TALK UP YOUT
Youth Empowerment Through Dialogue
Town Hall #3: June 17, 2017
Number of Youth Attendees: 44
Funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund
Officials in Attendance:
Dwayne Vaz: Member of Parliament for Central Westmoreland
In continuing its “Youth Empowerment through Dialogue” Project, Talk Up Yout held its third Town Hall on June 17, 2017 at the Source in Savanna la mar, Westmoreland. The project aims to build the capacity of youth across the island as well as give them an opportunity to engage elected officials in constructive dialogue which will be beneficial to their parish. The attendees of the Town Hall represented several schools and youth organizations across the parish of Westmoreland. Some of the attendees were participants in the training workshop which was held on the previous day.
Westmoreland’s Town Hall started with the host, Giovanni Dennis introducing himself and the “Youth Empowerment through Dialogue” Project to the attendees. He explained to the audience that the town halls were part of a series and that the Talk Up Yout team had already been to St. James and St. Elizabeth. He went on to further to state that the series sought to give youth a platform to voice their issues, teach them about advocacy and help them to find workable solutions; and that the project was funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund. He urged everyone to relax and feel comfortable talking and to use the #YoutFiChat hashtag on social media when posting about the day’s events.
Dwayne Vaz, the Member of Parliament for Central Westmoreland, was the only elected representative present. Apologies were offered on behalf of the other two Members of Parliament Wykeham McNeil and Luther Buchanan who were unable to attend. Nonetheless, the town hall was very interactive and M.P Vaz sought to answer all questions in a straightforward manner. Mr. Vaz said that he would try his best to represent all the MPs but the host impressed upon him not to make any excuses for those who were absent and stated that as Mr. Vaz was one of the younger MPs it is admirable that he saw the need to show up.
The conversation started with a discussion on crime, as 41% of youth from Westmoreland who participated in the TUY Baseline Survey, deemed it the biggest issue affecting parish.Mr. Vaz expressed that crime in the parish was indeed out of hand and required a united effort. He blamed the increasing crime rate on the general breakdown of values in the society and said that there was a need for a national effort and the reintegration of a value system in the home, school and society at large. Mr Vaz said crime couldn’t be solved overnight even though immediate measures can be taken, such as providing the police and military with more resources. He added that Members of Parliament could lobby the government for a reallocation of resources, but otherwise lacked the ability to correct it themselves. He said crime has become the norm in Jamaica, and as it affects more persons, they are recognizing the seriousness of the issue.
A young woman explained that she had started a youth club to help young people in her community as they have the “wrong concept”. She said many have abandoned education for relationships and criminal acts, particularly scamming. She stated that scamming is attractive to many young people as they lack positive and successful influences within the community. They look to those who are involved in scamming as role models as these individuals typically have nice vehicles, homes, and other signs of wealth.
Mr. Vaz commented that the high dropout rate and growing popularity of scamming was a major issue which resembled the drug trade in 1980’s Jamaica. He stated that the “get rich” mentality was responsible for this recent gravitation, along with the lack of role models. He shared that youth clubs were important and could share examples of persons who have achieved success honestly, even if these persons are outside of the community. Mr. Vaz urged young people to share the negative effects of these illegal activities with their peers so as to deter others.
Another young person interjected saying the “government served no purpose” and that the youth must not be blamed as the parish’s and country’s leaders have not actively sought to make progress in Westmoreland. He addressed the issue of sexual grooming being done by policemen, religious leaders, and politicians. Although he received a hearty response from the crowd there was still a difference of opinion on this matter. Some members of the audience argued that sexual grooming could not take place unless the children agreed or had not been trained well by parents. Others were sympathetic and suggested that lack of resources was often the reason why young persons were coerced.
Youth unemployment and the resulting migration of youth to other parishes was another issue discussed. Many young persons agreed that the parish was not very attractive as it lacked not only employment opportunities but even recreational spaces. Mr. Vaz was able to empathize with the audience; he shared that after graduation from University, he was also unemployed for eight months. He explained that, the predominant industry for the parish was tourism and that hospitality training was of importance.
Westmoreland’s Ambassador for the National Youth Service expressed that although unemployment was an issue, many young persons were uninterested in employment. He shared that he had brought forms to many young persons’ homes for the National Youth Service’s Summer Employment Programme and offered to photocopy their forms at the office for submission. Yet many chose not to complete the form while others could not even find or did not have acceptable forms of identification. He stated that many of the parish’s youth were simply unemployable as they lacked skills. He would also like to see a more central HEART training centre available to the youth. He spoke passionately stating that opportunities existed but many young people were simply seeking handouts.
Lack of Recreational Space
Regarding the lack of recreational space, Mr. Vaz stated that there were currently two spaces which were being considered for investment- the Independence Park and the Cultural Centre. The Cultural Centre, which is underdeveloped, had been unused since the Noise Abatement Act took effect. He mentioned that there was specific interest in the Cultural Centre as it was a large space with abundant potential.
Mr. Vaz shared that he was personally trying to address the issues of community centres which he wished to transform into educational centres and had already rehabilitated the centre in Hatfield where solar panels had been installed, thanks to donations from a Canada based foundation. He explained that HEART training would take place there and that costs would be subsidized as the electricity cost would now be substantially reduced due to the use of solar energy. He then addressed the closure of the Youth Information Centre, which he said was closed for security reasons. Mr. Vaz elaborated that he had been in communication with Floyd Green, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and Member of Parliament for South West St. Elizabeth and had been assured that the Centre would soon be reopened and available to the community’s members.
The issues of de-bushing and lack of streetlights was also raised. Mr. Vaz explained that recently he had written to the Minister of Local Government outlining the areas which needed streetlights and the correspondence left him with an understanding that the parish had to wait until more resources were available. Additionally, there was an ongoing issue between the government and the Jamaica Public Service regarding payments which could also be affecting street lights in the parish. Regarding de-bushing, he admitted that it was a constant issue and that recently the National Works Agency had given each constituency one million dollars for drain cleaning and de-bushing on the main roads. He explained that the interior roads were the responsibility of the Parish Council and that the Councilors should be contacted for the de-bushing of those areas.
Various advocates who had been trained in the workshop held the previous day expressed that it was important to take initiative and that opportunities were there. They shared their experiences with organizing community projects, tutoring programmes and entrepreneurship to encourage the other youth present and to show Mr. Vaz that they were neither inactive nor helpless. Youth Parliamentarian for the parish, Davian Hemmings also shared that having a strong value system was crucial; he reminisced on his years at Mannings High School and expressed that he went through many hardships and was often uncertain if he could continue school, but always kept on the straight and narrow path. He encouraged young persons to start with what was available to them and to persevere.
Communication with the MP
Mr. Vaz shared with the audience that he had a radio program called Your MP Live every second Sunday on Vibes FM which he had implemented so persons could call and have dialogue and gain awareness. The Talk Up Yout host, Giovanni Dennis suggested that Mr. Vaz invite the other Members of Parliament for the parish to his program and he admitted that Member of Parliament Wykeham McNeil had already expressed interest.
The host closed the Town Hall by thanking the MP and the audience for their participation and the TUY team for facilitating this project.
Hanover and Trelawny are the next stops in the series of Town Halls under this Initiative.
For more information
Project Director & Creator
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TALK UP YOUT
Youth Empowerment Through Dialogue
Workshop and Town Hall #2
Funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund
The project “Youth Empowerment Through Dialogue in Jamaica” provides a platform for Jamaican youth aged 14-24 years to advocate for workable solutions for the issues affecting them, and an opportunity to demand accountability from local and national representatives elected to serve them.
Training Workshop: May 26, 2017
Number of Youth Attendees: 23
Introductions and Expectations:
Facilitated by Talk Up Yout Team Members
Renee Johnson led the initial energetic introduction where she expressed that Talk Up Yout was seeking to encourage youth to become more involved and hold their elected officials accountable. She urged all in attendance to participate wholeheartedly by interjecting and giving feedback and even stating disagreements.
Sujae Boswell then ascertained what the youth expected from the two-day process. He shared the importance of having fruitful conversations with elected officials about the changes needed in communities. He also explained that it was important not only to make requests of the Members of Parliament and Councilors, but to gain an understanding of the roles citizens themselves could play. Participants mainly expressed expectations concerning community development, the visibility of the Member of Parliament, infrastructure (roads) and plans for youth involvement.
Boswell explained that throughout the day they would be exposed to the political process, the roles elected officials are to play and how the youth in St. Elizabeth can effect the changes they would like to see. Boswell elaborated that young persons not only need to be more involved, but they also need to become advocates, as this is how politicians will see the need to appeal to the youth’s interests.
Presentation on Governance
This was an interactive presentation, which was well received by the attendees. They were educated on the role and structure of government and the roles of their elected officials. Talk Up Yout facilitators also discussed civic duties and their importance.
Participants were then split into groups of three or four. They were asked to make a presentation on their perception of the roles of their Members of Parliament, recommendations for the MPs and their understanding of their roles as citizens.
The presentations revealed that most of the participants had been attentive and had grasped the roles of Members of Parliament and Councilors. Some of the recommendations included increasing youth involvement, allocating more of the CDF (Constituency Development Fund) to education, starting up homework centers and fixing roads. Many of the participants seemed disillusioned and thought the CDF, twenty million annually was an exorbitant sum of money and could do all the things necessary for the constituency.
Conrad Mathison, the Talk Up Yout Social Media Advocacy Consultant and presenter interjected during the participants’ presentation due to poor body language and poor vocal projection. He gave a brief talk on confidence, body language, and communication so they could improve their presentation styles.
In the two aforementioned segments (Introduction and Presentation on Governance) the participants elaborated their main issues and concerns.
They are as follows:
Training on Fundamental Rights and Freedom
This in-depth discussion on the constitution and fundamental rights session was geared towards helping the participants to understand their rights, which would help to empower them. Many participants expressed that the knowledge distributed was entirely new to them and used this segment to express their dissatisfaction with their Members of Parliament. Most of the negative comments were geared at Evan Redman, and most positive was absorbed by Floyd Green.
Training on Advocacy
This was another interactive presentation, where participants were encouraged to help themselves before seeking help from others, in particular their elected officials, and to seize all opportunities.There was an exercise which required participants to write and share what they would like to experience, their plans for personal growth and their projected contributions to their communities within a year. Some of the participants expressed that they wished to make their families proud with their CSEC examinations results and travel outside of the parish. Others expressed interest in either forming or joining a youth club. The focus of this activity was to show participants that execution required planning and a vision; emphasizing that short-term goals were also important and warned against succumbing to discouragement from external sources.
Participants were also taught how to properly use their smartphones for advocacy. This was done by showing them where the microphones on most smartphones are, and teaching them how to record properly and turning on Airplane Mode during the process to avoid interruptions in the recording.
Participants were also asked to develop questions to ask their representatives. They were given cue cards and asked to put their names, constituencies, and questions on the cards. The facilitators selected the newly trained advocates who would be asking questions in the Town Hall. They were chosen based on their participation in the workshop throughout the day.Afterwards the Post Tests and Evaluation forms were distributed.
Town hall: May 27, 2017
Number of Youth Attendees: 67
The participants have been charged to mobilize their peers, generate consensus on priority issues and make representation to relevant elected public servants.
Facilitator: Giovanni Dennis
Officials in Attendance:
Floyd Green, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Member of Parliament for South West St. Elizabeth
Derrick Sangster, Councilor for Mountainside Division, Mayor of Black River, Chairman of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation
A prerecorded interview between JC Hutchinson, the Member of Parliament for North Western St. Elizabeth and Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Giovanni Dennis was played throughout the Town hall meeting.
The host announced that persons in the audience would also be invited to join the conversations and direct questions towards their Members of Parliament.
A variety of issues were brought to light at the Town hall such as road maintenance, electricity outages, migration from the parish, youth unemployment, investment and community centers and the allocation of the Constituency Development Fund. Both officials, particularly Minister Green, sought to appropriately answer the questions posed by the youth. The attendants admitted that they believed their questions were fully answered however expressed their displeasure that only two of the officials were present.
One of the main issues raised was the migration of young persons out of the parish. Green admitted that migration was indeed a major issue as majority of the tertiary institutions are in Kingston, but shared that the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology were expanding to St. James and new tertiary training sites in both Black River and Junction are assisting in the alleviation of this predicament. Green also expressed that he hoped to get more skills based training for those in his constituency in viable areas as training and education are important, but ensuring that youth can be productive in the end is key.
Sangster suggested that migration is natural and could not be alleviated overnight but focus on investment in the parish could assist the parish’s economy encouraging more young persons to stay. While Hutchinson added that one of the major issues in the parish is lack of investment as there are few businesses in the vicinity. He expressed his hopes to get a training center up and running in Lacovia to train young persons in Hospitality as many hotels are being opened on the North Coast and this could be a useful means of employment and opportunity for them.
Further questions and discussions led Green to admit that he believed agriculture was St. Elizabeth’s most viable option and a good route for entrepreneurship as the parish has unused land. However, he stated that there must be discussion about processing to move from primary production to secondary production. He urged young persons to come up with their own ideas which could be monetized and suggested that an innovation center to help them with this was underway.
An advocate who had received training at the workshop highlighted that community centers were important for community development the inclusion of youth. She suggested that where there were no community centers, schools could be used to offer, for example, homework help and classes aimed at personal development. Green added that one of the main issues was the maintenance of the centers and suggested that youth form clubs to help their officials find solutions. Green said that he hoped to revive the youth club development as it is currently on the decline. He also explained that he tries to communicate with young people through the mediums which they prefer, such as Facebook, and urged them to reach out as he checks his messages personally. Sangster too agreed with the youth club initiative as he believed the inclusion of young persons is necessary for community development and noted that a good way to get them involved was by way of sports.
Sangster urged young people to not be afraid to contact their elected officials. He also suggested that they write letters to him, reiterating that he is an accessible mayor. He gave out his contact information and made it known that appointments were not required. Mayor Sangster shared that there were Council meetings every second Thursday and that he would seek to bring up new issues that was made aware of there to facilitate progress. He made a promise to an advocate that he would liaise with Councilor Fisher to get the community center in Balaclava up and running as the young man expressed that he had been unable to get in touch with his Member of Parliament, Evan Redman.
Minister Green also elaborated that the Constituency Development Fund is twenty million per year and that its funds must be spent through and implementing agency or third party and must be paid to a supplier not a person. Green gave a breakdown of how majority of his CDF is spent.
The breakdown is as follows:
Main Issues Which Arose at the Town Hall
Westmoreland and Hanover are the next stops in the series of town halls under this initiative.
For more information
Project Director & Creator
Follow the Hashtag #YoutFiChat
Scores of young persons who gathered in Montego Bay St James on the weekend were empowered to become the change in their communities as they spoke directly, most for the first time, with their political representatives.
34 of the 75 young persons aged 14-24, who gathered at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre on Saturday April 22, 2017, for a TalkUpYout/ UNDEF ‘Youth Empowerment Through Dialogue’ town hall, were trained a day earlier on rights, governance and advocacy by the National Integrity Action and Talk Up Yout.
St James North West MP Dr Horace Chang and State Minister for National Security Pearnel Charles Jr, who arrived late due to weather, faced tough questions from the floor and in one on one session with the youth following the town hall.
But the majority of the concerns, including housing, education, care of mentally ill and abused, education, job creation and crime, were fielded by St James Central MP Heroy Clarke, Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis, PNP Central St. James Chairman Ashley Ann Foster and Ms. Tshura Gibbs, Chamber of Commerce/ JPS.
They were then challenged to organize, advocate and share with their peers.
One participant, youth advocate Dominique Stone took up that challenge and invited her MP Dr Chang to attend the Salt Spring New Testament Church on Sunday April 23, where he spoke on governance and advocacy. She will also be starting her own advocacy group in Salt Spring.
Another outcome of the two day event was a resolution by Russell Barrett for the St James Parish Council to commit to holding two town halls each year with young persons.
While its argued that many young persons are not interested in participating in the political process, the two day TalkUpYout/ UNDEF Youth Empowerment Through Dialogue sessions highlighted that what young persons want are avenues for dialogue and the knowledge and skills to demand changes from open and responsive representatives.
St Elizabeth is the next stop in the series of town halls under this initiative.
For more information
Follow the Hashtag #YoutFiChat
See what Others are saying:
May 2, 2014
Talk Up Yout's #YoutFiChat Initiative interviews State Minister in the Ministry of Security - Senator Pearnel Charles Jr and Head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Corporate Communications Unit - Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, with questions from youth across Jamaica, on Talk Up Radio.
Kingston, March 18, 2017 - The Talk Up Radio Show by Talk UP Yout on NationWide 90 FM, recently hosted a “A Collaborative Conversation about Crime” which gave young people from all around the island an opportunity to ask the State Minister in the Ministry of National Security – Senator Pearnel Charles Jr and Head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Corporate Communications Unit – Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, questions about crime. As part of the Talk Up Yout #YoutFiChat Initiative that seeks to connect young people with the high-level stakeholders in youth issues, a general call for questions was posted on Talk Up Yout’s social media spaces which elicited close to 50 responses from the young people of Jamaica.
The core mission of Talk Up Yout has always been to create impactful conversations about issues that matter. In situations where silence and stigma thrive, direct and thought-provoking dialogue can go a far way in empowering young people to call out those who want to hurt them and connect with those who want to protect them. The Talk Up Yout “Youth Empowerment Through Dialogue in Jamaica” project will provide a platform for Jamaican youth aged 14-24 years to advocate for workable solutions for the issues affecting them, and demand accountability from local and national representatives elected to serve them through 14 town halls engaging 1400 youth directly interfacing with officials. At the heart of the project is a capacity strengthening component, which aims to train 350 youth advocates across the country. These advocates will mobilize their peers, generate consensus on priority issues and make representation to relevant elected public servants. Young people are encouraged to join by sending a message to Talk Up Yout’s Facebook Inbox titled #YoutFiChat
The questions Talk Up Yout received from youth across the island included asking if suggested solutions to crime are feasible, attempts to hold the government accountable for perceived corruption, requesting clarification about police and legal policy and questions about individual experiences young people have encountered.
Senator Charles and Superintendent Lindsay answered all the questions they were asked, even those they acknowledged were hard questions which might require more time to properly contextualize in order to find a good answer. Furthermore they spoke about other avenues for young people to let their voices be heard such as making submissions to parliament or engaging the State Minister directly on social media. They are also committed to sitting down with young people for a similar but longer conversation where more questions can be facilitated.
The Talk Up Yout Ambassadors who hosted the programme and asked the questions on the behalf of their peers all expressed satisfaction with the responses of the Senator Charles and Superintendent Lindsay, and thanked them for treating every question as important, noting that they even answered questions that are matters of public knowledge that could have been answered by anyone. This they believe demonstrates an appreciation on the part of Senator Charles and Superintendent Lindsay - of the fact that young people do not always know where to find the answers that everyone else thinks are so obvious.
Key information was disseminated, such as the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s WhatsApp (564 6840) line setup specifically for people to send video and audio evidence they receive via the social media app to the JCF instead of spreading it to their contacts and breaking the law. Senator Charles and Superintendent Lindsay also clarified their roles, explaining the work they do to serve Jamaica’s young people.
At the end of the broadcast, the consensus in the studio was that something ground-breaking had just taken place and everyone felt it was important for initiatives like this to continue to happen. Young people who heard their questions asked sent in thank you messages to Senator Charles and Superintendent Lindsay for answering and to Talk Up Radio for bridging the gap between the Jamaican youth and the people in positions of power. Talk Up Yout’s “Youth Empowerment Through Dialogue in Jamaica” #YoutFiChat initiative will keep these critical conversations alive, and connect thousands of young people in a similar fashion as the project rolls out across the island later this year.
Some of the questions asked by young people included:
Talk Up Radio is broadcast on Nationwide 90 FM, every Saturday morning, 10 am to 12 pm – A Talk Up Yout Initiative “Giving the Youth a Voice”.
For more information on the Talk Up Yout: ‘Youth Empowerment Through Dialogue” dubbed “#YoutFiChat” initiative funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund go to:
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Youth, ages 14 - 26, from all over the world, talking up. #TalkUpYout