Empowering Youth to be Apart of Governance

BNYC Officers with Cabinet Minister Leo Ryan Pinder

Young Minister Leo Ryan Pinder Coaches Young Bahamians to get involved!

Most recently, The Bahamas National Youth Council (BNYC) led the way among youth on a timely yet thought-provoking discussion, expressing great concern over the recent Board appointments by the Government of the Bahamas. We felt the youth voice was stifled, but that did not deter us from our ultimate goal. We affirm that young people should look toward each other for greater empowerment within the community. The BNYC hosted its General Meeting on the 16th July, 2012 at 7pm at the College of The Bahamas’ Student Union Building. The topic discussed was youth empowerment and how young people can be empowered and become more involved in the decision-making processes of governance.

Bringing remarks was the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Minister for Financial Services. He first gave apologies on behalf of the Hon. Dr. Daniel Johnson, Minister of Youth, Sports on Culture as he got caught up in a meeting. Mr. Pinder then acknowledged the work being done by the BNYC and felt the government was working in accordance with youth empowerment. He said the number one way to ensure empowerment is through education, free education. He spoke about knowing ones identity and understanding the youth role in governing structures. In everything you do strive for excellence. Framework and opportunities for education for the knowledge and skill set to be successful person in his family to attend college, youngest Member of Parliament. Every Bahamian should have free education. If University of the Bahamas was excellent, more people from around the world would come and subsidize our education. You won’t be excellent at everything but be excellent at something.

Immigration became the most contested topic of the evening aside from education and health care. Suggestions were continuously being brought forward to the floor about how to tackle the issue. A few persons even called for another referendum as the Ingraham Administration did in 2002 and enforcing the outcomes of that referendum.

Some felt like politicians are too caught up on political rhetoric and we must continue to always hold the government accountable to their promises and changes that are needed in society. The BNYC will endeavour to make more recommendations on behalf of the youth in this country. Our politicians must never forget they are the agents and we are the principals. They act on behalf of us! This was a shared sentiment that was expressed by young people present at the evening’s proceedings.

The issue of young Bahamians living and studying in Cuba and the Bahamian government not assisting them in a more tangible way was also brought up by Mr. Deon Gibson, member and young agriculturalist. Mr. Gibson, who studied in Cuba for years, stated that ‘Young people are sent to Cuba on scholarships given by the Cuban government and receive no tangible assistance by the Bahamian Government”. “The immigration issue extends further than the shores of our country to even Cuba. There are many persons studying in Cuba who only look to The Bahamas as a safe haven to return to but yet are not assisted in more tangible way due to whatever reasons the government may have.” He continued, “Some students who are studying in Cuba are of Haitian or Jamaican decent but were born and grew up in The Bahamas. If we’re going to discuss empowering young people in the immigration matter, we must also bring to light the matters that are even happening outside of our country.”

Attendees at event.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration was contacted and he responded by saying. “Persons are not stateless however. They take the nationality of their parents which is in the majority is Haitian.  The question Bahamians have to answer is: are they prepared to take on the U.S. position which so many of our citizens use by having their children born in the US. That is if they are born here, they are citizens by birth”. ‘The Minister encouraged youth to read the Pindling Lecture of 2003 which speaks to the issue of ‘stateless’ persons at great length and to become more educated on the matter to assist in solving this immigration issue in our society.

For us to be empowered and be more involved in the decision-making processes of governance, we must also educate ourselves on the relevant topics that are being debated before we can make more proactive solutions”, said Ms. D’Asante Beneby, Chairman of the Progressive Young Liberals of the PLP. This sentiment and more was shared by other youth present. “Education is also a key to empowering young Bahamians. We must be knowledgeable of the issue before anything can happen. We must also find innovative ways to educate those young Bahamians who cannot read or write because they too are young Bahamians and have rights”.

Agreeing with the Ms. Beneby, the President of the BNYC, Mr. Tyson McKenzie stated that young people must not always continue to look to the government itself for solutions to the problems us as young people face on a daily basis. “Yes, we must educate ourselves on the issues, but we must also share that knowledge with those who are not able to understand the issues that we face in society so they too can assist in advocating for better involvement in governance of our society”.

Many solutions were brought forward by young people present in ways the government can be more proactive in involving youth in the decisions that they make today. Suggestions were placed forward to the BNYC as simple as updating Twitter, Facebook, informal discussions with politicians and influential members of society today. Mr. McKenzie, BNYC President mentioned that the BNYC will continue to celebrate ‘Cari Mi Carib’ an educational awareness programme of the organization to educate young Bahamians about immigration matters, knowledge on other Caribbean Countries and more. ‘It is our way of assisting in empowering young Bahamians by educating them on the relevant topics’, said Mr. McKenzie. “Nonetheless we must continue to work together and not always look to the government as the source of empowering our generation”.

The BNYC pledges itself to host more meetings such as this where young people can interact and discuss issues that are relevant to them with the politicians of today. Youth present mentioned that opportunities such as this do not come by often where they can ‘sit next to the politician who represents them and discuss pertinent issues of today. It only happens during campaign time of election season. “For us to sit and talk about these issues with a Minister (referring to Minister of Financial Services), right next to me is a step in the right direction for empowering young people’, mentioned an attendee.

Other attendees included Mr. Brensil Rolle, former Member of Parliament for Garden Hills and Ms. Monique Gomez, FNM Candidate for South Beach. Apologies were given by Senator Heather Hunt and Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis who looked forward to attending but had prior engagements. Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Dr. Daniel Johnson, also gave apologies for not being able to make it due to a meeting.