For the voices of young people to be heard at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting bodes well for the future of the 53-member nations and by extension, the world. During the meetings, five Bahamian young people joined an estimated 500 delegates who participated in the Eighth Commonwealth Youth Forum held on the margins of CHOGM from April 16-18. There are about 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 – the largest youth population ever, according to latest United Nations Population Fund statistics.
The 2018 Youth Forum’s theme of “Powering Our Common Future” reflects the CHOGM theme of “Towards a Common Future” and illustrates the powerful potential of young people across the Commonwealth in devising solutions to complex global challenges as well as their ability to bring forward meaningful recommendations to the Heads of Government meeting. According to Bahamian participants, who are no strangers to the Commonwealth Youth Forum, the future is really in their hands and that of their peers. Attorney Tamar Moss, president of The Bahamas National Youth Council, said that The Bahamas had a significant role to play in the General Assembly of the Commonwealth Youth Council.
She pointed out that the purpose of the Bahamas National Youth Council participation in the Commonwealth Youth Forum is to make policy recommendations that are beneficial to the Commonwealth and nationally. “So that the Commonwealth charter is more nationalized and more personable so that we all as citizens of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas can benefit from the policy recommendations that we have all agreed on as 53 member states.” According to Moss, it was a very rewarding experience for them as they could appreciate policies the Government decides to put in place and why. And, at the end of the day, they want to see certain things pledged to come to fruition. “For example, we want to see a sustainable Bahamas; we want to see a fair Bahamas that not only promotes equality but equity. And of course, a secure Bahamas in which our physical borders are protected and our economy is protected and secured,” she said.
Andril Aranha, CEO of Aroma Bahamas, general secretary of the Bahamas National Youth Council, is also on the Commonwealth Youth Council. He plays a vital role in the Council’s election process with a team that represents The Americas. The young CEO first attended the 2015 CHOGM in Malta as representative of the Commonwealth Youth Entrepreneurship Network. He said what he noticed most, was that succession planning is very important in preparing young people for growth and development.
Shaquille Knowles, Chairperson of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council, and member of the International Task Force of the Commonwealth Youth Forum was, for almost a year, instrumental in the planning of the youth programme in conjunction with the Commonwealth Secretariat. And according to Knowles, it was a “wonderful experience” sitting at a roundtable discussion with UK Prime Minister the Hon. Theresa May and especially Prince Harry who was appointed Commonwealth Youth Ambassador by Her Majesty The Queen, just days before she relinquished her position as Head of the Commonwealth.
“We spoke about what are the ideals of the young people in the Commonwealth, what are our issues and how best we can speak on those amongst our peers,” said Knowles. He noted that some of the shared issues were youth unemployment and the lack of youth representation in various decision-making organizations. “We want a say. We want a seat at the table and us to be respected like everyone else at the table.” The young people representing The Bahamas at the Commonwealth Youth Forum pledged to make a difference in the further development of the country. Also present were Robin Thompson and Rashad Ritchie.