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Preventing youth violence

Preventing youth violence: young people take the lead

Georgetown, Guyana, January 21, 2019. Everyone has a role to play in creating a Caribbean free from youth violence. This was a key message emerging from a major Caribbean Summit on Youth Violence Prevention held in Georgetown, Guyana, on 15 and 16 January 2019.

The summit, which was supported by UNICEF, brought together more than 250 youth leaders, activists, policy makers, and representatives from the private sector and development agencies to discuss effective violence prevention strategies, share successful interventions, to network and to explore how the ‘youth voice’ could be more effectively heard.

Another important goal was to build consensus around the Caribbean Youth Advocacy and Action Agenda to tackle youth violence, which complements initiatives by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Violence, with young people as either victims or perpetrators, is widespread. Around one in four secondary school children in Eastern Caribbean countries experienced bullying at least once during the past month and in Trinidad and Tobago, for example, a quarter of girls have experienced sexual violence by the age of 18. 

Youth at the centre  

Young people themselves took centre stage at the summit, guiding discussions and spearheading the search for solutions. According to UNICEF’s Deputy Representative for the Eastern Caribbean Area Muriel Mafico, this is exactly where they should be. “This summit is different because it is about hearing from you, the young people,” she told the assembled delegates, “It is about listening to you, it is about learning from you and getting those solutions that you think we should be supporting in order to create a violence-free society.”

Be tactical

Another panelist, Kurba-Marie Questelles, a former youth peace ambassador now working with the Ministry of National Security in Trinidad and Tobago, talked of the need to be highly tactical. “We have to be more strategic in our approach if we are to create a culture of peace within our region, one which connects to regional and global efforts that are already underway.”

The sessions were varied. One of the liveliest examined promoting healthy masculinity. Others dealt with youth-driven responses to criminal gangs; exploring the relationship between youth employment and violence and addressing mental health, suicide and self-harming.

Participants underscored the importance of coordinated and multi-sectoral approaches; the urgent need to invest in evidence to inform youth violence prevention and the central role of families and communities in fostering zero tolerance of violence and shaping positive norms and values.

 

The event was hosted by USAID’s Eastern and Southern Caribbean Mission, in partnership with UNICEF, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the OECS Commission, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Learning for Youth Networking and Change Sessions Network.

 

 

 

 
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