Uniting for One Vision – A Multisectoral Approach for Youth Empowerment, Engagement and Support.
On September 30th, the Caribbean celebrated Caribbean Youth Day, under the theme “One Vision”. The Barbados Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment held a National Stakeholders Consultation. This created a space for 140 youth and youth-allies from different sectors to provide insight into key areas that should be addressed to better support and meaningfully engage the youth of Barbados. The Healthy Caribbean Coalition’s Advocacy Officer, Danielle Walywn and youth advocates from the Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, Abigail Johnson and Rondell Trim participated.
There was representation from different sectors of society including those involved in crime, culture, sport, youth organisations, religion and health among others. Each sector gathered and presented an overview of their own strengths and weaknesses and identifying the support needed from the government. In considering the way forward, sectors were reminded to embrace a multisectoral approach, fostering synergies to allow for meaningful engagement of youth and sustainable change.
The program began with an overview of major trends from the Generation Unlimited: The wellbeing of young people Barbados study. It highlighted some ways that young people are excelling, for example, two thirds of young people live above the poverty line and 75% of young are either studying or working. However, there were some glaring “threats” highlighted, one of these threats was that 1 in 3 young adolescents is overweight.
Rondell, Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition youth advocate, stated plainly that we need the government’s support in
..Actively implementing strategies and plan to assist young people in reducing the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages and foods, addressing unhealthy diets and bettering the youth demographic in terms of health and wellness.
The youth advocates also emphasized the need for the implementation of obesity prevention policies; these can be reflected in school policies by removing SSBs from schools and prohibiting marketing of unhealthy foods in schools. In referencing the “New” school environment, the youth advocates highlighted that an increased use of online platforms, has implications including increased sedentary time, lack of in-person social connection and online safety issues (cyber bullying, increase to inappropriate content online including fast food advertising).
Speaking about increased technology use, Abigail Johnson, youth advocate stated:
There is a lot of marketing [by] certain companies; they use technology, internet and social media to target them [young persons]. In addition, sitting down in front of a screen is not beneficial for young people.
The advocates also used the consultation as an opportunity to reiterate the need to and use the Convention of the Rights of a Child to guide all programs and policies, prioritize meaningful youth engagement in policy and programming development, execution and evaluation and mental health support for children and youth in and outside of schools.
In his feature address, Honourable Dwight Sutherland, Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment expressed his desire to invest in youth-specific research, effective delivery of services to this population, embracing the ‘digital native’ population by utilizing online platforms, and leveraging a multisectoral approach to achieve these goals. We hope that these priorities will be applied to the advancement of child and youth health.
The major output of the session is a document to advise policy makers on suitable plans of action to engage and support youth. We hope that meaningful youth engagement, healthy school environments, and effective mental health services for our youth are prioritized. We look forward to next year’s consultation.