We are marginalised – St Thomas youth

Jamaica Gleaner - - RURAL EXPRESS - Shanna Mon­teith Gleaner Writer ru­ral@glean­erjm.com

‘UNDETACHED’ HAS been used to de­scribe the youth of St Thomas many a times.

Cries of be­ing left out of ma­jor de­ci­sions con­cern­ing the parish have been on the tongues of the young peo­ple for years.

But with the rise of the ‘be the change you want to see’ men­tal­ity, peo­ple have been step­ping up to the plate in an at­tempt to im­prove the parish’s state of af­fairs.

One such per­son is 30-yearold Fa­tima MuwwakkiI.

A res­i­dent of Bull Bay, St Thomas, the young woman is on a mis­sion to em­power the youth.

“If you are to ask a youth from St Thomas to­day how they would de­scribe it, many would say it’s the ‘for­got­ten parish’, one of the poor­est on the is­land per­ceived by many Ja­maicans as un­der­de­vel­oped.

The parish has cer­tainly en­dured its share of tri­als.Youth liv­ing here have ex­pressed that they are yet to feel the rep­re­sen­ta­tion re­quired. The high level of hope­less­ness through­out the youth co­hort within St Thomas is a cause for con­cern,” she said.

MuwwakkiI, who is the pres­i­dent of the St Thomas Parish Youth Coun­cil, told Ru­ral Xpress that she has hosted many youth-em­pow­er­ment ses­sions across St Thomas and has rep­re­sented the parish at many fo­rums, lo­cally and re­gion­ally.

But she hardly wanted to talk about her­self. At the fore­front of her con­ver­sa­tion was the parish’s needs.

“This parish, more than many oth­ers, needs ur­gent as­sis­tance with our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, cul­tural re­ten­tion and suit­able location to host youth ses­sions. Un­em­ploy­ment is of great con­cern. Many of the youth are un­able to as­sess, for var­i­ous rea­sons, the nec­es­sary ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing to make them em­ploy­able. Where youths are af­forded the op­por­tu­ni­ties that make them em­ploy­able, they still ex­pe­ri­ence chal­lenges as there are lim­ited job prospects, hence our youth end up turn­ing to mi­gra­tion (lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional), and more so to il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in their quest to ‘eat a food’,” she told Ru­ral Xpress.

IMPACT YOUTH

She added: “At­ten­tion needs to be given to ac­cess to grants for young en­trepreneurs, the avail­abil­ity of more ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions and more so the means to ac­cess such learn­ing, the re­struc­tur­ing of bath­room fa­cil­i­ties in many pri­mary schools which suf­fer from the us­age of pit la­trine, the in­crease in hu­man-re­la­tions ad­vo­cates, specif­i­cally those that deal with child-care mat­ters,” she said.

MuwwakkiI also pointed out a need for greater col­lab­o­ra­tion on pol­icy within the parish.

Ac­cord­ing to her, the youth feel like a third wheel as she be­lieve that their in­volve­ment in parish af­fairs is in­signif­i­cant.

“St Thomas youth lack lead­er­ship, so I po­si­tion my­self with the aid of my youth em­pow­er­ment of­fi­cer to of­fer the lead­er­ship that is in dire need. My ul­ti­mate aim is to en­sure youth de­vel­op­ment and in­volve­ment in pol­icy and de­ci­sion-mak­ing within the parish,” she said, adding that there are a lot more things that she would like to be do­ing in the parish to impact youth, but is con­strained by fi­nan­cial bur­dens.

When asked about the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind her in­ter­est, MuwwakkiI re­vealed that she is a Mus­lim.

“In Islam, there are five pil­lars one of which is char­ity/vol­un­tarism. It is im­por­tant that I look out for the less for­tu­nate. Men­tors are few within the parish,” she said.

MuwwakkiI, she says, means ‘The Trusted One.’

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