We all have heard this religious scripture or used it quite frequently in reference to preparing the coming generation for a great future, “train up a child in the way they should be and when they grow old, they will not depart from it.”
Most of our Caribbean leaders have served as heads of government for many years because they love their people and their country. Life marches on. The years go by quickly and many of these leaders lament in their old age over who will take their political reigns and what will the future look like.
“Who is going to take the baton and carry on to the finish line?” they often ask.
“Where are all the young people?” It is a frequent and familiar rhetorical question that elders have often asked.
“They have no interest in political matters” is the often-unspoken response that is on the tip of everyone’s tongues. The absence of young people at the table has triggered action from many Caribbean politicians and community leaders. The bottom line is they found creative ways to reach out to the youth.
Our research proved that throughout the Caribbean there are some shining examples of young people who are reaching for the stars and getting themselves ready for the hand-off of the baton.
Kemar Stuart, who has been featured in Barbados Today and Barbados Underground News, is a graduate of The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus. He earned his BSC in banking and finance. Currently the president of the Young Democrats in Barbados, he is getting attention with his ideas about economic reform and COVID-19 issues in the political arena.
In 2018, at the young age of 23, Stuart ran against the current prime minister, Mia Mottley. Although he did not emerge the winner, that did not deter him.
Stuart now has his focus on running for the office of general secretary of the Democratic Labour Party. If he is successful, this 25-year-old would manage the finances of the party, assist in the maintenance of constituency branches and work with the party’s executive and general councils.
Stuart has a lot of new ideas that he believes would benefit his country. He was quoted in a recent article in the Barbados Today newspaper saying that “a makeover of public service is greatly needed sooner rather than later to raise the standards to that of United States, United Kingdom and Canada.” He also pointed out that this move would make Barbadian public servants internationally competitive.
Nikoli Edwards at age 27 is Trinidad & Tobago’s youngest politician and a well-known political activist. This young man did not support the existing political parties; thus in 2019, he started his own party — the Progressive Party.
Edwards, a student at the University of the West Indies, said that the Progressive Party would focus on border protection, safe living environment, security, health, food security and economic growth. In 2017, he was appointed as a temporary independent member of the island’s Senate by President Anthony Carmona.
In recent news, it was announced by the People’s National Party that 23-year-old Gabriela Morris was appointed to the Jamaican Senate. This well-rounded and intelligent young lady has recently completed her degree in pharmacology and will begin her master’s in communication for social and behavioral change at the University of the West Indies.
Morris is no stranger to politics since she has been a member of the PNPYO and worked in community projects for the Peoples National Party Youth Division.
Travis Robinson is a student at the University of the Bahamas. The tourism management major was sworn in as the parliamentary secretary at Ministry of Tourism and Aviation by Gov. Cornelius A. Smith in July. Robinson is also the founder and president of the Rising Star Organization.
During an a webinar titled “Politics in Action: Youth,” University of West Indies lecturer Herbert Gayle said that young people are the missing ingredient when it comes to maintaining democracy in the Caribbean and that the political norms and traditional approach must be re-structured to effectively include them in the process.
He said: “To achieve maximum youth participation in politics is to encourage their participation in programs and activities that help them understand how governance is achieved, and also helps them understand grassroots participation and democracy itself.”
If these young people continue in this path, then the future outlook will be brighter for all.