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UK J8 delegates learn about climate change and HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean

© UNICEF BECO/2009/Cadogan
Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson (centre) with (from left) Je-Meila Maloney and UK J8 delegates Harry Phinda, Sara Saleh ,Birzi Saleh and Mallika Myers during a meeting at the Prime Minister's Official Residence.

BARBADOS, 30 June 2009 - When youth leaders from across the globe discuss with leaders of the word’s most powerful nations about their perspective on burning issues, the concerns of the Eastern Caribbean are expected to be featured in those discussions.

United Kingdom Junior 8 delegates Harry Phinda, Birzi Saleh, Sara Saleh and Mallika Myers were recently on a mission to Barbados to learn first hand how climate change and HIV and AIDS are impacting young people in the Caribbean. Information gathered during those discussions is expected to form part of their presentations at the upcoming J8 summit in Rome.

Right before a meeting with school children and adolescents, the four teenagers from south London engaged Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson in a discussion on the above mentioned issues. They wanted to know how climate change and HIV and AIDS are impacting on children in the small island developing state.

They also got an opportunity to explore how young people are being part of the solution to those problems.

Learning Experience

“It was an eye opener,” said Harry, adding that whether viewing coastal erosion on the west coast of Barbados or discussing issues of abstinence and condom use with youth, they were able to get a feel for the concerns from the perspective of a small island developing state.

During their meeting with Prime Minister Thompson, the J8 delegates quizzed him on efforts made by his government to minimize the impact of HIV and AIDS on youth, whether the rights of children were being met in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and what measures the country is taking to address climate change.

“Do you think that the messages about prevention are getting through to young people in Barbados? What challenges do you think remain,” Sarah asked the Prime Minister. To this the Barbadian leader gave a personal insight into the type of sexual education his teenaged daughters were being exposed to in school and the impact on them.

The UK youth said they particularly valued the opportunity to interact with Je-Meila Maloney, an 18-year-old Barbadian secondary school student who represented the Latin America and the Caribbean region at last year’s J8 meeting in Japan. Je-Meila, along with fellow Barbadian teenagers Christa Soleyn and Dwayne Hackett, accompanied the young people on their visits.

Full agenda

The agenda included a meeting with students to talk about HIV and AIDS, an environmental school project organized by the University of the West Indies and a visit to sea to explore both healthy and dying coral reef on the west coast.

Tom Olsen, UNICEF Representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said it was commendable that the UK youth came to place the issues confronting small island developing states on the agenda of the J8 and G8 summit.

“Last year we were admirably represented by Je-Meila and this year we expect these four awesome young people from the UK to draw on what they were exposed to during their brief visit to keep the concerns of this region alive. HIV and AIDS and climate change are real concerns for children growing up here and it is important that they be focused on at all levels,” Olsen added.

The JG summit, which will be held parallel to the G8 Leaders Summit in Rome, July 2009, will bring together 32 young people aged 14 to 17. They will be from the G8 countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the UK and the United States – along with representatives from Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico and South Africa.

For more information
Patrick Knight, pknight@unicef.org,  UNICEF Office for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean
Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.



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