by Timothy Austin
Caribbean youth will benefit from capacity building in methods to mitigate community violence, gender-based violence (GBV), sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and mental health challenges during the inaugural Caribbean Youth Summit (CYS), which will be held 22 – 25 November in Jamaica.
The Summit occurs during the “Year of Youth”, declared in early 2023 by the Commonwealth in recognition of the importance of youth.
The Commonwealth initiative inspired the CYS 2023 theme, which seeks to place youth as the critical determinant of their destiny: “Securing Our Future: Youth Co-Creating a Peaceful and Sustainable Caribbean Community against GBV”.
The Summit will seek to provide a platform for youth to brainstorm strategies to secure the involvement of other community youth leaders in promoting prevention of GBV; it will also seek to strengthen youth’s socio-emotional capacity to address challenges associated with violence, SRH and mental health. The CYS will provide a platform for young people to share their experiences, ideas, and best practices on peace, security, safety, and sustainable development in the Caribbean.
In addition, Youth will develop recommendations for strengthening policies and programmes to address GBV, safety and security and strategies for dealing with mental health challenges experienced by young women, men, and girls in the Region.
According to Ms Michele Small-Bartley, Deputy Programme Manager, Youth Development, CARICOM Secretariat, another key objective of the Summit is to align the Region’s youth development efforts with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); she referred specifically to goal # 5: To achieve gender equality by ending all forms of discrimination, violence and any harmful practices against women and girls.
She also highlighted that the initiative seeks to create synergy with the CARICOM Youth Development Goals, Caribbean Development Bank Youth Policy and Operational Strategy, and the UNFPA Youth Strategy, “My Body, My Life, My World!”
Small-Bartley underscored that the critical outcome of the Summit would be the design of an integrated Roadmap that identifies the strategies and actions to address regional and national issues associated with peace, security, and safety for youth and generate positive social and gender norm changes to prevent violence.
Small-Bartley emphasised that the development of the Roadmap is based on the CARICOM Youth Development Action Plan (CYDAP), which aims to create a conducive environment for young people to build skills and resilience in the face of challenges related to gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, and mental health.
She highlighted that this is especially crucial because of the increased psychological and emotional health issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Small-Bartley also stressed the importance of preparing young people to thrive in a world that presents catastrophic challenges, where good decision-making, problem-solving, self-regulatory, and management skills are essential.
She also cited a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, which discovered that homicide was responsible for around 1 in 10 deaths among children and adolescents in the Region and is the leading cause of death among adolescents aged 10 to 19.
The study also indicated that the five countries with the highest homicide rates among children and adolescents worldwide are all located in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The time to act is certainly NOW,” stated the Small-Bartley, “we hope that the Summit brings us one step closer to realising the Region’s vision of a secure, healthy and violence-free future for Caribbean youth”.
SOURCE: CARICOM Today