From May 18th to 19th youth leaders from around the region gathered in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for the Second Regional Meeting of Youth Leaders on Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV and AIDS.
As a youth leader myself, it was a wonderful meeting as I was able to exchange challenges and solutions with my regional counterparts. There were a number of important exchanges, for example, we learned from Kevin Mendez about the journey of Belize’s revised Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum. This essentially went from adoption in 2010, because the Government was on-board, to being removed from schools in 2012 because there was little public buy-in. Stories like that helped us in our Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) group to really focus on the importance of key stakeholder consultation before we act on starting the conversation on our own HFLE syllabuses.
The meeting was made more interesting because it was planned and facilitated almost entirely by youth. This is something remarkable; it not only shows that youth can do important work but also shows that investing time and energy strategically in youth, can pay off not only in their own development but they, in turn, will help to develop their peers. These facilitators gave us articulate explanations on large complex documents such as the CARICOM Model Anti-Discrimination Bill They helped us to navigate complex language used as jargon in international spaces.
As a CARICOM Youth Ambassador, there was another layer to the experience, I noticed. One of the presentations was done by Zuwena Perry of Barbados. She presented to the meeting about CARICOM’s structure and it generated lively discussion. Although this was just a small part of the meeting, it did make me particularly proud to see one of our own in action spreading the word about CARICOM and watching the uptake of the information by those present.
As I reflect on the last two days and the resulting work ahead, another key takeaway came from Nikolai Edwards, a young senator from Trinidad and Tobago who stated, “We don’t have to make it right, we just have to make it better”. This is something that I believe can help us stay focused as advocates, and in fact, help us reach goals in our everyday life.