society.
Governance speaks to the management, care and development of a country. It is an ongoing and necessary process which impacts upon the present and creates the future of a nation. It is also one which requires the active and meaningful involvement of young people. How can we as a nation consider ourselves as having achieved developed nation status without the contributions of the persons who will have to live through and with the decisions made by our leaders? The problem is however, that many persons do not believe that young people are able to make any substantial or meaningful contribution to society. They believe that young persons are best suited for speech competitions and public speaking events. I however know this is not true as there are many young people who are making meaningful contributions to their homes, communities and country.
In my years as a member of several youth organizations including the Barbados Youth Development Council, I have seen young people develop, manage and raise funds for many projects and programs. I’ve watched those young people sit down with auditors and give account for every well spent cent of their projects. I’ve also been privileged to see young people write comprehensive reports on their programs and projects. This is why I have every confidence in the ability of young people to fully participate in the development of ideas and programs that will help their country. I know they can develop practical ideas and strategies for the development, financing and ultimately the realization of their ideas. I am also confident that with the correct infrastructural support and assistance, youth can be responsible for the management and use of the resources allocated to making ideas, proposals and projects into an impactful reality.
Young people must not however be used as political pawns to score cheap political points. Their involvement must not be limited to tokenistic placements and appointments so that older persons can beat their chest and shout from the proverbial roof top that they have “young people” involved. I therefore make the case for the full involvement of young people in the governance process. As stated before it can’t be tokenism, because it will be asked how we can say in one breath we must support our youth and in another stifle their meaningful contribution. I would argue that to exclude our youth from participation would be hypocritical of the “powers that be.” The political environment of our country, like the governance structures must have the full involvement of our young people. They must be encouraged to take part fully and not be penalized for their involvement regardless of political philosophy.
I hasten to add that one of the things that hinder young persons from being involved in the development of their country is the fear that if they appear to be aligning themselves with any particular party or view point that they may become victims of political backwardness, tribalism and “yard fowl” politics.
We need therefore to encourage the development and participation of our young people in policy development and decision making. Indeed, youth need the guidance, advice and mentorship of the older members of our community as much as the country needs the energy and fresh insight which young people have to offer. This guidance however, must be balanced with a willingness to provide space and opportunities for young people to make decisions and be equal partners in the development and implementation of their ideas. We must teach accountability without pettiness, partisanship and political victimization. It is my firm conviction that this is the way forward for youth, governance and politics in Barbados.
Damian J. Mascoll
The Barbados Youth Development Council