During his Budget 2023 Contribution in the House of Assembly, on June 15, 2023, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Mario Bowleg stated that it was The Bahamas’ task to harness that power that lies within its youth in order that it might see about securing the future of the nation and indeed the world, for generations to come.
“The Division of Youth serves as the premier youth development Agency in our country, as I would’ve indicated before, the Division serves as a repository where facilitation, creation, enhancement and implementation takes place on a national scale,” Minister Bowleg said. “We always hasten to place a huge emphasis on our partnerships as this is the lifeblood of all the outstanding work that is done.”
He added: “The acronym for T.E.A.M. is true: Together Everyone Achieves More and this is the ‘secret sauce’ that accounts for the long-standing successes of the Division of Youth; so at the outset it gives me great pleasure as Minister to salute all of our Partners, Sister Ministries and Agencies, every stakeholder and vendor, and every youth organization — many hands make light work and your support certainly helps us to meet, achieve and in many instances exceed our goals and take what we thought was impossible or daunting and moved it into the space of possibility. For that, on behalf of a grateful Ministry and its young people, we say a great big thank you.”
Minister Bowleg then turned his attention to the Bahamas National Youth Guard, which was then in Phase 2 and nearing Phase 3 of the Four-Phase programme.
He said: “An investment of some over $320,000 has been made into this programme which directly touches nearly 70 young persons from 10 of our islands. The Bahamas National Youth Guard is historic, and all Bahamians ought to be very proud of this initiative. This Davis-led Administration is committed to the development, enhancement and advancement of our young people and this programme is just one example of that commitment. The Youth Guard Programme will ensure that we have a generation of young Bahamians who are trained and equipped to be able to assist the country in the event of a natural disaster or emergency.”
Minister Bowleg pointed out that members of the Youth Guard had already begun to immerse themselves by participating in Disaster Preparedness Month that was held in May of that year; and they were actively taking part in various Seminars and Workshops in the area of Disaster Management, which continued the ongoing training that formed a part of the Mandate of the Programme.
“Members of the Youth Guard are now at the Internship Phase of the Programme all across our islands working with our partners, as I referenced at the beginning of this contribution on Youth,” he said. “We say thank you to NEMA, the DRA, Bahamas National Trust, Bahamas Power and Light, Bahamas Red Cross, BAMSI, ZNS, Local Government Offices and any and all Agencies that have welcomed our young people into their establishments.”
Minister Bowleg stated that it gave him “great pleasure” to formally announce that the Bahamas National Youth Guard stood ready to assist the country, in terms of Atlantic Hurricane Season.
“The future of the Guard Programme is bright and the 2023/2024 Budget provides for expansion, so we can look forward to a new cohort over the next fiscal year,” he said.
He added: “More information will be provided on the dates for the Recruitment, Intake and Training Exercise. It is important Madam Speaker to mark these historic times so I go on record to congratulate all members of the inaugural Bahamas National Youth Guard Programme. This is a fulfillment of the mandate in the Blueprint which states that we will ‘launch an aggressive campaign to empower Bahamians, and create an environment where every Bahamian can thrive’ — ‘Blueprint for Change,’ pg. 15 point 4.”
Minister Bowleg pointed out that the National Youth Policy had a very rich and long-standing history dating back to the late 1980s. He then took that opportunity to applaud the former Youth Policy Task Force for the “tireless” work that was done from 2006 to 2014, when the first draft of the National Youth Policy was presented to the nation and even to this Honorable House.
“We owe the Task Force a debt of gratitude for the draft Youth Policy on which we now stand,” he said.
Minister Bowleg continued: “Just to provide some context:
- the National Youth Policy provides a common and mutual understanding of the importance of youth development among stakeholders and individuals in The Bahamas and to set guidelines for the delivery of services and programmes related to their development through a cross-sectoral and integrated approach.
- the National Youth Policy serves to facilitate the development of an enabling environment for young people in The Bahamas and to ensure that they reach the most favourable potential towards their growth.
- Specifically, Madam Speaker, the National Youth Policy seeks to define a common workspace and vision for youth development in The Bahamas, to articulate the roles and responsibilities of young people and youth workers, and to guarantee their personal and national development as model citizens.”
Minister Bowleg pointed out that, to ensure the effective implementation of the National Youth Policy and to create an enabling environment for youth development in The Bahamas, the adoption of that Policy must be accompanied by the necessary supplementary and institutional framework to support and oversee the process.
“This supplementary framework consists of a compendium of pro-youth legislation, namely:
- First, a National Youth Commission Act which provides for a statutorily empowered National Youth Commission to replace the present National Youth Advisory Council, whose role would include the implementation of policies, programmes and projects consistent with the National Youth Policy, the regular assessment of the National Youth Policy, reviewing and recommending youth-friendly legislation, and advising the government on all matters relating to young people, which will empower the youth to develop their potential for national development;
- The second piece of legislation is the Bahamas National Youth Council Act, providing for a statutorily empowered and formally recognized National Youth Council whose role would include regulation and coordination of activities and initiatives relating to youth being undertaken by youth groups, youth focused community-based organizations, non governmental organizations, civil society movements and other organizations, liaising with other organizations to ensure that youth gain access to resources and services appropriate to their needs , and promoting and popularizing the National Youth Policy and other policies that affect youth;
- Thirdly, a National Institute for Youth Development Act will be proposed, this is a statutorily empowered corporation with an objective of undertaking advanced study and applied research in the field of youth related activities and to function as a research agency for youth programmes, policies and implementation strategies. The Institute would also function as a Centre for documentation, information and publication pertaining to youth development and provides institutional training for the personnel working in the field of youth work;
- Finally, a National Youth Development Endowment Trust Fund Act will be proposed, this is a statutorily empowered Endowment Trust Fund for the purposes of facilitating the establishment of prototype youth development centers and other social facilities and programmes to promote the physical, moral and intellectual enhancement of youth in The Bahamas. Its purpose would also include provision of market services for youth products and services and linkages to micro, small and medium youth enterprises with large enterprises.”
“These are exciting and celebratory times, and I am pleased to notify that I have already met with the Youth Policy Task Force team that will lead the charge of conducting and in-depth review of the draft Youth Policy,” he added.
Minister Bowleg stated that that Task Force will conduct practical, in-person and theoretical research, work to “identify the gaps”.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that we will present an updated National Youth Policy to this Honorable House, along with the accompanying legislation, in October of this year to be debated by this honorable house as we celebrate National Youth Month in the 50th Anniversary of our country’s Independence,” he announced.
Minister Bowleg stated that Youth Work was “alive and well” in the country and “all cylinders are operating at maximum capacity” since the COVID-19 pandemic, over the 2022/2023 fiscal year.
“We have conducted 3 cycles of the Youth Leaders Certification Programme, two in Grand Bahama and one in New Providence with our Family Islands having virtual access to the Training,” he said. “And now I am pleased to announce that our Grand Bahama Office will fully service the Northern Bahamas, which includes Abaco, Bimini and the Berry Islands, with the provision of in-person Youth Leaders Certification simulcast training opportunities.”
“This ensures the standardization of the delivery of the training of Youth Leaders and equalizing the services delivered to our young people on a national level. This Programme also assists in the formulation of basic concepts regarding the role of youth organizations in the country,” he added.
Minister Bowleg noted that his Ministry was happy to have successfully concluded two cohorts of the Job Ready Programme in New Providence and Grand Bahama, and it look forward to exploring opportunities for expansion of those Programmes to a number of Family Islands.
“The long-standing Fresh Start Programme is still going and growing very strong and a cohort is nearing conclusion as we speak,” he pointed out. “Young people are being prepared for a sustainable future in the work force and this Davis-led Administration is doing all it can to provide the necessary investments in our young people.”
“After a period of skills training and internship we are confident that our soon-to-be graduates of the Fresh Start Programme will enjoy the fruitful rewards of long term employment and make positive contributions to our society,” he added. “We also look forward to a new cohort of the Be Inspired Programme where we will provide micro-grants to eligible young Bahamians between the ages of 18-35.”
Minister Bowleg said that, over the next fiscal year, the delivery and coordination of Youth Programmed will provide for the empowerment and skills enhancement of young people “in new and innovative ways, even as we seek to have more Family Island inclusion and engagement”.
“We are pleased to formally announce that the Ministry’s National Summer Employment Programme will be held from July 3rd to 28th , where, again, we will provide positive engagement and activities for our young people during the summer break, by providing a safe and positive environment, targeting personal interests, skill development, and healthy social interaction,” he said.
“The Division of Youth facilitates five (5) separate components for the National Summer Employment Programme,” he added. “These components include our Summer Camps, Apprentice Programmes, Corporate Bahamas Placement, Private Summer Grants and Family Island Grants.”
Minister Bowleg announced that National Youth Month 2023 will be “a celebration like no other”, as his Ministry will take the opportunity to recognize and highlight the contributions and accomplishments of young people.
“October, as we are all aware, is the month that is set aside for this recognition,” he said. “In the margins of the country’s 50th Anniversary of Independence, the Division of Youth will certainly take the celebrations to the next level as we celebrate young people all across the country in a grand style.”