When we look across the landscape of the Caribbean, in particular the English speaking Caribbean, we can see that our societies are constantly evolving especially in how connected we are to the technology that’s out there. From hi-speed internet to iphones and ipads, we are connected to everything and to everyone. We use the technology to log into social media and network with people around the world and it is a wonderful tool to give you access to what is fresh and current but does that mean we are aware of what is taking place right where we are?
Not only do our youth not know what is happening across the region, they do not know what is going on in their own backyards. One of the areas where we are seeing a lack of knowledge is in the political arena. Let’s be honest, we know a lot about what is happening in the United States and I can raise my hand to being that way at one point in my life but ask us what is taking place in our own country and the reality is we may not be able to tell you.
Don’t believe this is so? I did my own survey with youth not only from my home country of Barbados but with some from other Caribbean islands and it was surprising to them when I was able to tell them things happening in their own country being an outsider, that they did not know. Some said to me that they did not care since they did not believe it would affect them. You don’t have to take my word for it though, you can do your own survey and check for yourself.
How important is it for our youth to be connected to what is happening at home? Let us take a quick look at what is happening around the world. Currently there are protests and some venture to call it unrest in Egypt and we cannot forget the protests in various countries around the world such as Libya and Syria where the people protested against and overthrew their oppressive governments in 2011 or the not so long ago protests in Greece over the state of the economic crisis there. The connecting thread of all of these was that they were begun by the young people of the country. They saw the need for change, took the bull by the horns and said enough is enough no matter the cost even if it meant they would give their lives in the process.
Young people can cause nations to change. Sit and look at the state of your islands and ask yourself if you are satisfied with what you see? We may not have oppressive dictators in the Caribbean but there are issues of corruption, greed, victimisation, increasing crime and violence especially against children and women, loss of freedoms such as freedom of speech, economic mis-management, extreme poverty, environmental degradation and the list goes on. We as young people cannot sit back and think that these ills do not and will not affect us and our future. We must lend our voices to pushing our leaders to make change. This is not a call to arms as they did in Syria (even though I believe that peaceful protest never hurt anyone or a cause) but this is a call for us to disconnect from our technology for a moment, to think about our future, to think of where we want to see ourselves and our region and doing something about it.
This goes beyond giving someone an X every 5 years, political participation is much more than that. It is not about supporting a political party or wearing a party colour. You can join your local youth council, you can become involved in a community group, you can use social media to cause others to think about the future of their nations but the point here is to make a difference. We as young people CAN make a difference.
The Bible has a verse which says not to let anyone look down on you because you are young but to be an example to others – you can be an agent of change. Do not think you are too young and that you have no voice or that no one will listen to you because you come from a particular community. As someone who believes in regional integration, I believe that there are young people across this region that can make a difference and cause changes in our islands. If we come together there is nothing we cannot accomplish – All Uh We Is One! The future is on our hands, let’s make a difference!
Deswyn Haynes is a regionalist with special interest in international relations and issues of the environment. She holds a B.Sc. in Political Science from the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill and is currently pursuing a M.Sc. in Integration Studies. When she isn’t travelling across the Caribbean, she spends most of her time involved in church activities and enjoying island life in Barbados.