Jamaica Conference: Values and Attitudes in Youth Development

The UWI Mona’s celebration of Youth Month in Jamaica included the convening of the first National Youth Conference, on the 26th November, hosted by the UWI Mona Department of Government, in partnership with the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) and with support from the Institute of Caribbean Studies, the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM); the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Guardian Life.

The Organising Committee of the Jamaica National Youth Conference

The Organising Committee of the Jamaica National Youth Conference

The event was a welcome landmark in the University’s advocacy for youth development and the theme of “Preparing Youth for the Future: Promoting Values and Attitudes in Development” inspired an interesting discussion among policymakers, researchers, youth activists and secondary and tertiary students on “promoting positive values and attitudes among Jamaican youth”.

Please click here to: Download a copy of the Programme to see details of the panels and visit the website of the Centre for Leadership and Governance at the UWI Mona to learn more about the Youth in Governance and Development Programme, including the Youth Mainstreaming Strategy Development Projects in Jamaica and Belize.

50/50 Youth spent the day with participants at the conference, discussing promising and significant youth development initiatives including:

Participants in the Conference

Participants in the Conference

  • the work being done on the revision of the National Youth Policy in Jamaica;
  • Jamaican social enterprise initiatives which seek to engage youth in adopting positive values;
  • the results of a National Values and Attitudes Survey of youth bettween 14 and 26 years old;
  • the new UNFPA State of the World Population Report: “The Power of 18 Billion” 
  • and the values embraced by a group of young people who demonstrate resilience in the face of vulnerability.

On the latter issue, I served as panel chair for the session entitled: “Preparing Youth for the Future: Fostering Resilience to Overcome Odds”. In the literature on youth, resilience “involves positive adaptation under stress and the development of good outcomes despite serious threats to well-being. It refers to the capacity of youth to cope with challenges and resist risk factors. It is about supporting youth agency – the capacity of youth to resist the overwhelming influence of risk and to take responsibility for their own development – through processes that promote youth well-being and empowerment” (see UNDP. 2012. Caribbean Human Development Report, Chapter 2 ‘Reducing Youth Violence and Enhancing Youth Resilience’, pp.45-46).

The panel discussed this concept based on presentations by Dr. Anne Bailey – a visiting Fulbright Fellow in the Department of Government; and Judine Bailey, Steven Rob and Kevin Daley – students at the UWI Mona who come from vulnerable and/or volatile communities in Jamaica and are excelling in their academic careers.  All students were considered to be from disadvantaged backgrounds and were told, at various points in their childhood, that they would not or could not amount to anything. The panel began with an introduction by Dr. Bailey who spoke of increasing academic acceptance of the fact that “positive adaptation” can take place within challenging socio-economic contexts and widespread rejection of  traditionally deterministic theses of negative outcomes for those who grow up in poverty.

Then, each of the three students shared their unique life experiences of “beating the odds”. I was struck by the extent to which their stories told of common tools of resilience. The following factors played a role in building resilience against risks associated with growing up in contexts where few people could afford or had the opportunity to pursue higher education; in contexts where most parents and family members were unemployed; in contexts where communities were plagued by violence:

  • Faith in a higher power; and belief in self
  • Family/mentor support and encouragement
  • Peer support and building youth coalitions for a better life
  • Having an individual vision for a better life; and discipline to plan and implement initiatives to meet goals
  • Having a desire to excel – not just for one’s own prosperity but for the betterment of others and prosperity of community and nation

The last factor was one of the most compelling of the shared tools of resilience which emerged from the discussion. Resilience – from the technical definition above and others like it – is often considered to be an individual trait and objective. However, for Judine, Steven and Kevin and the other conference participants in the discussion, resilience was inextricably linked to the resilience of their communities and country. They were motivated to do well in order to build their capacity to help others and contribute to a more prosperous society. The discussion spoke to building coalitions among youth to change the society to enable a more resilient country and region. That’s a refreshing view on building youth resilience! So, in recognition of the agency of youth in building a resilient Jamaica, and a rejection of a reliance on others to build resilience in young people, we renamed the panel – “Youth Preparing the Future: Being Resilient in the Face of Odds”.

Minister of Youth, the Honourable Lisa Hanna with Students of Waterford High School at the Conference

Minister of Youth, the Honourable Lisa Hanna with Students of Waterford High School at the Conference

What have been your experiences of building resilience?

What are your views on the values and attitudes discourse in youth development?

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