AS JAMAICA grapples with pollution and associated impacts, including a recently flooded Marcus Garvey Drive in the capital, youth are to get their say on waste management on the island.
This is courtesy of the Jamaica Youth Environmental Advocacy Programme (YEAP) launched earlier this year.
Students from 10 schools in the west are to gather at The Manning’s School next month to hear from representatives of the National Solid Waste Management Authority, the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, the National Environment and Planning Agency, and one recycling entity on the topic – and provide feedback.
“We want to raise the awareness of the youth so that they can take informed and constructive actions now and in the future. They should be able to advocate for themselves what it is they want, recommend what approach should be utilised and share with us their experiences,” said Gillian Guthrie, senior director of the Environment and Risk Management Division at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, which has responsibility for environment and climate-change issues.
YEAP is intended to provide a platform to youth ages 11 to 19 years old, for interactive dialogue with policymakers and other stakeholders on national environmental issues.
“We want a youth voice to inform the development of national programmes and policies,” Guthrie said.
“Normally when we do consultations on national policies, there is no concerted effort to consult the youth, but the youth, we realise, have an interest and they have ideas and recommendations, which could be useful in finalising these national policies and which would be more tailored to address their issues and concerns,” she added.
The ministry, Guthrie said, is also interested in helping to cultivate advocates for the environment.
“We are hopeful that with raising the awareness and having this interactive dialogue with the youth, they will be able to advocate for environmental issues of concern and interest to them. We are also hopeful that the youth will be able to provide innovative solutions, options that may not have been considered to solve some of Jamaica’s environmental challenges,” she said. YEAP was officially launched by Minister Daryl Vaz at Holy Childhood High School in Kingston in July, with the plan to have three to four regional events each year – the event at The Manning’s School being the first. On ensuring that outcomes from the different engagements bear fruit, Guthrie said: “Normally, there is a public consultation document presented, and that document is posted for the wider community to view. We will have as part of that document now the youth component.”
“How we go to the youth with these documents will be different from how we go to everybody else. We will have to find a way to break down the draft document,” she added.
Stakeholders outside the ministry will therefore be enlisted.
“The ministry does not have all the competencies. Many agencies are involved in the development of national policies and programmes and depending on the topic, we will invite the relevant public sector agency representative at a senior level, academia, and non-governmental organisations to assist us in having this dialogue with
the youth,” Guthrie said.
At the end of the day, the programme – currently funded from government coffers – should be whatever the youth make of it.
“Whatever they want it to morph into, it will morph into so that it responds to them.”
DIFFERENT ENGAGEMENTS VAZ