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There have been fresh calls for automatic, broad-based support for youth mainstreaming. The latest call has come from Director of Youth Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr. Fatiha Serour.
Youth mainstreaming is defined by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), as the process of assessing the implications for young persons, of any planned action, including legislation, policies, programmes and projects, in all areas and at all levels.
“Everyone in Government, academia or any other institution need to understand, accept, internalise and promote youth mainstreaming as a matter of fact and almost as second nature,” said Dr. Serour, at a recent lecture, sponsored by the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, through the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD).
Jamaica recommitted itself to youth mainstreaming as the key strategy of the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment, when Prime Minister Bruce Golding endorsed the plan at the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda.
The Plan of Action has, as its chief strategy, the mainstreaming of youth development, which coincides with the goals of the National Youth Policy of 2004 and in particular, its participation and empowerment mandate.
“As such, it is vital that the necessary steps are taken to ensure that youth mainstreaming becomes widely accepted in both the Government and the non-governmental sectors in Jamaica,” Information Specialist at the NCYD, Dania Beckford, tells JIS News.
“The Commonwealth Youth Lecture acts as a public forum for the discussion of youth being mainstreamed, at a time when the empowerment of Jamaican youth is critical to the overall development of the nation,” she explains.
Dr. Serour says that youth mainstreaming is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of young persons an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes, in all political, economic and social spheres, so that they benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated.
She points out that youth mainstreaming is not an end in itself, but a two-fold strategy which ensures that “a youth perspective is integrated in policy formulation, project design and management, and there are specific policies and initiatives aimed at closing the gap in specific areas of youth empowerment.”
Dr. Serour asserts that any organisation that has been through the process of mainstreaming of youth, will find that it is about a deeper transformation, one that makes young people central in its work. She also notes that the organisation “will recognise that young people are not just an add-on to programmes and social interventions. Young people become integral to the process of finding solutions and become part of the implementation of these solutions.”
Making a case for youth mainstreaming, the Director paints a grim picture of the future, which young persons will have to face, noting that over 60 per cent of the population of the Commonwealth is under 30 years old. “They are inheritors of a changing world, including climate change, environmental degradation, less resources for more people, increasing conflicts in numbers and magnitude, and recurring natural disasters,” she points out.
Dr. Serour cites facts, which indicate that young people in many parts of the Commonwealth are denied the right to human development; and poverty assessments, which indicate that “many poor groups define themselves as not just income poor, but also education, literacy and skills poor.”
The grim statistics are that about 30 million Commonwealth children are out of primary education, some 130 million Commonwealth youth are illiterate, and approximately 40 million adolescents are out of secondary education as a result of political, social or economic instability and or strife.
Other compelling arguments for youth mainstreaming arethat opportunities for economic empowerment is lacking, 50 per cent of the world’s unemployed are 15 to 24 years, and in many economies, young people are more than three times as likely to be unemployed as older adults.
In addition, millions are said to be trapped in temporary, involuntary part-time or casual work in the informal sector, that offers few benefits and limited prospects for advancement. Some 209 million young people are living on less than US$1.00 per day, and about 515 million live on less than US$2.00 per day.
It is also felt that peace and human security is an illusive dream for the millions of Commonwealth youth that live under conflicts. “Our societies are suffering from a malaise, whereby we victimise or vilify youth, instead of facing our responsibilities as adults and engaging young people in peace building processes,” Dr. Serour points out.
Jamaica, like other Commonwealth countries, has a National Youth Policy with a vision of “Jamaican Youth realising their full potential, through access to opportunities, to develop, participate and contribute as responsible citizens, to a peaceful, prosperous and caring society.”
The National Youth Service (NYS), which falls under the NCYD, targets an estimated 148,000 ‘unattached’ youths and trains 6,000. Of that number, 3,600 or 60 per cent manage to find employment afterwards. Training and employment projects spearheaded by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, also target young persons.