A breeze of fresh air at UNICEF's Year End Meeting
By Cordelle Lazzare- member of the Regional Adolescent Communicators Network LACVOX
Bridgetown, November 18, 2008 - The UNECLAC*1 /UNICEF Conference on Social Policies for Children’s Rights and UNICEF's Year End Meeting – “Knowledge Building through Partnerships” were held this month. Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, The Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Turks and Caicos Islands were all represented at the meeting, over the four day period.
On Thursday, November 20th, young people took the stage and captured the meeting by storm. If anyone associated the words immature and inexperience with youth, their thoughts took a one- hundred-and-eighty-degrees turn. The youth commanded the attention of the audience from the start of their presentations until the end. The audience got so wrapped up into the moment that the expressions on their faces showed that they wanted more.
Ms. Je-Melia Maloney, founder of the “Emerging Global Leaders Barbados”*2, presented her social policies participation – her experience in the Junior 8 (J8) Summit*3 . Ms. Maloney was the sole representative of Latin America and the Caribbean at the summit held this year in Japan. Ms. Maloney’s participation in the summit gave her the opportunity to discuss focal areas of interest with young people from around the world, including themes such as poverty and development, global warming and climate change and global health.
But overall, something greater arose from this summit she said, the “Chitose Declaration”*4 . This declaration entails all the problems which the youth of the world face and devises ways forward. But there was one more surprise: she was chosen by her peers to meet with world leaders, among whom was the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush. She highlighted that it was an honor to have met and interviewed President Bush, but the greatest honor of all was that she was chosen by her peers. She was awarded a trophy by UNICEF for her dedicated service to youth.
By the time Ms. Maloney had wrapped up her presentation the applause was great and the audience was eager for more. Whispers spread across the conference room. The most prevalent one was, “The future is really bright with young people like her!”
Next was Ms. Christaneisha Soleyn, a member of our very own Youth Adolescent Communicators Network -Barbados, who presented recommendations for children and youth-friendly social policies. Ms. Soleyn began talking about health/sex and family/social issues which hinder the progress of children and young people globally. As a young journalist, Ms. Soleyn used her insight to propose recommendations for the advancement of youth via the media. First, she focused on health and sex suggestions. She recommended the development of a cartoon program addressed to children, which could help parents teach children about their sexuality.
Among her many ideas, she suggested the development of internet blogs, and a call-in-hotline and rehabilitation program for troubled children and teenagers. She made a strong appeal for UNICEF to draw attention to and probe legislature to revise the equality in the age of consent and the age an adolescent can obtain healthcare without parents’ approval.
She then tied her recommendations for family and social issues into her presentation. Among many recommendations she highlighted the need to push the use of television and radio to promote the need for fathers to take up their roles in the family and practice good parenting skills. She also strongly pushed for better financial and emotional support for teenage parents. These were only a few of the recommendations made by this brilliant young mind, who seems to be an upcoming global leader.
By the end of Ms. Soleyn’s presentation, the audience gave the impression to have an unquenchable thirst for more. After the wonderful presentations of the two young female panelists, the sole male, Mr. Danny Babb, youth group representative and Interim Director of “Team ACTION Project Implementation Unit (TAPIU)”, was to follow.
The tension in the room hinted that the audience expected something great, and Mr. Babb knew he could not disappoint. Well it would be remiss of anyone reporting on this event not to admit that he did deliver in a magnificent way. His brilliant mastery of the English language eased his presentation geared in giving recommendations for children and youth-friendly social policies. He was very witty and flowed like a professional ballroom dancer doing the Waltz. He presented his recommendations beautifully and the one which stroke the audience was the need to develop clubs/activities to keep the interest of children and youth, which would keep them out of unnecessary trouble.
At the end of the session, the audience’s thirst was quenched and they were pleased to see that amidst the world’s problems, there are still positive young people who are willing to make an encouraging contribution to society.
The entire panel consisted of Barbadian nationals who have made and will continue to make their country proud.
*1 - UNECLAC - United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
*2 - Emerging Global Leaders Barbados - The EGLP enables students to develop “soft skills” or leadership capacity in a global context, in addition to the subject-specific knowledge acquired from traditional classes. http://wave.scotiabank.com/issue-09/community.php
*3 - Junior 8/J8 - provides a forum for the participants to discuss the effects of global issues on children. Moreover, to voice their opinions on decisions taken by global leaders which affect youth
*4 - Chitose Declaration - http://www.j8summit.com/en/uk/the-summit/2008/chitose-declaration