by the Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth
A written National Youth Policy, a publicly approved framework for action on youth development, which is endorsed by a nation’s law-makers, is the greatest gift that a society could bequeath to its youth. This document starts with the renewal of a political commitment to creating the conditions for youth empowerment during the far-reaching economic and social changes of the first decade of the 21st century. It then acknowledges the contributions of the various stakeholders to the wholesome development of Barbadian youth and solicits their ongoing support.
The document offers an overview of the context in which young people have been coming of age in the Caribbean during the past two decades. It contends that this understanding of youth is necessary before any intervention takes place. Hence, a working definition of youth is given, together with the perennial, poor perceptions of “the next generation”.
It is with this perception of youth that Youth Services in Barbados and throughout the Caribbean have developed. The apparent preoccupation with deviant youth and the mistakes that a minority of young men and women make during the transition from childhood to adulthood, has cast a long shadow over youth development in the region.
Hence several writers have reached conclusions about young people that detract from an understanding of “youth” as an age of idealism, an age of experiment, and an age of discovery. The unwritten policy throughout the Caribbean has therefore been to contain and control youth, “for their own good”. In this way, Caribbean societies have succeeded in reproducing themselves with all the punitive and enslaving historical baggage for which they are renowned.
The premise behind this policy document is that the majority of Barbadian youth are decent hard-working people striving to live up to the expectations of significant others in their lives. When they were consulted and fully engaged during 2010, the mood shifted from one of “hopelessness and despair” to optimism and a willingness to take responsibility for their own future. Their aspirations are clearly expressed in the Vision, Goals, Objectives and Recommendations for action recorded in this document.