By Latrishka Thomas
The National Youth Parliament Association of Antigua and Barbuda (NYPAAB) is continuing its efforts to effect change in Antigua and Barbuda and on top of its agenda is to establish two bills – the Youth Employment Strategy Bill and the Feminine Sanitary Products Bill.
Firstly, the Youth Employment Strategy Bill was created by 22-year-old Caleb Gardiner and 23-year-old Janniael Flermius — two like-minded youngers who decided to merge ideas for youth development.
Flermius, the association’s caretaker for St Mary’s North, said that their piece of legislation is meant to “bring awareness to the issue of unemployment here on island”.
“We wanted to be the voices for youth who are experiencing this,” she asserted.
Gardiner, the caretaker for St John’s City West, added that their intention is “to expand opportunities and options for youth employment while lowering the unemployment rate in Antigua and Barbuda specifically with persons who go off and obtain higher education and come back and have no options for work and are forced into ad hoc employment”.
One of the main tenets of the bill is to “institute various job programmes for persons between the ages of 16-29 and mandate that private and public sector companies involve more young persons into their day-to-day programmes to prepare them for the world of work,” Gardener continued.
Flermius said the bill will also cover apprenticeship and internship opportunities.
Nineteen-year-old Esquire Henry and 25-year-old Jahmaal Frederick collaborated to construct the Feminine Sanitary Products Bill, which was the brainchild of Frederick.
Frederick, a member of the St Paul constituency, explained how the bill came about saying, “I had experiences where females told me the things they had to go through just to get feminine products just because they didn’t have the finance that they need. So, I sat and I thought, how can I come up with something to help these females?’”
As a result, he thought of a way that women could have “full access to all their sanitary needs” for free in a “non-judgement [or] safe zone”.
As Henry, the caretaker for All Saints East and St Luke, elaborated, “the bill aims to establish five centres for data collection and distribution of the products”.
It will be “similar to the Medical Benefits Scheme [but] just that this would be under the purview of the Ministry of Social Transformation, the Directorate of Gender Affairs and the Ministry of Health,” Frederick concretised.
The bills, which are currently at the drafting stage, will be included in two of the association’s debates planned for this year.
Meanwhile, the St Kitts National Youth Parliament Association (SKNYPA) and the NYPAAB will have the first ever OECS joint youth parliament debate in August.
On February 5, the two groups signed a joint agreement “to establish, among other things, a committee to govern the affairs of and give guidance to the agenda of the SKNYPA and the NYPAAB, joint debates along with any other agency that may be added to the agreement, and standing orders to state the rules and regulations that govern the conduct of parliamentary debates within the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda and the National Assembly of St Kitts and Nevis.”
President of NYPAAB, Kamalie Mannix, said that in the long run they hope to include other islands.
He also revealed that another one of the organisation’s plans for 2022 is that “each month each of the constituencies will be executing community outreach initiatives”.
Mannix said he is satisfied with the accomplishments of the two-year-old association.
“We established working relations with the Republic of Cuba to the embassy in Antigua, debated a motion on the Republic of Cuba specifically calling for the end of the embargo and giving praise to the longstanding diplomatic relations Antigua and Barbuda and Cuba has enjoyed.
“We’ve been able to provide a platform for young people to intimately discuss politics, political affairs and world events.
“I’m looking forward to the next two years where we can take the association from the point of foundation to start building walls,” Mannix added.