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The importance of youth organisation

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A national youth effort is compulsory if we are to properly manage the affairs of this our blessed nation in times to come. We must rely on our intellect to take us forward, and refrain from the “blame-game” practice for our failures. In making the transition to adulthood, our young people need unfailing support, high-quality guidance and the opportunities to gain new skills and pertinent experiences. As we continue in our quest to formulate a difference in the lives of not only disenfranchised individuals, including some of our youth, particularly those in relatively marginalised communities here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, let us foremost recognize the power which lies within and enforce the critical skills which will make that needed difference possible. Some of these skills are crucial and outline the foundation of the conceptual framework that minds are built on; accountability, collective action, research and negotiation are just a few.{{more}}

In current times, organisations play a much more important part in our everyday lives than ever before. It should be remembered that for most of human history, before the level of organizational development became as structured as it is now, our people could not have the benefit of many of the facets of our livelihood which we hardly now give a second thought. Organising is the next big step after dialogue. As it relates to youth, when we are involved in the process of organising we take ownership of our future. The importance doesn’t stop there as it is the best way to develop a new generation of leaders – through direct action, community research, reflection and political analysis. It is a means for populations largely our youth, to reconnect with systems of society, principally with the educational system. This correlation with the educational system is an unparalleled and proven tool in our national and regional fight against poverty. When people including youth feel neglected, overlooked or discounted by society, they can become susceptible to negative influences and anti-social behaviour. We do not need to look too far to see the reality of this in our region.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there is no shortage of organizations that have cultural, educational and agricultural or sports related goals. Therefore, the central question is this, how many youth are involved in the administration, organizational structure and general membership of these organizations? The 1940’s marked the beginning of the budding of organisations in our country. There has been a remarkable growth in the formation of organisations over the last 25 years. Statistics show that there are 21 organisations that have been in operation over the last ten years. This translates into a new culture being formed where Vincentians are civically engaged and aware of the need to be accountable in resolving issues of public concern, shaping government policy, and ensuring that citizens needs are central to program, design and service delivery.

In the area of rural transformation youth organising is a viable approach. Lack of change continues to attach itself to the detriment of our development and consequent abandonment of certain communities, which is a microcosmic view of an existing brain drain of St.Vincent and the Grenadines and the region -its benefits are too detailed to be contained on paper. This however is being curbed by our evolving educational revolution. Our youth will flourish when they create strong ties and relationships with their communities. However, the opportunities for meaningful youth participation and influence remain open for growth.

While there might be a number of restraints, particularly our patterns of settlement, which has the potential to act as a restrictive element to youth involvement and the expansion of youth organisations, the equation of community organising and youth development which unquestionably leads to the formation of youth organisations has to extend to youth in all parishes and communities of our nation. There seems to be a vacuum that exists in certain parts of the country with regard to opportunities for youth who have the intention of considerably engaging in that process. This is a problem which must be addressed at the community level by our elders.

In these communities there exist youth who do have the potential to learn, develop and grow, and there are those who are interested in the proper functioning of their development as citizens of our country. There are those who are passionate about the issues, concerned for the community and committed to change. Outreach to these youth caught in the vacuum has to be conducted in a strategic way. Meaningful youth engagement that emphasizes access, equity and social justice, (the elements of anti-oppression) leads to positive youth development. Research has shown that civic engagement increases resiliency and protects young people from at-risk environments and behaviour. Positive youth development eases their transition into adulthood!

Let us continue to implement more youth engagement programs and approaches as this will be a practical contributor to the development of youth by fostering active citizenship. It will instill a sense of social responsibility where it is absent, and add some invigoration where some is already present, which will follow youth into maturity. Many programs will achieve these aims by providing opportunities for capacity building and leadership, and by encouraging youth to develop a sense of self-awareness that is connected to a broader social awareness.

On another level, the ability of our youth here in St.Vincent and the Grenadines and the region to manage their finances, pursue entrepreneurial ventures, and likewise be the cornerstones of organisations will have an indelible mark on our regional integration processes including the CSME. There needs to be continued conscious deliberation by our governments, consistent messaging and clear language to describe what specific future forecast is expected for our youth. This can be made easier if youth organizations are strengthened so that they can make a meaningful contribution in future deliberations.

Continued support for the existing youth organising groups is fundamental to develop stable and sustainable organizations; and to help increase the awareness and understanding of youth organising among funders and community organisations. As we maintain the examination of issues presently linking the development of the Vincentian youth, and the impact on our mission to build a homeland by creating a connectedness among the minds of the youth and the gravity of the responsibility of citizenry, let us continue to exemplify the true meaning of being a patriotic Vincentian.

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