The first day of the Inaugural Youth Conference had lots of fruitful discussions which saw challenges and recommendations being made on social issues facing young people. Teenage pregnancy, mental health, democracy, and governance were at the forefront of the discussions led by the youths who were not reserved when it came to voicing their opinions.
During the discussions surrounding teenage pregnancy, there were a number of varying perspectives aired. While many agreed that it was a burning issue, it was a split decision on how to address the issue.
It was noted that while sex education is needed in schools, some were of the opinion that it would also be wise to introduce contraceptives such as condoms into schools. However, some were not in agreement with the latter recommendation.
On the issue of mental health, Region Three participant, Miracle Miller recommended that there be psychologists as well as social workers attached to schools. Miller explained, “Mental health does not only affect persons on the street. Students are exposed to psychotropic drugs some suffer from depression, anxiety, and withdrawals.”
Youth participation in the political arena was also a hot-button, with some calling for more youths to be involved in the decision-making process.
Abiva Cort, from Region Four, said the discussion was fruitful despite “We are all young people and it is a forum for young people so we are still in the learning process.” Antacia Thomas, from Region Six, explained that “through this forum, I was able to garner information as to what affects persons living in other regions in the country. Collectively as a body, we are now able to recognize the problem in each region and see where we have similarities and where the differences lie and together come up with ideas that can help each other.”
Director of Youth, Melissa Carmichael-Haynes said that while some of the challenges raised are not new, the recommendations made by the young people will be taken on board. However, it was highlighted that to effectively address some of the issues, there is a need for an inter-ministry collaboration.
“We are listening to their concerns but we are not the only entity to put systems in place, we have to work with our sister ministries to ensure that their needs are met. Needs with regards to health, we need to talk to the adolescent health unit and the Ministry of health, with regards to security and crime we need to speak to the Public Security Ministry because the youth department alone cannot provide all the services that young people require” the Youth Director explained.
Nevertheless, Carmichael-Haynes noted that the Youth Department is satisfied that they are able to provide a platform that gives the young people a voice. Similar sentiments were also echoed by the Assistant Director of Youth, Leslyn Boyce and Senior Research, Planning and Development Officer, Adeti De Jesus.
The Inaugural National Youth Conference commenced today at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) under the theme “Youth Perspective for Empowerment and Development for a Better Guyana.”