July 3, 2015

UN Symposium "Caribbean Youth Speak: The World We Want Post-2015"

I had the pleasure of attending the UN Youth Symposium at UWI, Cave Hill Campus this morning as a member of the The Global Shapers Bridgetown Hub. The event provided a rare opportunity for young people across the Caribbean to directly state their concerns to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was visiting Barbados as part of the 36th CARICOM Heads of Government Summit.

The event started on a very inspirational note with Janeil Odle, a visually impaired female student at the University, who officially welcomed UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon at the event this morning. It was a very special moment seeing Janeil represent both the disabled community and Caribbean women throughout the region as she stood on that stage.

UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon made a point of approaching her personally as soon as she finished her speech to commend her on her courage and to thank her for making him feel so welcome. Janeil you made Caribbean youth proud! Thank you UWI for setting an example of progress in the region.

Hundreds of young people from tertiary and secondary schools filled the auditorium and it was pretty inspiring to see something like this happening in Barbados, especially knowing that hundreds of young people were tuning in from around the Caribbean to take part.

Mr.Ban Ki-Moon engaged in a lively discussion with engaged students and representatives of youth organisations, such as Global Shapers, across the region on a range of issues including crime and violence, youth unemployment, climate and gender-based violence. Mr. Ki-Moon reiterated the need to get more families and communities involved to help drive the change needed to tackle these issues, such as changing the mindsets of men in the Caribbean and seeing women as their equal partners. He specifically mentioned the global ‘He for She’ campaign and pointed out that with only a few million signatures on a planet where there were 3.5 billion men, illustrated that there was still a ways to go.

Having a man of his stature address issues specific to the region will hopefully make people realise that the issues in this island will not go unnoticed, and that we have to continue to work towards building a better society despite the challenges faced as a Small Island Developing State.

Ban Ki-Moon ended by telling the youth that they were not only tomorrow’s generation, but tomorrow’s generation today, and as such had a responsibility to speak up and out about areas affecting their lives. I couldn't agree more!

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