St Kitts Representative Attends Americas Youth Forum

We conclude Maria Crawford's interview with Sharina Laws.

Maria Crawford, an Information Officer at the St Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS) speaks with Sharina Laws who returned from the Americas Youth Forum held in Mexico in late 2007. Miss Laws is a student at the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College and a member of the UNESCO Small Islands Voice Back Chat Group.

MC:  Youth today are faced with the consequences of bad choices made by their ancestors in relation to the sustainability of planet earth on which they live. There are economic, social, environmental, and cultural consequences. What can youth do now to ensure that future generations are not faced with the same issues?

SL:  We need to hold on to our background. Sometimes, we are influenced by America because of the media and other forms of technology. We need to go into the schools and start to teach about our culture. We see it come alive at Christmas time but we need to keep it alive throughout the year.  As a member of the UNESCO Small Islands Voice Back Chat Group, there are many environmental and social issues such as drug abuse and teenage pregnancy that we discuss. We need to educate the youth about the environment. We participate in beach clean-ups. These are alarming problems that the youth need to be educated on before they can do something themselves.

MC:  You referred to the Small Islands Voice Back Chat Group. Can you tell us a little more about that?

SL:  The Small Islands Voice Back Chat Group started about four years ago, and it drew participants from each high school in St Kitts and Nevis. The members try to sensitise the public about environmental and social issues. Every month they hand out newsletters showcasing the views of youths and what is happening in the community. They also go out to schools and inform the students of the projects they are working on. They recently went to Saba to talk to the students there about what they have been doing in St Kitts and will continue to do.

MC:  In today’s world, crime among youth is on the increase. From a young person’s point of view, what do you think is the reason for this increased criminal activity? Is it cool to be involved in crime or is there a void in the lives of these youths?

SL:  I believe it is filling a void because we can see a breakdown in family morals. If the home is not strengthened, persons will go out and look for love in the wrong places. So when they join these gangs or take part in these criminal activities, they are looking for a sense of belonging. What we need to do is to form groups that can bring these youths together, see their problems and help them curb the issue of crime.

MC:  Finally, Sharina, can you tell us what you consider to be the high points of the Americas Youth Forum, and how it will impact youth in the Federation.

SL:  There was one which focused on the importance of the educational community in tackling and preventing problems of poverty and violence, the main objective being to integrate the individual into a holistic educational system from an early age.

We need to teach our children how to deal with problems, how to answer questions not only just for school but for life as well. We need to promote the integration of shared values and human rights with help from UNESCO. Mentorship and peer-to-peer youth programmes, utilising successful role models who display such values are also important. We need also to create a network of young volunteers to help spread information at the community level on topics such as sexual and reproductive health, teenage pregnancy and the rampant spread of AIDS.

Technical and financial assistance, improved communication with the youth, and the creation of a communication network, using mobile technology to publicise success stories of young people in the Americas, as well as to strengthen the transfer of science and technology to improve systems of production and to stimulate constant innovation, are essential.

MC:  Thank you, Sharina. We hope you have enjoyed our spotlight on UNESCO and what it is doing in our region.

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