Youth Parliamentarians focusing on Jamaica’s future

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Youth Parliamentarians. Courtesy of JA Youth Parliament Twitter.

The 13th sitting of the National Youth Parliament of Jamaica was held on Monday 28 November 2022 under the theme “Reignited: Empowering Youth for Jamaica 60 and Beyond”. The youth parliamentarians were introduced in June this year, and since then they have been carrying out different projects in their respective counties leading up to the parliamentary sitting.

The month of November, youth month, was filled with activities for each day including a launch that had panel discussions, a peace concert, and a youth opportunity village on the first day. The rest of the month was filled with table discussions, a youth in business expo, job fairs, a parenting expo, workshops for the youth parliamentarians, the HEART/NTSA Youth Festival, digital literacy workshops, and parenting seminars. All of these were aimed at assisting youth and their parents in making Jamaica a better place.

One of those initiatives featured a Document Drive, namely “DOC-Ups”, which made it simple for citizens to sign up for official documents that they did not possess, like birth certificates or their Tax Registration Numbers (TRNs). This initiative, held at Wycliffe Martin High School in St Mary, was phase one of the Middlesex youth parliamentarians’ plan.

In an interview with Monitor Tribune, a Middlesex youth parliamentarian said all their projects are done in person and not online because they want to give their recipients privacy. “Unlike other charitable organizations or individuals, when we are helping someone, we don’t take pictures of them; not everything should be publicized,” said the youth parliamentarian.

The purpose of the youth parliamentarian programme is to get the voices of the youth heard and in the respective places to which they have access. Hence, whenever different perspectives are voiced by the youth, they come directly from people in the situation who are seeking change. The council then has dialogue with the different government ministries, departments, and agencies to create solutions to the youth problems.

In the parliamentary sitting on Monday, issues were brought forward by the different speakers of the house. Sherika Cheeke-Perkins from St Catherine South Central was assigned to be Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. The motion brought forward by Cheeke-Perkins was that low income households had to squat because of a lack of affordable housing solutions. This issue has long been of concern to government officials as some 20 per cent of Jamaicans are living in squatter settlements.

Another issue was brought forward by Daniel Campbell from St Andrew North Eastern, who was assigned the position of leader of the opposition. Campbell said, “the attendance rate of parents to parent teachers’ meetings at most schools stands at 20-30 per cent with a gradual and consistent decline and whereas low parental involvement has resulted in low academic performance, depression, and low self-esteem and can cause students to become susceptible to criminal behaviour.”

The issues brought forward shed light on new perspectives and give recommendations to the respective ministers for them to develop and implement policies based on the youth parliamentary sitting.

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