National Youth Development Policy launched

vlcsnap-2013-02-27-18h59m37s239National Youth Development Policy launched. Belize is quite literally a youthful country – more than 70% of its 300,000 plus population is below the age of 29. And that segment of the population is under increasing stress from economic issues, crime and violence, and a pervading sense of hopelessness and despair. For several years now the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has led public consultations with youths countrywide to get their perspective on national issues. The result is a National Youth Development Policy which intends to make good on the promise of making Belize a better place for our youths to live. The first of several nationwide launches took place in Belize City at the Bliss Center this morning. UNICEF representative, Shirlene Neal-Tablada, says her organization is committed to helping Government address the issues discussed in the policy and the strategies to be implemented.

Shirlene Neal-Tablada – UNICEF representative:
vlcsnap-2013-02-28-06h36m26s198To begin with, when you look at the fact that we don’t have any framework that speaks about where we are going to invest and how we are going to invest in young people. So this policy lays out a framework that says “Okay, this is where we are going to work from, these are the areas in which we are going to invest.” And so the policy will be able to make a change because it identifies areas of employment, for example – how we can create business for young people, how we can support them in being entrepreneurs. How we can look at positive programs that will create opportunities for young people to be involved in sports, music and the creative arts. How we can ensure that we are supporting young people to complete their education. So all of those things are really great elements of what it would require for us to turn the situation around for young people and the policy outlines all of those things.

Minister of State, for Youth and Sports; Herman Longsworth, tells us what will be different with this policy.

Herman Longsworth – Minister of State, for Youth and Sports:
vlcsnap-2013-02-28-06h38m17s27The youth through the youth department, formerly the youth for the Future have been doing quite a bit. They haven’t been publicizing what they have been doing quite a bit. What you will see is more interaction by the youth – increase. More youth participation in what goes on as oppose to adults trying to do it for them. We will simply guide them to do it for themselves.  

And they will do it through a soon-to-be-established Youth Council; which will be answerable to and overseen the Government, as Minister Longsworth explains

Herman Longsworth – Minister of State, for Youth and Sports:
There is going to be a youth council that will be formed, which is going to be decided upon by the youth themselves as a part of the process – nationwide. That youth council will be responsible to hold Government to task on anything that Government has agreed to do. So they will come to us and say “These are the things we need done” we will work with them, dialogue with them until we come to appreciation of what we can and they will then be responsible for holding Government to task, to ensure that we get the things done that we have agreed to do.

So what do the youths want? A better standard of living, says the Minister.

Herman Longsworth – Minister of State, for Youth and Sports:
They want to be able to have access to education. They want to have access to places where they can congregate safely and they want to have access to programs that will grow them. Those are the basic things that they have been asking for. What have I said, the policy is more of a structure through which the youth can have better access to getting Government to do things on their behalf.  

Launches will be held in Corozal, Orange Walk and the rest of the country over the coming days.

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