This presents a lot of challenges in terms of providing education and health services, risks in terms of large cohorts of young people being without income-generating activities, and opportunities for businesses to supply expanding local markets and for our young people to contribute to different sectors with their energy, skills and abilities.
As such I feel that the following would be an ideal way forward for youth and other vulnerable group’s participation and involvement in all aspects of development in the Solomon Islands:
- Reformation of livelihood projects, mentorship and internship opportunities, and targeting assistance to disadvantaged groups (particularly young mothers and people with disabilities).
- Rural youth projects, training opportunities, and community-based education must be emphasized. Scholarships and educational opportunities be better linked with industry needs of Solomon Islands.
- Ensure to put emphasis on life skills training to marginalized young people including providing financial literacy and other skills critical for self-employment and entrepreneurship, particularly for those who do not access secondary or tertiary education.
- Profiling and rewarding cooperation between young people and leaders – such as where the government, chiefs, church leaders or the MPs support youth networks, forums, debates and political party participation – is one way of moving towards greater youth knowledge and participation in politics in the Solomon Islands. It is often said that the youth are the future, but they are in fact the present in the Solomon Islands – most youths are young and development in all sectors in the Solomon Islands cannot proceed fully without their involvement. Youth empowerment is only accomplished by young people’s active participation throughout the process of policy development and participation.
- Recognition of the potential of young people in the Solomon Islands, which entails their greater involvement in research, stakeholder coordination to meet policy goals, interventions that fit broader macroeconomic and political conditions in the Solomon Islands, and youth involvement at all levels of decision-making.
- Young people must better access information about constituency funds and influence the MPs and provincial members decision-making is a critical issue for the future of Solomon Islands. Constituency funds and wards grants are growing in size and are allocated with the aim of reaching out to all areas of the constituencies and wards, including remote and disadvantaged communities. The government, MPs, provincial members, development partners and other stakeholders must engage with young people and identify needs for support and follow through with new creative and innovative projects.
In addition, what contributes to low levels of human development in the Solomon Islands is that many young people are still not going to secondary school or getting vocational education.
Lack of employment and livelihood opportunities affects many young people’s sense of self-worth and their ability to participate in social, community and political life.
Many scrape by on a subsistence level or through odd jobs, and this reduces their sense of agency.
Youth participation in decision-making, politics and governance in the Solomon Islands reflects a complex mix of cultural, political, historical and circumstantial factors.
This complex mix of participation and exclusion of youth in political dynamics is compounded by the fact that in most households, the question of who to vote for is a communal rather than individual decision, generally based on pragmatic considerations of which a candidate is most likely to offer assistance, as well as kin and other loyalties including relationships of employment.
Through these actions, Solomon Islands can provide young people with the future they want and become the most inclusive country where sustained peace and development in all aspects and sectors is tangibly witnessed.
By ALFRED H. MAE
Kaibia, Yellow Bamboo