Adolescents Engaged for Change & A Sustainable Future
Adolescents + Youth Forum
Spouses of CARICOM Leaders Action Network (SCLAN) in partnership with the Special Envoy for Women and Children; the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and, Poverty Alleviation; the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and, Culture; the Ministry of Health and Oceana Belize, hosted a two-day forum on January 27 & 28, 2020 under the theme, “Adolescents Engaged for Change & A Sustainable Future.”
The goal of the forum was to have adolescents address issues of gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, mental health, adolescent pregnancy, and climate change while raising awareness and empowering adolescents on the priorities, rights and, opportunities for their support and engagement.
The forum opened with two panel discussions; the first, a First Ladies Panel, featuring H.E. Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow, Spouse of the Prime Minister of Belize and Special Envoy for Women and Children, H.E. Mrs. Sandra Granger, First Lady of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana; H.E. Mrs. Patricia Minnis, Spouse of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas; and H.E. Mrs. Martine Moise, First Lady of the Republic of Haiti. The discussion focused on their national projects and connectivity with SCLAN as it relates to adolescent/youth health and climate change. The second high-level panel consisted of the various partnering ministries, where they highlighted the work of adolescents and youth, and identified key areas of collaboration and support for their future.
The Adolescent Forum concluded on the second day, where adolescents and youths alike, discussed the topics via panel discussions and worked towards creating the various calls of actions below.
The Calls of Action are as follows:
It was expressed, that due to the conservative culture, views, and society that Belize fosters, it eventually results in a lack of education and miscommunication on sexual and reproductive health and its consequences. As a result, the panelists agreed that youths must have an open and safe space to ask and learn about questions that they may have regarding sexual and reproductive health and information must be readily available within our homes, schools, and communities to foster a safe and healthier future for our youths.
The panel discussions highlighted that due to the lack of education and misinformation in Rural and Urban areas, the rates of teenage pregnancies are becoming alarmingly high. As a result, they agreed that to decrease Adolescent Pregnancy, comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health and practices should be integrated into the various schools and their curriculum.
Focusing on Gender-Based Violence and its effects on Adolescent Dating, the panelists and audience shared their personal experiences and as a result, agreed that by creating a website where adolescents can express their feelings and problems and also get advice, will further assist in eliminating Gender-Based Violence and the stigma surrounding this prevalent issue.
Considering that Adolescent and Youth in Belize aren't as informed and educated about Cervical Cancer, the panelists agreed that youths of Belize needed to be provided with more knowledge about what Cervical Cancer is and its prevention tips. Discussions also included that a simple HPV vaccine can significantly lower the risk of getting cervical cancer.
A topic that requires much-needed attention, the panelists and attendees at the forum expressed how the stigma surrounding mental health has affected a youth's health, only resulting in its further decline. As a result, it was suggested that by creating a website where youth and adolescents alike, can receive information and help regarding their mental health, will only aid in alleviating the stigma surrounding the illness. They also agreed that individuals should take the initiative to be more open and transparent about their mental health.
Although an age-old occurrence, discussions surrounding climate change, however, are only now being discussed with heeded urgency due to the recent surge of natural disasters occurring globally. According to panelists, the only way one can grapple climate change is to truly understand what it is, and the severity of its existence. Further discussions included that although Belize is a very small contributor to climate change, we are significantly impacted. As a result, they agreed that to combat climate change, we needed to increase our resilience in the following areas: advocacy (awareness towards climate change), the phasing out of single-use plastics (involving businesses and consumers), proper garbage disposal/storage and lastly incorporating technology within the various sectors (environment, education, etc.)