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Youth told speak out

Claire Keizer

Young people need to be encouraged to discuss the topics they are interested in, and furthermore to speak up in general.

This was the consensus of a panel at the joint UNDP and OECS first Youth-IN discussion streamed live via Facebook this morning. While the official launch of the portal is set for Wednesday, today featured discussions on youth and media and youth and politics, and tomorrow at 3 p.m. will examine the issue of culture and entrepreneurship.

Speaking to the topic, Young People This, Young People That: Is The Media’s Portrayal Of Caribbean Youth Making It Harder For Them To Shine? President of the St. Lucia Media Association, Clinton Reynolds, told a mostly regional audience that young people needed to step forward to ensure their issues were covered.

He also suggested that the media could strive harder to “meet [young people] where they are”, utilising social media.

“We need to find a way to put interesting tidbits online to meet them where they are … so you go out and meet them where they are. Why not use those forums to reach the youth. Why not use the Facebook and Twitter that they are on,” he said, adding that using these tools could bring out the interest in the young people, “otherwise we are missing the boat”.

Editor in Chief of the Searchlight newspaper of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Claire Keizer, said the media often received a lot of criticism for their portrayal of the youth, but she believed part of the blame was with the tastes of the public.

She defended that in the last three months, her paper carried 221 stories about youth — 29 per cent were sports related; 18 per cent was about achievements and 14 per cent crime related.

“I think the perception that we focus on negative is because the readers are focused on the negative because those stories are more sensational. It is just a perception that cannot be borne out in fact.”

She challenged the youth as well to become more actively involved with mainstream media, instead of remaining on the fringes, but to take an active part in their own portrayal.

Part of the challenge, she said, was that young people were still not being taught in schools to speak up and speak out.

“We in the Caribbean do not encourage our young people to speak up in schools,” said Keizer.

The CEO of Interactive Media Limited, said she believed a lot of youth did not know how to express themselves or were afraid to do so, so it was the same youth leaders who were continually featured speaking up on issues.

“We need to pay attention to developing the oratory skills of young people.”

President of Youth Media Guyana, Andrea Bryan agreed on the development of the oratorical skills of youth, but noted that usually if given a chance to get comfortable young people would open up on topics of interest to them.

The challenge, she said, was allowing the youth to choose the areas they wanted to discuss.

“[I]t is our experience that [young people] are shy but as they get more comfortable they start to talk… If they could compile the list rather than telling them this is what we want them to discuss, I think that would open the floodgates to more discussion,” she stated. (LB)

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