May 9, 2008
JEMS calls for youth involvement

by J. Soso-Vincent 09.MAY.08

It would seem that we are in danger of producing a future nation of drug traffickers and violent criminals. That is, if the Government doesn’t take immediate steps to invest more in initiatives designed to empower young people and get them more involved in local affairs.{{more}} This is according to the President of the JEMS Progressive Community Organisation, Andrew Simmons – and he is more than willing to offer his services in aiding the Government to achieve that goal.

In a press release dated April 15th, 2008, Simmons expressed his growing concern that the Government’s approach to tackling the escalation in crime and violence, amongst the youth of SVG, is ineffective. He was, however, quick to applaud its previous and current efforts, but maintained that it wasn’t enough. He likened the Government’s approach to that of applying ointment to a boil instead of determining the root cause of the affliction. Although the problem may disappear temporarily, it is highly likely that it will continue to “…pop up somewhere else. ” Simmons stated that despite there being a plethora of youth groups and organisations today, there are none as effective and dynamic as the National Youth Council that existed in the 1980/90’s. He further explained that many groups and organisations, despite existing on paper, are non-functioning.

In speaking to SEARCHLIGHT, Simmons also identified contributing factors to the overall problem of crime and violence amongst the youth. One such factor is that of the materialistic nature of modern society. The want of instant gratification has transcended to our youth, he said. Coupled with rising food prices, poverty and unemployment, he acknowledges that it is no surprise that the ‘rewards’ of the criminal lifestyle are so appealing.

Other factors include: the Government being unable to provide graduates with jobs in their field of study, the rise in single parent families where the father is absent, lack of male role models in society (attributed to more males being involved in crime than females), the rising popularity of gang culture and the Church’s reticence in voicing an opinion on local affairs, especially if they may be construed as ‘anti-government’.

Simmons strongly believes that the solution is more youth involvement in issues that really matter. “I want to see young people involved more in governance issues. I want to see young people sitting on boards. I want to see young people being more appreciated… and valued”, he declared. Simmons suggested that the Government provide funding to young people with business ideas. He also advises young people to make maximum use of the Internet, as it can be a powerful tool in marketing and selling products. Simmons was also of the opinion that many times the persons involved in implementing youth programmes develop them in an office, with little or no consultation nor feedback from youths themselves.

Simmons spoke of his 10-year experience in advising governments in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific on youth issues. He is of the view that his experience developing a programme that enabled over 250,000 child soldiers in Sierra Leone to get off the battle-fields, and improve their lives through education, would certainly be useful in helping to make a difference in SVG. “The solution is to give young people a sense of purpose…,” he said.