By Loshaun Dixon
Youth development in St. Kitts and Nevis is being targeted by a historic Federal Youth Policy has been launched in a partnership between the Federal Government and the Nevis Island Administration.
The policy aimed at youth development was launched to create public awareness of youth programs and to solicit their involvement in the process.
Ministers and officials from the St. Kitts and Nevis youth departments assembled at the Ocean Terrace Inn to launch an upgradedpolicy based on a dormant 15-year-old draft.
Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Minister of Youth, the Hon. Shawn Richards highlighted the significance of the partnership during an opening ceremony.
“Today marks a very significant and historic moment in the life of the Ministry of Youth and in the life of every young person in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis as we gather today to launch a brand new federal youth policy initiative,” Deputy Prime Minister Richards explained.
“We have heard the request from our young people for more attention, more involvement more opportunity and more action” the minister said. “Today we are responding to these calls and bringing it to everyone’s attention. We are creating an awareness of our Federal Youth Policy initiative which will seek to achieve the finalization of the existing national youth policy draft which I have been working on since I came into office and which was suggested 15 years ago.”
Richards described the initiative’s two objectives:
1: Formalise a new action, a new youth policy which has currency and relevance to our young people; and
2: Outline a cross-sectional strategic plan of action that will translate the policy into a time-bound youth development programme and activities across St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Federal Youth Policy is designed as a planning tool for youth intervention throughout St. Kitts and Nevis.
“It is intended to serve as an over-reaching policy guide towards maintaining youth development in every ministry of Government over the next five years,” Hon. Richards said. He explained the Federation’s policies have to align with the goals of young people.
Richards called himself a young and vibrant minister and said, “the new youth policy must be robust, it must be current and it must meet the need of the youth of our Federation. It must take into account all of the changes in the economic landscape of our country and consider recent developments at the international levels on issues such as globalization, human rights, freedom of expression, gender equality, climate change, universal secondary education and the advancement of information and communication technology.”
The Minister of Youth said the policy must also provide accessibility, diversity, social cohesion, volunteerism, transparency, sustainable development and social protection.
The minister said youth policy principles are geared toward teaching youth compassion, creativity, discipline, culture, human dignity, moral awareness, spiritual awareness, patriotism, economic participation, self-expression and leadership.
“All of these are policy values which will strengthen the capacities of our young people,” Hon. Brandy-Richards explained.
Nevis Youth Minister comments
Minister of Youth in the Nevis Island Administration Hazel Brandy-Williams indicatedshe was honoured to be part of the significant moment of youth development in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“Words cannot express the pure joy I feel this morning as an individual who came up through the youth system and is very active in the church and the community,” Minister Williams said.“I had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in youth work.”
“A youth policy is a guiding document, a point of reference for youth as well as youth practitioners” the minister said. “It is an essential tool for success for any Ministry of Youth and for every government.”
Brandy-Williams also stated that when she got into office in 2013, her experiences in youth development led her to enquire if there was a national youth policy.
“To my dismay, I learned there was a working document that had been a draft for the last 15 years and therefore, it meant that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis did not have a youth policy initiative” Minister Brandy-Williams said.“This led me to put several measures in place to prepare for this bill and I welcome it.”
“I wait in anticipation however, for the day when we can hold the completed document in hand,” the minister said.“Youth development is dynamic, with all the continuous changes, trends and the emergence of new focus areas and terminology… the need for our youth to have a working and proper document has long gone past its sell-by-date.”
She also stressed the importance of youth development.
“I truly believe every nation’s future is indicative of the investment in youth,” Barker-Williamson explained. “An investment which ensures that capacity-building and sustainability are at its core. A youth policy sets the framework which allows a belief to come to fruition.”
Youth Consultant ‘important initiative’
Dwynette Eversley, Commonwealth Youth Consultant, a key cog in the formation of the draft policy explained the importance of the initiative.
“A youth policy consolidates all the national initiatives and I congratulate the Government on its dedication and commitment to achieving this policy and its action agenda.”
Eversley warned there is no international standard for an initiative like this indicating there are guidelines to follow.
“There is no international standard document we can look at and say this is a policy, but they are several principles,” Eversley explained. “In 2014, the first Global Forum in international youth policy in Azerbaijan, at that forum concluded with a communique establishing the principals around which youth policy should be incorporated.”
“There are about eight basic policies,” she said. “Youth policy should be correct and that means they are founded within the international human rights framework to which St. Kitts and Nevis and all other countries are apart.”
Eversley said youth policy should be comprehensive and prospective.
“No one ministry or department manages a national youth portfolio,” she said. “That is why there is a need for thorough analysis and inter-sectional drafting of a youth policy.Youth policy should be democratic and participatory and involves as a significant component for all young people.”
She described youth policy as inclusive; fairly budgeted and financed;have a gender-sensitive policy and promote gender equality Data will be used draft a Youth Policy which will be presented to Parliament.