Treasure Our Youth
Jamaica has a population of approximately 2.8 million people. Of these millions, 30% are youth (ages 10-24). Crime and violence levels remain high, emphasizing the need to address the issues of youth unemployment, education, and social cohesion. While unemployment rates have gone down for the population as a whole, unemployment rates remain high for youth. According to the World Bank, the unemployment rate for youth in 2017 is 28.6%. This is leading to high levels of crime and violence.
In a recent Community Assessment Survey administered to middle and high school youth in St. Ann, Jamaica, several areas of concern were noted. Teenage pregnancy, physical, mental and sexual abuse, lack of resources, hunger, poverty, and gang violence all resonated with the youth.
Another intriguing discovery from the survey is that the children feel that they are not being heard, or feel they don’t have a voice. TOY will facilitate an atmosphere or an outlet for these children to be heard and voice their opinions. The socio-economic realities of their families often result in a breakdown in the family unit. This creates shifting households, and in some cases leads to involvement in illegal activities such as crime and violence, gang warfare, and drugs.
Based on the recent crime statistics, Jamaican youth within the 16-24 age group accounts for 49.4% of all major crimes in the country, with males representing 98.7% of those arrested. Homicidal violence is a leading social problem with 77% by the gun. 80% of students have witnessed violence by the age of 16 years, 74% witnessed stabbing while 40% witnessed killing by the police.
Reproductive Health Challenges
While Jamaican children have universal access to health care, their welfare is compromised by deeply entrenched income inequities that create vulnerabilities for children, especially those living in rural areas and urban inner-city areas. Female youth are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and adolescent pregnancy. Issues such as childhood obesity and persistently high teen pregnancy rates are challenges that are yet to be adequately addressed by the state. Inability to negotiate condom use has led to unplanned parenthood, HIV and STI infections which sometimes goes untreated. The myth that sex with a virgin will cure an STI places an additional burden on young girls in Jamaica, and increased “forced” sexual encounters.
There are many reasons why young people abandon their education. The principal reasons are the lack of economic resources caused by family disintegration and not having enough money for school fees. Young people who lack opportunities to study or work are at higher risk of becoming involved in illicit activities, committing or becoming victims of acts of violence, perpetuating cycles of poverty, and becoming pregnant during their adolescence among other situations that limit their present and future opportunities.
Youths 15-24 years, 26.2 % of males and 7.9% of females are illiterate, have irregular attendance and under performance at both the primary and secondary school levels. About 25% of unattached youth attain only a Grade 9 level or less of education, lack of proper nutritional support – even though this situation has drastically improved through the support of the Government’s PATH program- and inadequate educational opportunities which leads to limited academic achievement.
It is no surprise that Jamaican youths need our help. The problem within the youth groups are not slowing down and has not slowed down since 2017. There are alternative routes that can be taken by young people but these routes must be guided by positive and successful adults that can show them the way. This is where our volunteers, donors, partners and members of Treasure Our Youth steps in to mentor, guide, support, and empower these youths to strive for a successful future. These youths do not have to succumb to the violence and crime that they have learned to adopt. We must teach them to unlearn these patterns and figure out a way to give them the necessary tools and resources to be the generation of youth that overcomes and helps the next do the same.
If you are interested in making a lasting impact on Jamaican youth, visit our website to learn how you can contribute to Treasure Our Youth.