Thousands of youths in crime and violence-prone areas of Guyana are expected to benefit from a US$64 million Caribbean project to be funded by the United States (US).
Guyana, St.Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia are the three “focus group countries” from among the 10 listed to benefit from the project aimed at reducing crime and violence.
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan said the Guyanese communities that will be targeted under the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) programme are Corriverton, East La Penitence, Sophia, Lodge and East Ruimveldt.
“These communities were selected based on the findings of studies which show that they have the highest representations of high-risk beaviours such as incarceration, high levels of youth involvement in crime and violence,
teenage pregnancy, youth unemployment, high numbers of drop-outs and significant use of drugs, among others,” he said before signing the memorandum of understanding.
He said the USAID-funded Youth Employment Services (YES) programme would in the long-run help to prepare youths for employment by government and civil society.
The focus of the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial (SLED), Linden Enterprise Network and Hinterland Employment and Youth Services and the Youth Innovation programmes is to create business incubators, build livelihood skills, provide technical and vocational training and similar support programmes to help reduce delinquency and crime
Jordan hopes that the YES programme would help to peel of bad labels from small businesses and self-employment . “As we develop and roll out these programmes, work will be done simultaneously to guarantee that the stigma associated with self-employment and entrepreneurship is replaced with the need to foster innovation and creativity within out young people,” he said.
More than 35 percent of Guyana’s more than 740,000 persons are between 15 to 35 age group.
USAID’s Mission Director for the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, Chris Cushing indicated that the YES programme is being financed because of the “resounding success” made by the American-funded US$7.5 million Skills for or Knowledge and Youth Employment (SKYE) programme. That programme had provided at-risk youths with new opportunities to further their education, become gainfully employed and venture into small businesses which are now poised for long-term success.
Cushing hopes that the YES programme will make the youths resilient to crime and violence and also reduce the chances of them becoming perpetrators.
The USAID official said during the project data would be collected to understand where and why crime and violence is happening, support juvenile justice reform, create a broader and deeper community engagement and positive youth development as well as increase local and national services to respond to a variety of social development need
“Supporting services will include individual and family counselling, behaviour therapy, expanded education and internships and job-placement,” he said.
The US hopes to share and replicate evidence and successes in new and sustained assistance packages. Stakeholders to be engaged include youths, government ministries and agencies, business leaders, law enforcement agencies, the justice sector, media, and community based organisations.
“These partnerships will create opportunities to empower and engage youth and will support the Government of Guyana’s commitments as set out under the national youth policy,” that includes strengthening social support systems for youth, improving conditions for their safety, health and well-being and advancing juvenile justice reform,” he said.